Category Archives: Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Paul Rogers Jr., former Virginia Tech Board of Visitors member, named Virginia Farmer of the Year

Paul Rogers Jr.

Paul Rogers Jr., of Wakefield, Virginia — a former member of the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors and strong supporter of the university’s agricultural technology program — has been selected as state winner of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award.

Rogers has had a long and successful farming career and an equally extensive and rewarding avocation as a youth league and high school baseball coach.

Rogers joins nine other individuals as finalists for the overall award that will be announced on Oct. 16 at the Sunbelt Expo farm show in Moultrie, Georgia.

A modest individual, Rogers runs a farm encompassing 1,680 acres of open land. He rents 1,122 acres, owns 558 acres of open land, and also owns 499 acres of timber.

“I’m just a humble man who tills the soil,” he said.

Rogers has chaired an advisory board for the Tidewater Agricultural Research and Extension Center. He’s on an advisory board for Virginia Agricultural Leaders Obtaining Results (VALOR) and served on an advisory board for groundwater management in eastern Virginia. He served on the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors while president of the Virginia Board of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

He has been a director of the Peanut Growers Cooperative Marketing Association, the Virginia Crop Improvement Association, the Virginia Cotton Board, the Virginia Corn Board, the Virginia Corn Growers Association, the Colonial Agricultural Education Foundation, and the Virginia Agribusiness Council. He also took part in leadership programs offered by the University of Virginia’s Sorensen Institute.

“It is a pleasure to recognize Paul Rogers this year,” said Bobby Grisso, associate director of Virginia Cooperative Extension. “He is a hard-working famer, serves the community, university, and the state, and is a leader whose actions are committed to agriculture.”

Among the crops Rogers raises is Virginia-type “ballpark” peanuts, and he receives premiums for jumbo and fancy peanut kernels. Having coached baseball for more than 50 years, it’s appropriate that Rogers grows ballpark peanuts.

A baseball coach at Tidewater Academy since 2005, his team won a state championship in 2013. He has long been active as a coach and director of youth baseball in Wakefield. Recently, the town named its youth league baseball fields after Rogers, and in 2004, his former players placed a plaque in his honor at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

“My professional goals are more than the bottom line,” he said. He keeps his farm profitable, but said, “I am guided by my passion to be a role model as a father, coach, and mentor and to give back to the field of agriculture. My wife Pam and I have incorporated this passion into our lifestyles.”

Rogers said he has matured as a farmer and business owner by serving on many boards and organizations. He appreciates his family for keeping the farm running during his absences.

As the Virginia winner of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo award, Rogers will receive a $2,500 cash award and an expense-paid trip to the Sunbelt Expo from Swisher International of Jacksonville, Florida; a $500 gift certificate from Southern States cooperative; and a Columbia vest from Ivey’s Outdoor and Farm Supply.

He is now eligible for the $15,000 cash prize awarded to the overall winner.

Previous state winners from Virginia include Nelson Gardner, of Bridgewater, 1990; Russell Inskeep, of Culpepper, 1991; Harry Bennett, of Covington, 1992; Hilton Hudson, of Alton, 1993; Buck McCann, of Carson, 1994; George M. Ashman Jr., of Amelia, 1995; Bill Blalock, of Baskerville, 1996; G.H. Peery III, of Ceres, 1997; James Bennett, of Red House, 1998; Ernest Copenhaver, of Meadowview, 1999; John Davis, of Port Royal, 2000; James Huffard III, of Crockett, 2001; J. Hudson Reese, of Scottsburg, 2002; Charles Parkerson, of Suffolk, 2003; Lance Everett, of Stony Creek, 2004; Monk Sanford, of Orange, 2005; Paul House, of Nokesville, 2006; Steve Berryman, of Surry, 2007; Tim Sutphin, of Dublin, 2008; Billy Bain, of Dinwiddie, 2009; Wallick Harding, of Jetersville, 2010; Donald Horsley, of Virginia Beach, 2011; Maxwell Watkins, of Sutherland, 2012; Lin Jones, of New Canton, 2013; Robert T. “Tom” Nixon II, of Rapidan, 2014; Donald Turner, of North Dinwiddie, 2015; Tyler Wegmeyer, of Hamilton, 2016; and Robert Mills Jr., of Callands, 2017.

Virginia has had three overall winners, Nelson Gardner, of Bridgewater,  1990; Charles Parkerson, of Suffolk, 2003; and Robert Mills Jr., of Callands, 2017.

