Category Archives: Community & Leadership

Virginia Cooperative Extension awarded nearly $1.1M to tackle the state’s opioid epidemic

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has awarded Virginia Cooperative Extension nearly $1.1 million to expand prevention training to help tackle to the commonwealth’s rural opioid addiction problem.

The two-year Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration-funded (SAMHSA) Rural Opioids Technical Assistance Through Virginia Cooperative Extension project will build upon two current USDA-funded Cooperative Extension projects to expand training and technical assistance on opioid prevention through the implementation of evidenced-based curricula targeting students in nine additional rural Virginia counties.

Rural communities are disproportionately affected by prescription opioid misuse and abuse. Of 134 counties or independent cities in Virginia, 53 are designated as rural.

Virginia Cooperative Extension, the outreach program for the state’s two land-grant universities, Virginia Tech and Virginia State University, is well-positioned to address these technical assistance needs through its network of local offices throughout the state, its focus on bringing evidence-based information to local communities, and strong existing relationships in rural communities. There are at least six rural counties in each of the four Extension districts: Southwest, Central, Northern, and Southeast. Two or three counties per district will participate.

In addition, a project coordinator will be hired and housed in each district. Each will coordinate the project, facilitate community engagement, and implement programs with community partners.

A total of approximately 5,000 seventh-grade students and 1,000 sixth-grade students across nine counties will receive the opioid-prevention training over the two years of the program. In addition, the electronic High-Risk Patient Education Program developed by the Virginia Rural Health Association for the USDA-funded Rural Health and Safety Education project will be disseminated to hospitals and health care facilities in four more rural counties per year.

Extension agents will work closely with staff from community services boards on the implementation of evidence-based prevention programs for middle school students and their families. Additional partnerships will be formed through existing collaboration between the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services and a statewide coalition of universities that has developed a menu of options for technical assistance to community service boards related to prevention, treatment, and recovery for opioid misuse and addiction.

Virginia Cooperative Extension has two current USDA-funded projects that address the opioid crisis. In June, Extension received a $1.28 million grant for collaborative opioid work through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to reach four Virginia counties. Awarded by the USDA-NIFA Children, Youth, and Families At-Risk program, the five-year grant supports health education initiatives spearheaded by Extension aimed at preventing opioid abuse among vulnerable communities in Virginia.

That initiative is overseen by co-project directors Crystal Tyler-Mackey, an Extension specialist in community viability, and Virginia State University’s Maurice Smith, a 4-H Extension specialist with the university. This work is a continuation of a $321,638 NIFA Rural Health and Safety Education grant awarded last fall to Virginia Cooperative Extension for work in Henry/Martinsville and Grayson counties. Karen Vines, an Extension specialist and assistant professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, serves as the project director.

The SAMHSA funding will expand Extension’s reach to nine counties in addition to the six already being served by the projects administered by Vines, Tyler-Mackey, and Smith for a total of 15 counties across the three projects.

Kathy Hosig, director for the Virginia Tech Center for Public Health Practice and Research and a specialist with Virginia Cooperative Extension, will serve as project director.

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2018 Virginia Farm to Table Conference to be held Dec. 5 and 6

cornucopia

If you’re interested in local and regional food and agriculture, dealing with farming stressors in healthy ways, practical applications of soil health, value-added products, farm profitability, and other food and agricultural system topics, plan to attend the 2018 Virginia Farm to Table Conference on Dec. 5 and 6 at Blue Ridge Community College’s Plecker Workforce Development Center, Weyers Cave, Virginia.

Virginia Cooperative Extension is partnering with USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Agua Fund, Virginia Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE), and many other community partners to bring in engaging and inspirational speakers with broad experience and knowledge of food, farming, and the environment.

This year, speakers will offer their perspectives on the theme “Nourishing Farming, Community, and Hope” and will include Mike Rosmann, a clinical psychologist/farmer from Iowa, who helps farmers deal with stress and anxiety related to the unpredictability of farming; Rev. Heber Brown III of the Black Church Food Security Network, who will provide lively discussion on nourishing local communities; Penn State specialists who will take High Tunnels to the next level and discuss managing soil and pests; Rachel Armistead of Sweet Farm, who will discuss how fermentation may add value to your agricultural products and demonstrate how it’s done; and Dave Montgomery and Anne Biklé, renowned authors who will share the importance of microbial soil health and its relationship to human health.

PLEASE NOTE: There is a free community event open to the public on Dec. 5 at 6:30 p.m. at the BRCC Plecker Workforce Center. Enjoy an evening talk and conversation with authors David Montgomery and Anne Biklé on the important role that soil ecology plays in restoring land and health. Books will be available for sale and signing.

