PETERSBURG, Va. — Susan Hill, owner of Hill Farm in Louisa, Va., received the Virginia State University Andy Hankins Small Farmer of the Year award. This is the only award given in the commonwealth that specifically recognizes the achievements of Virginia’s more than 43,000 small farmers. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a small farmer is “A grower, farmer or rancher whose gross cash farm income is less than $350,000 a year.”
“This award has been the most important recognition I’ve ever received,” said Hill. “After years of trial and error, it is amazing for others to realize the work and dedication it takes to make a small farm successful.”
Hill, a retired schoolteacher, enjoys planning and implementing crops. “I decide on a crop, investigate days to harvest, profitability and marketability. I test out a small crop, and if it flies, I am off and running,” she said. “I love every detail of the strategy for planned, sustainable farming.”
The award was announced at VSU’s Small Farm Outreach Program Annual Conference held in Danville, Va., last month. Also at the conference, Vernon Heath, an SFOP agent for 14 years, was recognized as Small Farm Agent of the Year. Heath serves several counties in central Virginia and educates new farmers through the SFOP’s beginning farmer orientation program. “I felt very honored and grateful to be recognized,” he said. “I enjoy the relationships that I have developed with farmers. I am heartened by their gratitude for my efforts to help them and enjoy seeing their successes.”
This year’s Small Farm Volunteer of the Year was Dennis Harvey, owner and operator of Harvey Gardens in Richmond, Va. Harvey was recognized for his contribution of planting and tending to crops at the SFOP Demonstration Garden at VSU’s Randolph Farm over the past year.
“These recipients have made outstanding contributions to agriculture in Virginia as a farmer, outreach agent and volunteer, respectively,” said SFOP Director William Crutchfield. “We’re glad to have been able to recognize them at this year’s conference.”
VSU’s Small Farm Outreach Program aims to encourage and assist limited-resource, socially disadvantaged and military veteran farmers and ranchers to own, maintain and operate farms and ranches independently through education, outreach and technical assistance activities in approximately 74 Virginia counties. For more information, visit https://www.ext.vsu.edu/small-farm-outreach-program/.
— Virginia Cooperative Extension