ETTRICK, Va. — Chesterfield County resident Barbara Booker has been named 2016 Volunteer of the Year by Virginia State University’s Small Farm Outreach Program.
Nominated for this award by Susan Cheek, SFOP volunteer coordinator, Booker has been volunteering the past two years on VSU’s 416-acre Randolph Farm demonstration/research facility in Ettrick. Booker asserts that Randolph Farm is a valuable community resource where volunteers can learn about food as a basic need and about farming, which she considers a “self-reliant” skill that should be passed down to today’s youth.
Cheek said Booker’s dedication, determination and eagerness to learn make her a “wonderful asset” to Randolph Farm operations. She said Booker is one of several farm volunteers who give of their time twice weekly planting, irrigating, harvesting and testing soil on SFOP demonstration plots. Volunteers also assist with delivering harvested produce to local charities and food banks. Cheek reports that more than 6,000 pounds of produce were distributed last year to help feed the hungry.
“It’s nice being recognized for your volunteer work,” said Booker, a retired environmental/occupational health and safety professional. “Gardening relaxes me,” she said. Booker grows a smorgasbord of vegetables and herbs in her home garden for personal consumption.
Cheek said new farmers, as well as persons interested in becoming farmers, are encouraged to volunteer first to get some helpful hands-on experience. She said several former SFOP volunteers have subsequently pursued their own farming ventures.
It appears Booker, who said she’s “re-imagining” herself, will soon be following suit. She’s planning to start a vegetable project, a market garden or small farm containing multiple crops. Anyone interested in becoming a SFOP volunteer should contact Cheek at 804-720-5539 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Virginia Cooperative Extension