“We invite everyone interested in food and agriculture to the Virginia Farm to Table Conference,” said Kathy Holm, USDA-NRCS assistant state conservationist for field operations. “People leave this conference feeling inspired by thought-provoking speakers, stimulating panel discussions, networking opportunities, and wonderful locally sourced food from A Bowl of Good.”

Visit the conference website at conference.virginiafarmtotable.org to review the detailed agenda of conference offerings

Participants can select from concurrent session tracks in which producers and practitioners share their local and regional expertise: agroforestry and livestock management, justice and equity in the farming and food system, growing your niche, voices from the field, value-added food production, and practical applications of soil and water health.

Early bird registration pricing is available until Nov. 30, and rates will increase significantly after this date. More details regarding the conference registration are available at: https://tinyurl.com/VAFT2018. For questions, or if you need assistive devices to attend, call (540) 232-6006 or 6010 at least five days prior to the event.

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VCE Prince William County wins Lighting the Way Award from the SunTrust foundation

Paige Thacker, Muriel Garr, and Victoria Neeley

From left: Paige Thacker, VCE Prince William County unit director; Muriel Garr, vice president, SunTrust Foundation; and Victoria Neeley, program manager, VCE Financial Education and Housing Counseling Program.

Virginia Cooperative Extension Prince William County (VCEPW) recently received a “Lighting the Way to Financial Well-Being” award from the SunTrust Foundation. The Financial Education and Housing Counseling Program of VCEPW was among 36 non-profits nationwide to receive this award to further local efforts in helping people build financial skills and confidence.

The $75,000 award supports Extension’s Financial Education and Housing Counseling program.  The program will use the funds to increase hours for the office’s financial counselors offering more counseling services through fiscal year 2020, said the unit’s director, Paige Thacker. “We’re going put more staff in front of clients to help the community improve their finances, through one-on-one budgeting sessions, financial assessments, and coaching sessions to help clients develop their own plan and achieve their personal financial goals.”

The Financial Education and Housing Counseling programs include seminar topics such as Getting Ready for Taxes, Understanding and Improving Your Credit, Ways to Avoid Fraud, Smart Money Management, and other sessions to help reduce debt, increase savings, plan for retirement, and plan for that big first-time home purchase. These research-based seminars incorporate the latest best practices for better personal financial management and are provided at no cost to the community.

VCEPW provides pre-purchase homebuyer counseling, post-purchase financial counseling and coaching, foreclosure prevention counseling, rental counseling, and financial recovery counseling.

The housing programs and counseling offered by VCEPW are certified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Thacker said. “We’ve gone through the accreditations and are recognized by HUD as a certified resource for housing counseling. Our services follow the National Industry Standards for Housing and Financial Counseling. There aren’t that many organizations in Northern Virginia that are HUD-certified and that follow those high standards. We’ve taken the time to go through designations, develop our staff appropriately, and ensure our services to the community are professional and confidential.”

“We would like to thank the SunTrust Foundation for supporting growing financial counseling services to the Prince William County and surrounding community through The Lighting the Way Award,” Thacker said. “It will benefit many more individuals helping them to achieve financial skills, stability and confidence.”

More information about VCEPW’s Financial Education and Housing Counseling program is available at pwcgov.org/money or by emailing smartmoney@pwcgov.org.

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Families reclaim their homes and health thanks to Virginia Tech’s Urban Pest Management Program

Tomeika Ferrell in her home in Rocky Mount, North Carolina

Tomeika Ferrell, a resident of Rocky Mount, North Carolina, is now able to enjoy cooking and entertaining in her home thanks to Dini Miller’s work. Ferrell has not seen a cockroach in months.

Insect infestations in our homes – think thousands of cockroaches or bedbugs – can trigger a host of emotional responses.

In addition to embarrassment, those pests contaminating our living spaces can leave people feeling ashamed, defeated, and tainted.

The age-old clash between bugs and humans drives Dini Miller. The entomologist is impassioned about making life better for anyone tormented by pest infestations. Through her practical research and educational efforts, she is working hard to ensure that insects don’t make us feel like guests in our own homes.

Miller, urban pest management specialist for Virginia Cooperative Extension and a professor of entomology in the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, is conducting a year-long experiment in two states that could all but eradicate German cockroach infestations in multi-unit housing communities and transform standard pest-management protocols.

“Much of my work through the Dodson Urban Pest Management Laboratory is focused on eliminating pest problems in underrepresented communities. I would like to change the way that pest control is handled in public housing. A lot of people are living with a lot of cockroaches, and they don’t need to be. This problem, we can solve,” said Miller.

Each month, she travels to Housing and Urban Development (HUD) communities in Richmond and Hopewell, Virginia, and Rocky Mount, North Carolina, where she is engaged in an assessment-based program to treat homes infested with large numbers of cockroaches.

