Our Center is home to a number of state and regional programs supporting food systems-based community development at the nexus of food, agriculture, and society. Our programs cover the following issues and are briefly described below with additional information.
- New farmer sustainability
- Health, wellness, and accessibility
- Connecting food, farm, and health
- Equitable value chain work
- Sustainable food systems
The Virginia Beginning Farmer & Rancher Coalition (VBFRC) is a state-wide coalition of agricultural organizations and farm businesses. The long-term goal of the Coalition is to improve opportunities for beginning farmers and ranchers so they can establish and sustain viable agricultural operations and communities in Virginia. To reach that goal, the Coalition supports the development and enhancement of whole farm planning curriculum and training, online resources, and social networking.
AgrAbility Virginia promotes safety, wellness, and accessibility on the farm through education, rehabilitative services, and assistive technology. AgrAbility Virginia services are funded through USDA NIFA and free to Virginia farmers and farm workers. This program is a collaborative effort between the National AgrAbility Program, Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, Virginia Cooperative Extension, and Easterseals UCP.
This ongoing programming initiative seeks to catalyze equitable food value chain coordination and food system development across Virginia to increase local and regional market access of small and mid-sized farms and food businesses, such as produce auctions, food hubs, food and farm cooperatives, farm stands/markets, aggregators, and distributors.
Virginia’s food system directly impacts the survival and viability of farms and farmland; the economic development of rural and urban communities; the care, restoration, and resilience of ecological resources such as local waterways; and critical health issues. Community, local and regional food systems (CLRFS) broadly defines a complex and interconnected set of systems and pathways that comprise sustainable food production, processing, distribution, consumption, and waste management to bring about social, economic, and ecological change that benefits all residents. This approach involves the establishment of collaborations and partnerships to create more resilient, vibrant, and equitable food systems and economies. This planned program team assesses and develops Virginia Cooperative Extension programs that support Community, Local, and Regional Food Systems across the Commonwealth to conceptualize and achieve seven interrelated long-term values-based outcomes.
The Virginia Farm-to-Table is a state-wide food and farm system initiative, which Virginia Cooperative Extension initiated in collaboration with Virginia Tech and Virginia State University, in partnership with the Virginia Food System Council, the University of Virginia, and other state agencies and organizations in 2010. The Virginia Farm-to-Table Plan: Healthy Farms and Healthy Food for the Common Wealth and Common Good was published in 2011 as a strategic plan for strengthening Virginia’s food system and economic future. Two key tenets of the initiative and plan are: 1) that everyone should understand and be educated about the social, economic, and environmental importance of Virginia’s food system, and 2) quality nutritious food should be affordable and equitably accessible to everyone in Virginia regardless of their financial means. The initiative continues to strengthen food, farm, and health connections along the farm to fork value chain.
Virginia is part of USDA’s Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) region. The Virginia SARE program seeks to support farmers and ranchers through sustainable agriculture research and education strategies and educational programming that encourages ecological management, promotes natural resource conservation, regenerates landscapes, strengthens financial viability, develops regional food systems, builds community, and fortifies the state’s overall resilience. A specific strategy is to provide ongoing professional development opportunities for agricultural professionals and mentor farmer-leaders to enhance their knowledge and expertise in sustainable agricultural principles and practices, emerging research, and innovations. In addition, Virginia SARE shares and builds awareness of the six grant programs that Southern SARE administers that farmers, agricultural professionals, educators, researchers, graduate students, and community-based organizations are eligible for to encourage on-farm research, education, demonstration, and ongoing professional development.