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Phil Blevins Promoting the economic impact of agriculture


Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Agent, Washington County
Blevins works with local groups to promote agriculture and demonstrate its impact on the economy. He has coordinated grants that brought more than $3.4 million to benefit livestock producers in Southwest Virginia, covering things like working facilities, feed storage, and genetics. Blevins can help YOU build partnerships to leverage the economic impact of agriculture in your community. Contact: (276) 676-6309  – pblevins@vt.edu.

 Joell EifertHelping businesses get food products to market


Agriculture Director, Virginia Tech Food Innovations Program
Eifert leads the charge in getting specialty food products to market statewide. The program gives technical help to food-business startups to ensure their products meet safety standards, serving as a technical adviser for companies that could not otherwise afford it. People with ideas for food products can consult with her on ways to improve a formula, extend shelf life or move a product to market. Visit the Extension website for more information about the Food Innovations Program. Contact: (540) 231-2483 – joell.eifert@vt.edu.

Jennifer Gagnon

Exposing landowners to sustainable practices


Coordinator, Virginia Forest Landowner Education Program
Gagnon, through a program in the College of Natural Resources and Environment, organizes tours of forested landscapes. Each fall, the Virginia Forest Landowner Education Program literally takes people into the field, where they can learn from forestry experts and state agency specialists. Landowners may find new ways to make money from properties while managing them sustainably. The tours cost $35 and, with their focus on education, go beyond just sightseeing. Contact: (540) 231-6391 – jgagnon@vt.edu

Scott Jessee

Adding value to Southwest Virginia beef cattle operations


Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Agent, Russell County
Jessee, along with his fellow Extension agents, works with beef cattle producers to use research-based health and best management practices that allow them to market their feeder cattle through the Virginia Quality Assured initiative. Southwest Virginia cattle producers have marketed 580 tractor-trailer loads of Virginia Quality Assured feeder calves and increased livestock sales revenues by $3.8 million. Contact: (276) 889-8056 – djessee@vt.edu



Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Agent, Giles and Bland Counties
Dudding works through a variety of programming efforts to help provide research based information to the diverse clientele in the communities she serves.  Most recently, she helped the Town of Pearisburg secure a Farmers Market Promotion Program grant which allowed for the start-up of the Pearisburg Community Market. This market has increased the sales of local and fresh produce and other products, created an outlet for local growers, added economic benefit, and has given the community a new spark of excitement for the Saturday (and third Thursday) line-up of activities.  Contact: (540) 921-3455 – jdudding@vt.edu.

 John McGeeProviding training in emerging drone technology


Professor, College of Natural Resources and Environment/Geospatial Extension Specialist
For almost nine years, McGee has worked on the Geospatial Technician Education initiative, which is now poised to bring small unmanned aircraft training to Virginia’s community college students thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation. With an almost endless list of possible industrial uses for drones, the need for a well-trained workforce in this expanding technology. Under this project, community college instructors will get help creating a curriculum to include flight planning, maintenance, and safety. Contact: jmcg@vt.edu.

 Donna MeadePromoting healthy eating


Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Agent, Russell County
Meade works with her local health coalition. Through a program called Health Bucks, a nutrition education program, children receive “bucks” to buy fresh fruits and vegetables at farmers markets. In a healthy eating program, diabetics and their families learn to make good meals and even acquire food-prep equipment and tools. Meade and her colleagues can help establish similar programs in your community.  Contact: (276) 889-8056 – dgmeade@vt.edu.

 Matthew MillerUsing social media to highlight the importance of agriculture


Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Agent, Wythe County
Miller helps to educate the public about the importance of agriculture and its importance to the local economy. Through the Wythe County’s Faces of Agriculture Facebook page and YouTube channel, he has documented the challenges and successes of local agricultural producers. The videos feature a variety of agricultural topics and have been seen by more than 30,000 people. They have been incorporated to course curriculum at a local high school to educate eighth- and ninth-graders on the agriculture industry and to debunk misconceptions about the industry.  Contact: (276) 223-6040 – mamille6@vt.edu.

Kim NiewolnyBuilding capacity and new farmer opportunities


Associate professor/Extension specialist, Agricultural, Leadership and Community Education
Niewolny is the director of the Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition Program, which connects new farmers with food and farming organizations, agencies, and farmer leaders to enhance start-up success. It offers whole-farm planning programs and trainings in the areas of land access, military veteran farm start-up, direct marketing, and stewardship best practices. The program provides online resources and social networking and has five networks of farmer mentors.  Contact: (540) 231-5784 – niewolny@vt.edu.

