ETTRICK, Va. — In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy, Virginia State University partnered with Chesterfield County and HandsOn Greater Richmond Community Foundation to host a “Day On, Not a Day Off” of service in Ettrick, Virginia.
During this event, VSU students and employees worked alongside local residents on local community-focused projects. VSU College of Agriculture led projects at Randolph Farm’s nature trail, Summerseat Community Garden Project, and Ettrick Elementary School’s garden project.
“Having the educational opportunity to bridge Virginia State University and Chesterfield County Schools, particularly Ettrick Elementary School, is a win-win for our community,” said Kimberly Conley, assistant director of Citizen Information and Resources with Chesterfield County government. “It’s all about our community… the Ettrick community.”
VSU agriculture specialists will use a food-to-table model to teach children where food comes from and how to garden in urban settings using raised beds at Ettrick Elementary School. Volunteers helped build tables and raised beds from supplies contributed by RVA Tool Box. Dr. Randi Smith, principal of Ettrick Elementary School expressed gratitude for this project and its volunteers.
“Students are more vested in their education when they know that the whole community is involved. This lets students see how the whole community cares about their education,” said Smith. “The partnership with Virginia State is just phenomenal! This is another opportunity for our students to see where education begins and where education can lead them and the opportunities for life after,”
Across the street at the Summerseat Community Garden Project, volunteers learned the importance of growing their own food and how the Ettrick community will benefit from the food grown in the freshly painted raised beds. The Summerseat Project grows vegetables and perennial strawberries using organic methods.
“All of that produce goes right back to the community … for anyone that needs them,” said Rachel Lawmaster, Sustainable and Urban Agriculture program assistant for Virginia Cooperative Extension and the VSU College of Agriculture.
Volunteers at the VSU Randolph Farm nature trail discovered a hidden gem. They not only cleaned up and beautified the trail, but also received a research-based, educational tour through the wooded area of the farm. Joel Koci, Urban and Community Forestry Extension associate for Virginia Cooperative Extension and the VSU College of Agriculture explained the interrelationships in the woods and how being in nature can help promote mental wellness.
“VSU values its collaborative efforts with community members and partners, and its role as a much-needed community resource,” said Dr. Robert N. Corley III, interim dean/1890 Extension Administrator of Virginia State University’s College of Agriculture and vice provost for Academic Affairs. “VSU seeks to empower residents—adults and children—to transform their lives through education, and access to fresh produce and beautiful natural spaces.”
For more information on community projects led by the VSU College of Agriculture, visit www.ext.vsu.edu.
–Erica Shambley, Virginia State University