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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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Virginia Tech launches Feed the Future Senegal Youth in Agriculture project

Ya Cor Ndione, associate national director; Rick Rudd, head of the Department of Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education; Megan Kyles, USAID/Senegal agriculture/nutrition specialist; Tom Archibald, project director and assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education; Kathleen Jamison, professor emeritus and Extension specialist; Bineta Guisse, national director; Fatimata Kane, 4-H specialist; and Jeremy Johnson, state 4-H leader, Virginia 4-H, attend the program launch in Senegal.

Ya Cor Ndione, associate national director; Rick Rudd, head of the Department of Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education; Megan Kyles, USAID/Senegal agriculture/nutrition specialist; Tom Archibald, project director and assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education; Kathleen Jamison, professor emeritus and Extension specialist; Bineta Guisse, national director; Fatimata Kane, 4-H specialist; and Jeremy Johnson, state 4-H leader, Virginia 4-H, attend the program launch in Senegal.

Twenty miles east of Senegal’s capital city, hundreds of guests arrived in Senegal’s newest city, Diamniadio, for the grand event.

Youth photographers snapped pictures of the guests before they strolled down the green carpet. In fact, the stars of this event included the entire guest list — the dedicated volunteers, leaders, partners, and participants who support the engagement of Senegal’s youth in the country’s economic growth.

On May 22, the Center for International Research, Education, and Development (CIRED) officially launched its newest project, Feed the Future Senegal Jeunesse en Agriculture (Youth in Agriculture), at the Centre International de Conférences Abdou Diouf in Diamniadio.

Funded by USAID, the five-year, $4 million project will carry on the work of the CIRED-led Education and Research in Agriculture (ERA) project in Senegal by expanding 4-H clubs across the country and institutionalizing positive youth development (PYD) nationally. The project will also work with vocational training institutions to strengthen their connections to private-sector actors and markets, including the piloting of innovative approaches for creating entrepreneurship and income-generating opportunities for youth.

Youth who work with the ERA project hosted the ceremony, which featured adult and youth speakers representing Virginia Tech, USAID/Senegal, and the government of Senegal, as well as Senegalese agricultural institutions and women’s food processing platforms. Guests were also treated to video highlights, commemorative photos, and a “wall of fame,” a display in which participants wrote messages in support of the project. Staff from Virginia Cooperative Extension were on hand to provide support for many of the activities.

“With a focus on the next generation of farmers and agricultural entrepreneurs, Feed the Future Senegal Jeunesse en Agriculture will help build a prosperous future for all Senegalese,” said Kitty Andang, USAID/Senegal deputy mission director, during the ceremony. “Jeunesse en Agriculture will increase youth participation in Senegal’s economic growth by implementing a positive youth development program, already launched as part of the first phase of Feed the Future in Senegal.”

In 2015, the 4-H Senegal PYD program was established in Toubacouta, south of the capital of Dakar, as part of the ERA project. Modeled after the 4-H Youth Development program of the Cooperative Extension Service and land-grant university system in the U.S., the 4-H program in Senegal has already attracted more than 600 members.

“With the launch of Feed the Future Senegal Jeunesse en Agriculture, CIRED redoubles its commitment to helping youth around the world to become thriving, confident, and skilled actors in economic growth,” said Van Crowder, executive director of CIRED, part of Outreach and International Affairs. “Jeunesse en Agriculture is another testament of CIRED’s commitment to link Virginia Tech to the world through innovative research, partnership, and collaboration.”

“This project fits squarely within the priorities of the government of Senegal and of USAID, both of which realize the importance of engaging young people in positive youth development and agricultural entrepreneurship. As a result, this launch event has generated a lot of buzz, and expectations are high,” said Tom Archibald, project director and assistant professor. “We really look forward to achieving meaningful positive impacts in the lives of thousands of young people across Senegal, which can also provide lessons to share with other development projects across West Africa and around the globe.”

Fatou Diouf, a student at the Institute for Advanced Agricultural and Rural Training in Bambey, Senegal, and a member of 4-H Senegal, delivered an impassioned speech during the ceremony. “We are proud to celebrate the launch of the project, because we remain convinced that a project cannot be more useful than one that serves humanity,” Diouf said. “This ambitious program, implemented by passionate and unselfish actors, is a model for the path to development.”

Jeunesse en Agriculture will remain housed under ERA during the project’s first year. Subsequently, the project headquarters will be embedded within the Ministry of Higher Education, Research, and Innovation’s new offices in Diamniadio as well as in the regional offices of the national PYD program within universities.