In Rocky Mount, a sleepy southern town once known for its tobacco and textiles, just an hour east of Raleigh, Miller is working to make life better for residents in 31 test homes. Her success, less than 10 months into the experiment, has made her a champion to residents including Sharon Jones.

Jones resides in a one-story, ranch-style duplex in a Rocky Mount HUD community.

“Once the cockroaches showed up, they multiplied quickly,” said Jones, a retired grandmother who has lived in her home for 16 years. “One Thanksgiving, I was cooking and they were so bad I couldn’t leave the food on my stove for a moment. I had to put everything on a table in the middle of the living room to try to protect it.”

In the middle of the night, Jones would awaken to find hundreds of cockroaches swarming across her sink and washing machine. In the morning, she often discovered the pests in her breakfast cereal.

Jones’ neighbor and friend Tomeika Ferrell experienced such a severe infestation that she feared her lease would be terminated when the number of cockroaches prevented building managers from painting her apartment despite monthly insecticide treatments by a local HUD-contracted pest control company.

“The exterminators made me feel like I was a bad housekeeper, like I wasn’t cleaning,” said Ferrell, a mother of three, whose home is welcoming and lovingly decorated with artwork and textiles. “My daughter has bad asthma and was experiencing an allergic reaction. I cleaned so often that I almost took the paint off of the counters. Nothing helped. Then, when the exterminators sprayed, the problem seemed to get worse, and I worried about how the chemicals would impact my daughter.”

Prior to exterminations, residents are asked to clean their homes, wash dishes, remove trash, and vacuum. They are also expected to remove all of their belongings from closets, cupboards, and other areas targeted for insecticide, such as the top of refrigerators, stoves, and other large appliances.

“Residents have to go through this process routinely, often weeks before the pest control company visits since they don’t know the exact date,” said Miller. “They have nowhere to put their belongings. But, the worst part is that when conditions aren’t perfect, the residents are blamed for the pests. The excuse is always that they didn’t prepare properly for treatment. It’s unfair, and it’s putting the blame in the wrong place.”

Miller’s protocol requires no prior cleaning, no spray insecticides, and is ingenious in its practical simplicity. Best of all, residents are not required to change their living habits in any way.

The entomologist places sticky traps in each unit the day before treatment. The next day, she counts the number of cockroaches in order to quantify how much bait to place in each apartment. She and her team then place bait containing an insecticide throughout the units, focusing on areas where the insects congregate.

“We used this process to save time,” said Miller. “Wax paper squares worked best for massive bait distribution. You can put them into cracks and crevices without contaminating anything. We found that even when attractive foods, such as pizza, are left out in the apartments, the cockroaches still eat the bait.”

Miller’s assessment-based, decision-making methodology – quantifying the number of cockroaches prior to treatment and utilizing a food bait rather than pesticide spray to kill the cockroaches – is innovative. Best of all, it’s working. In Rocky Mount, cockroaches have been completely eliminated in the test units. Hopewell has had a 99.7 percent reduction in cockroaches, while Richmond populations have decreased by more than 98.9 percent.

Although her method requires more time and money at the outset, it offers a greater reward: fewer roaches and fewer treatments over time, not to mention happier residents. This is the message she wishes to impart to HUD officials, apartment managers, and pest control operators. Buoyed by her success, and by the relief of her residents, Miller is now working to develop a new set of standards and a check list for pest control contracts in HUD communities across the country.

“There are two issues: the practical side (baiting), and the political side (how contracts are written for pest management companies),” said Tim Kring, head of the Virginia Tech Department of Entomology. “Unless HUD requires its managers to adopt the new guidelines, this will be a slow process.

“As people are forced to change, they will change. It’s easy to see that Dr. Miller’s protocol is better. But, it costs more. And, under the current HUD guidelines, spraying is the most economical treatment – but, it has not controlled the problem,” said Kring.

In the meantime, Miller has made life better for residents, whose relief is palpable. Ferrell has not seen a roach in months. She also reported that her daughter’s asthma has improved.

“This process has eased my mind so much,” said Ferrell. “Now, I can have company over and cook without worrying that roaches will jump on them. It’s much happier around here. I finally feel comfortable in my own home.”

Ferrell is joined by a chorus of satisfied residents, including Sharon Jones; Lakeyshia Mayo, a mother of one; and Marcia Simms, a Jamaican-American mother of four – in addition to residents in Hopewell and Richmond, Virginia.

“The change has been dramatic, and I didn’t have to remove anything from my home,” said Simms. “I was skeptical at first when I didn’t see any spray or chemicals, but whatever Dr. Miller is doing is revolutionary. I’m so appreciative to have been on her list. If there’s a Grammy Award, she deserves it.”

