A 2013 study in Scott County showed a lack of awareness and support of local growers throughout the county. In response, the Virginia Cooperative Extension planned two outreach programs, with support from the Extension Leadership Council, Master Gardeners, and Natural Tunnel State Park to help demonstrate the importance of agriculture for growers and consumers alike.
The first program was an heirloom seed swap. The event showcased two educational programs on seed saving and growing vegetables in home gardens and highlighted Seed Savers Exchange, Community Supported Agriculture opportunities, and support industries.
The second program was the Clinch River Food Festival, which highlighted local agricultural foods and products, such as the heirloom tomato. At the end of the festival, attendees were treated to a dinner highlighting local foods such as butternut squash, goat cheese, lamb, poultry, tomatoes, shiitake mushrooms, sorghum, honey, and berries.
As Virginia Cooperative Extension agent Twandra Lomax was shopping in a Richmond Farm Fresh, she was recognized by a previous student.
“You taught my homebuyers class at Southside,” the woman said. “I closed on my first house last week.”
She was one of 34 students in the Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Homebuyers Education class that went on to purchase a home in the City of Richmond in 2015.
The class, formed in collaboration with Richmond’s Southside Community Development and Housing Corporation, focuses on credit, personal finances, the role of the lender and realtor, home maintenance, home inspection, home appraisal, the closing process, foreclosure, and the Fair Housing Act of Virginia.
Two sessions of the class are held each month and are taught by experts in the field. Participants leave the class prepared to start working on credit concerns that could prevent them from qualifying for mortgage loans. At the end of the class, students work directly with a counselor to address any lingering concerns.
Virginia Tech’s recent discovery of abnormally high amounts of lead in the Flint, Michigan, water system has made safe drinking water a hot topic. But while the water in Flint came from a municipal source, private water systems, such as wells, springs, and cisterns, are not immune to this problem.
Emily Hutchins of Blacksburg, Virginia, fills water collection bottles.
Testing conducted though Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Virginia Household Water Quality Program has found high levels of lead in private systems around the state.
Kelsey Pieper, a researcher on the Flint team who received her doctorate from Virginia Tech, was the primary author on the study that found 1 in 5 private systems had lead concentrations above the Environmental Protection Agency standard for municipal systems. About 45 percent of the samples contained coliform bacteria and 10 percent contained E. coli.
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For inmates leaving prison, reintegrating into the community is a challenging transition — not only in Virginia, but nationwide. After spending time behind bars, prisoners can find it difficult to reconnect with family members, find employment, and resist the behavior that resulted in their imprisonment.
Virginia Cooperative Extension agents in Central Virginia had already been working with the staff and inmates at the greenhouse and garden facilities at Rustburg Correctional Unit 9 in Campbell County for several years and saw a need to further support inmates in their community re-entry efforts. They decided to implement a pesticide applicator certification program designed to equip inmates with job skills to make it easier for them to find employment upon their release.
The certification program is a collaborative effort between the Virginia Department of Corrections, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and Virginia Cooperative Extension.
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Kathryn Strong, family and consumer sciences Extension agent for Fairfax County, believes in the value of independent and health-conscious senior residents. To aid the growing population of seniors in their quest for healthier lifestyles, Strong has spearheaded senior cooking and nutrition programming in Fairfax and Arlington.
Strong’s senior cooking and nutrition workshops are held at senior centers and at faith-based and civic organizations around the community. Workshops incorporate cooking demonstrations, lectures, and discussions on a variety of topics. The programming emphasizes the benefits of healthy eating — particularly for seniors — which include reduced risks for heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, bone loss, cancer, and anemia. Eating well and being physically active also help to manage chronic diseases and can reduce high blood pressure, lower high cholesterol, and control blood glucose.
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