– Written by April Raphiou

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Virginia Tech and Hebrew University of Jerusalem to collaborate on research and student exchange

Masha Niv and Tom Thompson

Masha Niv, the vice dean for research and development at the Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, speaks with Tom Thompson, associate dean for global programs at the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, about developing partnerships between the two universities.

Although Virginia Tech and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem are separated by more than 6,000 miles, the two institutions have a lot in common.

Both universities are leading the charge to grow safe and nutritious food for a growing global population. Both are working to address the challenge of securing safe and healthy water for people around the world. And both are preparing a new generation of leaders to tackle these and many other issues that lay ahead.

It is for these reasons that the two leading research institutions are establishing a partnership to collaborate on research and development. The partnership will not only benefit their home countries, but citizens around the globe.

Tom Thompson, the director of Global Programs and an associate dean in the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, recently returned from a trip to Israel, where he met with Benny Chefetz, his Israeli counterpart and dean of the Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment at Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

“I am impressed by how well the faculty and staff of both institutions mesh, and I am excited by the many possibilities that exist for complementary research and development,” Thompson said during his trip to Hebrew University in May. “The Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment is the kind of partner that we at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences have always envisioned for ourselves.”

While in Israel, Thompson met with several professors whose research has led to groundbreaking innovations in the country’s agriculture sector. These innovations have enabled Israel to develop successful technologies and products in an array of agricultural fields that have established it as one of the world’s leaders in today’s agro-technology industry.

“We are excited about our association with the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and look forward to meaningful cooperation with them in areas from basic to applied research. We will also explore ways to jointly commercialize technology,” said Chefetz.

An example of one of the points of joint interest is food innovation. The Virginia Tech Department of Food Science and Technology is a center of excellence for education and research in the fields of food quality and safety. This coincides with Israel as the “start-up nation” and the groundbreaking research carried out at the Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment in the field of food and nutrition. This presents a special opportunity for collaboration and synergy.

In addition to exploring opportunities for collaboration on research, another area in which Thompson foresees cooperation is student exchange. Students may be able to study at either university and learn from professors at both institutions to gain a broader perspective on how to research issues in food production and water safety. Professors will also have a free exchange of ideas and develop ways to collaborate on large projects. A virtual symposium between the two institutions is being planned.

“Our partnership can also result in short- and long-term visits to Israel for CALS faculty and students, and vice-versa,” Thompson said. “My visit to Israel helped to actualize this potential by determining how best to complement each other’s strengths.”

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Virginia Cooperative Extension forms key partnerships to tackle the state’s opioid epidemic

Imagine awakening to the news that a jetliner has crashed, killing all 115 men, women, and children aboard.

As shocking as the magnitude of such loss would be, this is equivalent to the number of Americans who die from opioid overdose every day.

As if the deaths of approximately 42,000 people each year weren’t sobering enough, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the total “economic burden” of prescription opioid misuse alone in the United States is $78.5 billion annually, including the costs of health care, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.

“The rates of death as a result of opioid overdose are climbing, and they are over 50 percent greater in rural Southwest Virginia than for the state,” said Kathy Hosig, director for the Virginia Tech Center for Public Health Practice and Research and a specialist with Virginia Cooperative Extension, the outreach program for the state’s two land-grant universities: Virginia Tech and Virginia State University. “There is a clear role for Virginia Tech and Virginia Cooperative Extension to provide safety education and training at the community level to help stop the cycle of abuse.”

In June, Virginia Cooperative Extension was awarded a $1.28 million grant for collaborative opioid work through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). The grant was one of only six conferred nationally for addressing community needs.

“By having Virginia Tech and Virginia State University partner on the project, we were able to double the funding,” said Crystal Tyler-Mackey, an Extension specialist in community viability, and co-project director, along with VSU’s Maurice Smith, a 4-H Extension specialist with the university.

Awarded by the USDA-NIFA Children, Youth, and Families At-Risk program, the five-year grant will support health education initiatives spearheaded by Extension aimed at preventing opioid abuse among vulnerable communities in Virginia. This work is a continuation of a $321,638 NIFA Rural Health and Safety Education grant awarded last fall to Virginia Cooperative Extension. Together, the efforts are reaching six counties: Grayson, Henry/Martinsville, Prince George, Orange, Sussex, and Henrico.

