Southside VA Farmers Have Opportunity To Grow Berries

June 29, 2016

Extension specialist Dr. Reza Rafie welcomes a farmer to Virginia State University’s Randolph Farm to learn more about growing blueberries in Virginia.

Extension specialist Dr. Reza Rafie welcomes a farmer to Virginia State University’s Randolph Farm to learn more about growing blueberries in Virginia.

Contact: William Gee, Marketing & Communications Dept., 804-524-5005, 


A “Berry” Good Opportunity for Southside Virginia Farmers

Virginia State University Cooperative Extension Specialists are looking for Southside Virginia farmers, especially those who formerly raised tobacco, who are interested in trying their hand at growing blackberries, blueberries or strawberries. Extension specialists believe the region has potential for satisfying the high demand for locally-grown berries.

"Locally-grown produce, especially berries, which are known to have significant health benefits, have experienced a sharp increase in consumer demand," explained Dr. Raza Rafie, VSU horticulture extension specialist. "We’ve done extensive research throughout central and southside Virginia, and we feel confident that the growing conditions are right for local farmers to help meet this demand.” 

Identifying and assisting the new potential berry growers is part of a three-year Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission grant-funded project to promote berry crops as an alternative farm enterprise in the region. The $292,930 grant is the second phase to the successful $300,000 grant from the Commission in January 2011. 

This second phase of the project will identify a total of 13 farmers who will each receive an acre of either blackberry, blueberry or strawberry plants (depending on the conditions of his/her farm), mulch, drip irrigation lines, a trellis system (for blackberry crop only), a temporary spreader, technical assistance and management information. The duration of this grant project is three years.  During that time project team members will provide educational assistance to each farmer in growing and marketing his/her berry crop.

To apply, farmers can obtain an application from their local agriculture and natural resource Cooperative Extension agent. A list of agents is available at For more information on the project farmers can also contact Jonathan Bobby at 434-9418471 or jonbob2629@gmail.comApplications are due Thursday, July 30, 2016. 

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.