Miller may not qualify for a Grammy, but something even better is in the works. This summer, the Urban Pest Management Program received an endowment that will help ensure that work of this caliber will continue for many years to come.

In June, Joe and Mary Wilson, of Fredericksburg, Virginia established the Joseph R. and Mary W. Wilson Endowed Urban Entomology Professorship. Wilson is the former owner of PermaTreat Pest Control, a leading pest control company located in Central and Northern Virginia. The endowment will support urban entomology research – research that promises to lead to the types of discoveries that underpin Miller’s work.

“This gift is truly transformational to our program at Virginia Tech,” said Kring. “There is a void in basic foundational research for urban pest management. We want to expand our program by adding a research component to our toolbox in order to pioneer next-step treatment options for indoor pests. No insecticide lasts forever. So, coming up with a new tool requires research.”

— Written by Amy Painter

VIDEO: Virginia Tech entomologist finds practical solution for cockroach infestations

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Inga Haugen embraces her roots in her role as library liaison

Library liaison Inga Haugen discusses tobacco research with Southern Piedmont Agricultural Research and Extension Center director Carol Wilkinson and faculty member Ford Ramsey.

Library liaison Inga Haugen discusses tobacco research with Southern Piedmont Agricultural Research and Extension Center director Carol Wilkinson and faculty member Ford Ramsey.

Farming analogies roll off Inga Haugen’s tongue like hay bales off a baler.

“I love baling and stacking hay bales. Do you have any that I can stack? Sometimes I just miss it!,” said Haugen, the University Libraries’ liaison librarian for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Baling hay, milking cows, and enjoying wide-open spaces are part of Haugen’s history.

She grew up with her two brothers, Olaf and Thor, on Springside Farm near Canton in southern Minnesota. Her father, Vance Haugen, was an Extension agent for the University of Wisconsin, and her mother, Bonnie, ran their 100-head dairy farm. Her family also owns a 160-acre farm near Oklee in northern Minnesota, a century farm that has been in the Haugen family for more than 100 years. “It’s called Apocalypse Acres, because my dad always said we’d get crops off of it three years out of 10,” joked Inga.

As a library liaison for the college, she provides workshops and services for College of Agriculture and Life Sciences faculty, including those in the Agricultural Research and Extension Centers (AREC) across Virginia. Throughout the year, she visits the ARECs to provide updates from Newman Library and offer information about research data management, new library resources, and potential collaborations with Haugen’s library colleagues in digital libraries, research impact, data services, and the library studios.

“I love them best, these are my people,” said Haugen. “I understand their needs and can help them with their important work. Growing up on the farm, I saw first-hand the importance of ARECs. The information that they provide farmers could mean the difference between a red bottom line and a black bottom line in a farm’s checkbook,” said Haugen.

Haugen’s recent travels took her to Hampton and the waterfront Virginia Seafood Agricultural Research and Extension Center (VSAREC) where the Hampton River opens to the James. There, she taught a workshop about the new search tool Discovery Search, digital object identifiers to track impact of published research, citation management tools, and opportunities to collaborate with the University Libraries’ studios, such as the data visualization studio.

In turn, she learned about the latest research being conducted in their labs. Graduate student Sam Ratcliff described his research in shrimp reproduction that could potentially cut hatchery costs in half for the ornamental shrimp industry. The VSAREC is known for its conservation projects, seafood quality and safety expertise, and applied marine hatchery research and extension that all directly support the Virginia seafood industry — a growing industry that employs close to 7,000 Virginians.

Her second stop of the two-day trip was the Southern Piedmont Agricultural Research and Extension Center (SPAREC) in Blackstone.  There, center director Carol Wilkinson, Department of Agriculture and Applied Economics faculty member Ford Ramsey, and Haugen discussed a collaborative research project that utilizes the center’s 30 years of data about flue-cured tobacco, also known internationally as Virginia tobacco.

Haugen’s goal is to take that data, currently in paper form, and transform it to digital files stored in VTechData in order to make it more accessible for future researchers.

When Haugen learned about Ramsey’s research interest, she suggested that he visit the SPAREC and meet Wilkinson. Haugen knew about the unique and precious data he was searching for because she was making plans to digitize it.

Wilkinson and Ramsey discussed the best way to gather information from the tobacco production data and explored possible research collaborations. “I met Inga and mentioned my interest in studying historical tobacco variety trials. Someone in my position would never think to come out here. This is invaluable,” said Ramsey.

Wilkinson and Haugen have worked together on a variety of projects, including new areas of research in industrial hemp.

“The University Libraries is central to anything I want to do,” said Wilkinson. “All of a sudden I have to learn about hemp. ‘Inga, where do I find information about industrial hemp?’ Her answer is always ‘I can help you with that.’ Inga has broadened my horizons about all of the things my librarians can do.”

– Written by Ann Brown

 

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