RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) and the Virginia Cooperative Extension Small Farm Outreach Program at Virginia State University (VSU) announced a partnership today to increase awareness, inclusivity, and diversity in agricultural programs administered by VDACS. The partnership focuses on outreach to 74 Virginia counties that have high concentrations of small-scale new and beginning agricultural producers and landowners who are socially disadvantaged, female, a military veteran, or Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) to increase awareness of and participation in VDACS programming.
“This is a critical partnership because agriculture is a fundamental mission of Virginia State University. The historically black land-grant university provides trusted, valuable resources to Virginia through innovative Extension programs, expert advice, and research-based solutions,” said Brad Copenhaver, VDACS Commissioner. “VDACS is committed to providing services to the Commonwealth in an equitable, inclusive, and respectful manner to all people. This relationship with the Small Farm Outreach Program at VSU provides a strategic approach to increase the diversity of farmers and producers who are engaging with VDACS for marketing, grants, agricultural certifications, and other opportunities.”
VDACS and Cooperative Extension at VSU have a shared goal of providing assistance to landowners, farm operators, and other individuals and groups who farm and manage land. This agreement will leverage the outreach capabilities of VSU staff and faculty by utilizing VSU College of Agriculture’s new mobile agricultural educational unit and online Virginia Small Farm Resource Center, in addition to existing outreach tools and materials, with financial support provided through VDACS programs to benefit clients and stakeholders.
“We are excited to join VDACS in this effort to bring about greater program awareness, diversity and participation by represented individuals and communities. We all win, when everyone is aware and participates,” said Dr. M. Ray McKinnie, VSU College of Agriculture Dean and 1890 Administrator.
The following is a list of specific focus areas this two-year pilot partnership between VDACS and the VSU Small Farm Outreach Program will address:
- Increase the number of small-scale new and beginning agricultural producers and landowners who are socially disadvantaged, female, a military veteran, and/or BIPOC who are aware of and participate in VDACS programs, resources, and certifications.
- Increase the number of small, socially disadvantaged, BIPOC, new and beginning, women and/or veteran farmers, and landowners who connect with VDACS staff for technical assistance and/or apply for and receive VDACS grant funding.
- Develop the program structure for Virginia Food Access and Investment Fund grant recipients to purchase a minimum of 25% of fresh products from Virginia’s small, socially disadvantaged, BIPOC, new and beginning, women and/or veteran farmers, and landowners.
- Assist agricultural producers who receive VDACS grant funding in fulfilling grant requirements.
- Both organizations will confer regularly to evaluate program updates, outreach efforts, and progress on program deliverables.
“This partnership is a tremendous step forward as we work to improve farm profitability and promote sustainability for Virginia’s small, limited-resource, socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers,” said William Crutchfield, Director of the VCE Small Farm Outreach Program.
Virginia Cooperative Extension is a partnership of Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments. Its 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, military status, or any other basis protected by law.
–Michael Wallace, VDACS