VSU Receives $1.6 Million to Assist Virginia Farmers

April 7, 2016

Contact: William Gee, Marketing & Communications Dept., 804-524-5005, wgee@vsu.edu

VSU College of Agriculture Receives $1.6 Million to Assist Virginia Farmers Through Research and Extension

Virginia State University’s College of Agriculture has received four federal grants totaling approximately $1.2 million, two Virginia Tobacco Commission grants totaling $407,822, and a Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) grant in the amount of $17,500. The funding will be used to support the university’s land-grant outreach and research mission.

The first federally-funded grant supports research to identify hops varieties with moderate to high disease resistance that meet brewers’ quality and price expectations. VSU is cooperating with North Carolina State University and Virginia Tech to help mid-Atlantic hops growers cash in on a potentially-profitable market opportunity. Currently, demand for hops, a key ingredient in beer, exceeds supply due to the rapid growth of the craft beer industry.

The second federal grant is for a USDA-certified mobile processing unit for the safe, humane slaughter and labelling of sheep and goat meat. It will make USDA-sanctioned inspection facilities more accessible to Virginia farmers and should save producers time and defray expenses associated with distant travel for service. Producers using the mobile unit will be charged a fee comparable to current market rates. These fees will be used to make operations self-sustaining for the unit, which is expected to be operational by October 2017. 

The third federal grant supports collaboration between VSU and USDA’s Beltsville Agricultural Research Station for a professional development project enabling the principal investigator to learn techniques and analytical skills related to genomic-wide association study. Data will be obtained on soybean drought tolerance as it pertains to genomics research and genetic engineering.

Through a fourth federal grant, VSU will provide comprehensive urban agriculture education to increase Cooperative Extension educators’ knowledge and hands-on urban agriculture skills. Urban agriculture is defined as growing vegetables, fruits and herbs; or raising animals in urban environments, which include rooftops and use of container gardens. Increased education in this field is aimed at mitigating Virginia’s food desert dilemma, increasing urban food production, reducing local food costs, enhancing food security, and improving dietary choices.

A grant from the Virginia Tobacco Commission will expand the promotion and marketing of berry crops (blueberry, blackberry, strawberry and raspberry) as an alternative enterprise for former tobacco farmers in Southside Virginia.

A second grant from the Virginia Tobacco Commission supports the development of edamame (vegetable soybeans) as a Southside Virginia commercial crop, including post-harvest processing, handling and marketing of the soybeans.

Lastly, a grant from VDACS will enable VSU researchers to explore industrial hemp as s potential income source for farmers. Researchers will evaluate seed and fiber varieties. The fibers can be processed into canvas, rope, cardboard, fiberboard, insulation, plastics, clothing, shoes and carpeting.

Extension is a joint program of Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and state and local governments.  Virginia Cooperative Extension programs and employment are open to all, regardless of age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, veteran status, or any other basis protected by law.  An equal opportunity/affirmative action employer.  Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating.  Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Interim Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.