The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech and the School of Agriculture at Virginia State University are strongly committed to the SARE Professional Development Program. Virginia Tech and Virginia State University continue to host and sponsor professional development workshops and programs each year. These workshops and programs help build interest and strengthen the implementation of sustainable methods and practices across Virginia, especially in the areas of soil health management, cover cropping, community food systems, grassland agriculture, and overall market diversification. There continue to be a strong interest in community, local and regional food systems that encourage local and regional connections and build resilience. Virginia Cooperative Extension, through the Virginia SARE Advisory Committee and our professional development programming initiatives and organizational partnerships, seeks to serve all of Virginia’s agricultural sector and fully integrate sustainable farming practices that emphasize the community, economic and ecological components of sustainability throughout the food and agricultural system. Our SARE-PDP program provides the most current and best scientific information and research to producers, food entrepreneurs, and citizens so they can meet their individual and community objectives for sustainability and resilience. Virginia’s Model State Program training topics will specifically focus on sustainable agriculture to strengthen educational outreach around soil health and water quality, farm-to-table connections in the food system value chain, enhance the capabilities of Extension and USDA personnel to highlight regenerative farming practices, support a grazing school for agricultural and conservation professionals, and increase knowledge and visibility of SARE’s grants and programs.
Project objectives from proposal:
1) Virginia’s 2020 -2021 Model State Program funding will focus on professional development trainings and educational outreach regarding sustainable agricultural practices and Southern Region SARE programs on a statewide basis and in conjunction with other planned events and partnering agencies (i.e., NRCS, FSA, SWCD, Farm Credit) existing training programs to reach the following: at least 60 Extension Agents (VCE), 40 Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), and 30 Soil and Water Conservation District personnel. Virginia’s Model State Program training topics will specifically focus on sustainable agriculture to strengthen educational outreach around soil health and water quality, farm-to-table connections in the food system value chain, enhance the capabilities of Extension and USDA personnel to highlight regenerative farming practices, support a grazing school, and increase knowledge and visibility of SARE’s grants and programs.
2) Conduct and support train-the-trainer training on a statewide basis and work in conjunction within existing annual conferences and/or field meetings (e.g., Virginia Association for Biological Farming, Virginia Small Farm Outreach Conference, Virginia Farm to Table, Virginia Urban Agriculture Summit and Certification Program, and the Virginia Forage and Grassland Council’s Grazing School for Agricultural Professionals) to reach at least 400 persons including farmer, landowners, farming associations, state government agency personnel, county government personnel, non-government organizations (NGO’s) and community-based organizations (CBOs). Outreach will include having displays and exhibits at these educational events as well.
3) Virginia SARE will work closely with VSU’s Small Farm Outreach Program to reach out to underserved and underrepresented farmers and ranchers. Additionally, VA SARE will collaborate with the Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition and emerging initiatives and organizations like the Virginia Young Farmers Coalition, Common Grain Alliance, and the Virginia Soil Health Coalition to make these organizations aware of the educational and research programs of USDA-SARE.
4) Expand Virginia SARE’s communication efforts such as the weekly statewide educational calendar, Facebook page, and website presence. To expand the scope of Virginia’s outreach, a videography and filmmaking three- day short course will be offered to build Extension and USDA professionals.