PETERSBURG, Va. — Virginia State University has been awarded $249,800 by the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture to expand its urban agriculture education through distance learning.
“On behalf of the Sustainable Urban Agriculture Program, I am very excited about the new grant award, which will to enable us to expand the program and to reach a wider audience through distance education,” said Dr. Leonard Githinji, Extension specialist, sustainable & urban agriculture. “The distance-learning format will give many more people access to course content developed by experts from Virginia State and Virginia Tech Universities, and will appeal to participants who cannot physically attend the classes due to distance or time conflicts.”
Githinji plans to adapt his Sustainable Urban Agriculture Certificate Program from its current face-to-face format to a self-paced, online option that will increase the number of participants. The grant money will help cover the costs of acquiring the technology to deliver the program and supporting the personnel needed to implement the distance learning modules. The online learning format will offer participants some flexibility to complete the course’s 16 modules according to their schedules. Upon completing the program, participants will receive a certificate in Sustainable Urban Agriculture.
The program’s target audience includes Extension educators, Master Gardeners, teachers, home gardeners and commercial growers. At least 17 percent of Virginia’s population is affected by limited food access or food deserts. Urban agriculture, defined as the growing of plants and the raising of animals for food and other uses within and around cities and towns, has a huge potential in mitigating food deserts and situations of limited food access. Urban agriculture can help to remedy food desert situations, create economic opportunities in urban neighborhoods and help to nourish the health and social fabric of communities.
— Virginia Cooperative Extension