Maurice Smith, Crystal Tyler-Mackey, Bonita Williams, and Kathy Hosig

From left: Maurice Smith, Crystal Tyler-Mackey, Bonita Williams, and Kathy Hosig. Williams serves as national program leader with the NIFA division of youth and 4-H.

“Southwest Virginia is especially vulnerable. We have communities that are suffering. They are struggling to find homes for children whose parents are impacted,” said Tyler-Mackey. “And across Virginia, social service agencies and schools are overwhelmed. Employers are having trouble hiring people who can pass drug tests. We felt compelled to find a way as community-level educators to do something to address the issue.”

The grants will enable Extension to deliver educational programming to prevent the abuse and misuse of opioids and other illicit substances to those most at risk and to host meetings and events that bring together people and organizations concerned about opioid misuse for collaborative discussion, learning, and planning.

The NIFA funding will be targeted to two distinct audiences: adult hospital patients and their families in clinical settings, and middle-school adolescents through evidence-based educational programs.

The goal in targeting hospital patients is to make them aware of the dangers associated with use of opioid pain medications and to provide access to support should they or a family member experience problems related to opioid use. This intervention will take the form of one-on-one conversations with patients and their loved ones through the High Risk Patient Education Program.

“There are different risks with opioids than with over-the-counter medications because opioids are so highly addictive,” said Tyler-Mackey. “Patients do not always know that what they are taking for pain management is an opioid. So, many don’t know the risk associated with its use. The education of medical patients will be on proper use of the medications and red flags to look for, such as taking medication sooner, or more often than prescribed.”

Curriculum for this program is being developed by the Virginia Rural Health Association for delivery to patients as they are waiting to see health care providers in their offices and will also be available on the Virginia Cooperative Extension and Virginia Rural Health Association websites.

The second goal for the NIFA grants is to provide prevention education for adolescents at a vulnerable stage in their development – middle school – in order to provide children and their families with the skills and support required to make healthy decisions about drugs. This will take shape through a program called PROmoting School-community-university Partnerships to Enhance Resilience (PROSPER), an evidence-based model developed by Iowa State and Pennsylvania State universities to prevent alcohol and drug abuse in youth.

Through this model, which connects university-based prevention researchers with Virginia Cooperative Extension and the public school system, community teams are convened to oversee the implementation of family and school-based interventions. The family-based intervention program is called Strengthening Families 10-14, and the program offered to youth in middle schools is called Botvin Life Skills Training.

All three PROSPER programs include classroom sessions addressing social and psychological factors leading to drug experimentation through the use of games, discussions, role-playing, worksheets, online content, posters, and videos. Endorsed by the Surgeon General in a 2016 report, the program has produced successful results. According to one randomized study, youth participating in PROSPER had 21 percent less prescription opioid misuse seven years after the program.

“PROSPER communities have wonderful outcomes for youth,” said Tyler-Mackey, who is working to educate a cadre of certified trainers throughout the state. “We have a longer-term strategy to start with a few communities and expand. Other states have had success with PROSPER, so we want to continue with that.”

“Given the importance of this effort and the need for partnerships to address the opioid epidemic at all levels, we’re also working to coordinate efforts across the state and region by building relationships with other universities, state agencies, hospitals, schools, and institutions who have a role to play in the opioid epidemic,” said Hosig.

In May, Hosig and other experts from Virginia Cooperative Extension, the Virginia Tech Center for Public Health Practice and Research, and the Virginia Tech Institute for Policy and Governance brought together 71 higher education representatives from 23 colleges and universities across the region, along with community representatives from health departments, community services boards, and law enforcement for a day of conversations on how to jointly combat the opioid epidemic. Suggested next steps from the workshop include developing a common research agenda, formulating a regional approach, and integrating information on opioid misuse and abuse into the curricula at institutions of higher learning.

The workshop and NIFA awards would not have been possible without Virginia Cooperative Extension leaders Ed Jones, director; Cathy Sutphin, associate director of youth, families, and health; Karen Vines, an Extension specialist and assistant professor; and, Hosig, as well as colleagues at Virginia Tech, VSU, and the Virginia Rural Health Association. Jones’ leadership was instrumental in helping to secure NIFA funding – funding that stands to help save many lives.

Virginia Cooperative Extension is also partnering with West Virginia Cooperative Extension to develop steps to address the epidemic.

“The good news is that the opioid crisis in this country is being attacked on all sides as people and agencies on federal, state, and local levels come together to fight this problem,” said Tyler-Mackey.

– Written by Amy Painter

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