 Crystal PeekEncouraging youth through Virginia history


4-H Youth Development Extension Agent
Peek helps Washington County fourth graders better understand Virginia history and increase citizenship skills. To make that happen, Washington County 4-H developed the 4-H History Bowl. The contest employs a quiz-bowl format complete with buzzers. Since Extension began partnering with the school system, fourth graders’ SOL history scores have gone up, and the school division’s pass rate is 95 percent or better. Peek can help schools in your town implement the program.  Contact: (276) 676-6309 – cpeek@vt.edu.

Carlin Rafie

Promoting healthy communities


Assistant professor of Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise, Adult Nutrition Specialist
Rafie is an assistant professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and an adult nutrition specialist. She develops, carries out and evaluates programs that promote health. Her focus includes teaching about lifestyle factors that prevent cancer and diabetes, and she also works toward early detection and management of illness. Her goal is to help create community environments that help all residents maintain healthy lifestyles.  Contact: (540) 231-3162 – crafie@vt.edu.

Kelli ScottHelping communities bear fruit


Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Agent, Montgomery County
An agriculture and natural resources agent for Virginia Cooperative Extension, Scott works to improve access to fresh fruits and vegetables in Appalachian region through community-based projects.  One project, New River Health District Farmacy Garden, involves local doctors who prescribe fruits and vegetables from the community garden to their patients. Scott can help you build partnerships to strengthen your community’s well-being. Contact: (540) 382-5790 – kescott1@vt.edu.

Megan SeibelLeadership program shapes views of agriculture worldwide


VALOR Director, Department of Agricultural and Extension Education
Since 2011, Seibel has developed and implemented Virginia’s premier adult leadership program, VALOR, in which participants travel worldwide in pursuit of a holistic approach to agriculture. They develop communication, problem solving, and networking skills while meeting with decision-makers such as members of Congress and governors. Destination points range from Patagonia to the Virginia Port Authority to reclaimed mines on the border with Kentucky. This holistic approach shows that agriculture is integral to the lives of everyone. Read more in the blog or on the website. Contact: (540) 231-2375 – mseibel@vt.edu.

Sandy Shortridge, Buchanan, Extension Agent - 4-H Youth Development

Enhancing communication skills through heritage music and creative writing


4-H Youth Development Extension Agent, Buchanan County
Shortridge encourages middle school students to discover and develop talents while enhancing communication skills and self-confidence. She provides students with a heritage program which includes the use of Appalachian music, musical instruments and creative writing. This agent demonstrates how stories with a local, Appalachian mountain flavor can creatively be turned into written stories, poems, or songs. Students are then given the opportunity to express themselves through creative writing and also by communicating their completed masterpieces. Contact: (276) 935-5093 – sshortri@vt.edu.

ClKevin Spurlineaning up water resources through education


Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Agent, Grayson County
Spurlin works with the Virginia Household Water Quality Program, serving rural Grayson County residents who rely on private water supply systems. The program provides confidential water testing and holds county-based drinking water clinics to educate users. Spurlin helps residents identify and correct private water system challenges such as excess fluoride, total dissolved solids, hardness, and acidity related to geology. Contact: (276) 773-2491 – spurlink@vt.edu.

Martha WalkerThe three V’s: Visioning, value-added and viability


Community viability specialist, central District Extension Office
In her job since 2005, Walker has helped communities with visioning exercises and worked with local leaders to create value-added products. She developed the Virginia Energy Resource Guide and helped publish related fact sheets. She has worked on projects to help job seekers find work, to create commercialization of bio-feed stocks, to strengthen rural communities through agriculture and forestry as engines for economic development, and more.
Contact: (434) 766-6763 – walker53@vt.edu.

 Carl ZipperRestoring coal-mined land


Professor of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences, Extension Specialist
Zipper is a principal investigator for the Powell River Project, which helps with restoration of mined lands and helps convert such lands into forests, agricultural fields, and residential areas. A series of publications about the project is available on the Virginia Cooperative Extension website. Contact: (540) 231-9782 – czip@vt.edu.