Last Wednesday, I participated in a regional forum of the White House Working Families Summit that was held at Virginia State University in Petersburg, Virginia. Coming from a small town in Southwest Georgia myself, I can relate to the unique challenges that rural Americans face. Growing up, my father worked seven days a week on our peanut and cattle farm with help from my mother. To make sure our family had a constant source of income and health insurance, my mother also worked off the farm at the local independent bank. I am fortunate to be the product of hard working parents who provided my sister and me with the best opportunities possible.
All families have a right to have access to a good education system, affordable healthcare and jobs. Our rural families are concerned about creating strong prospects for their children, whether it is on or off the farm. But it is also essential that there are opportunities that will attract young people back to rural areas and help us secure the future of agriculture. Read more »
In support of Secretary Vilsack’s implementation of President Obama’s agenda to put Americans back to work and create an economy built to last, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) in collaboration with Virginia State University’s (VSU) Small Farm Outreach Program will host Rural Small Business Connections. This training event will provide small businesses with a series of educational networking sessions and opportunities on how to build capacity and successfully do business with USDA and other Federal agencies. Read more »
With the thoughts of spring planting on their minds, over 200 farm producers and local agricultural staff discussed the many ways USDA can strengthen the partnership between small farmers and the USDA agencies that serve them.
Eleven different USDA agencies converged earlier this month at the Douglas Wilder Building, on the campus of Virginia State University (VSU) to talk business and program assistance. From topics such as how to market locally grown foods in your community to grant writing were cover during the conference. A local grower’s panel was the highlight again this year; where four USDA recipients shared time with the group during the general session, to “in their own words” explain how they utilized different USDA programs to improve their community or individual operations profit margins. Read more »
(Left to right) Keniyah Brown, Gerkyhia Walker and Alexis Cook have fun tending their garden at Woodlawn Learning Center in Hopewell, Va.
“How does your garden grow?” is more than just a nursery rhyme for preschoolers at Woodlawn Learning Center in Hopewell, Virginia. The three- and four-year olds are learning about growing food and eating healthy by tending their own garden with help from a host of parents, teachers and other volunteers. Read more »
Yesterday, USDA and Virginia State University co-hosted the 3rd Annual USDA Outreach Conference in Petersburg, VA. Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan addressed Virginia’s farmers, rural businesses and rural community leaders at the event. The grass-roots conference focused on providing information about USDA programs and services with a goal of strengthening the partnership between small farms and USDA. Deputy Secretary Merrigan highlighted USDA resources ranging from the Farmers Market Promotion Program to Specialty Crop Block Grants and a multitude of assistance available through the Rural Development Agency.
The Deputy Secretary was introduced by Virginia State University President Eddie Moore, Jr. who is leading a University at the cutting-edge of agricultural research. VSU is exploring specialty crop production potential in Virginia through the use of high tunnels to extend the growing season for Virginia farmers.
During a tour of Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Randolph Farm and green houses, Extension Specialist Reza Rafie, Ph.D. and Research Specialist Christopher Mullins, highlighted green papayas, white guava, ginger, lemon grass, bitter melon, and raspberries among other specialty crops. The VSU team has been able to increase raspberry production using the high tunnels with a steady crop being produced from May to December. Dr. Rafie specializes in disseminating research-based, practical management information to assist small-scale horticulture. Mr. Mullins provides information and technical assistance to vegetable growers to increase their profits by raising commercial vegetables through various methods such as greenhouses and high tunnels to get a head start on production
USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service is promoting the use of high tunnels through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) cost-sharing program.