PETERSBURG, Va. — Virginia State University’s Small Farm Outreach Program has been awarded $175,000 for its Mobile Agriculture Education and Demonstration Project. The SFOP will use the funds to build a mobile agricultural educational and training center. The grant is part of Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s Rural Rehabilitation Trust Fund Grants, which is managed by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
“We’re proud to be among the recipients of the RRTF grants, as there are many important initiatives underway throughout Virginia to assist the state’s limited-resource farmers,” said SFOP Director William Crutchfield. “The grant money will be used to construct a mobile agricultural education and training center that will train farmers and others in communities that we serve across Virginia.”
SFOP devised its mobile agricultural education and training center as a cost-effective way to train small limited-resource producers as the next generation of farmers. In addition, the center will educate communities about food and nutritional health and provide youth with STEM education opportunities to learn about farming, conservation, natural resources, as well as careers in agriculture.
Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Basil I. Gooden solicited project proposals, six of which were ultimately chosen. In a press release, Gooden said, “The appeal of these projects is twofold: they help boost the bottom line for farmers and others involved in the agriculture chain, and they touch citizens at the level where it counts most, the food and farm products we consume.”
The six projects selected represent diverse initiatives aimed at boosting economic opportunities in rural areas of the Commonwealth through education, workforce development, entrepreneurship, food access and local farm production.
Virginia’s Rural Rehabilitation Trust Fund has its origins in the Great Depression and the Federal Emergency Relief Act of 1933. Subsequently, the federal government approved a series of diverse Emergency Relief Acts over the years that followed, eventually resulting in federal funding for state-sponsored programs under state-established rural rehabilitation corporations. The RRTF program will continue to support rural economic development through support of youth education, agriculturally oriented programs, pilot farming projects, farmer education and other rural rehabilitation projects. VDACS expects to announce the new round of applications and solicit proposals under the updated RRTF guidelines later in 2018.
— Virginia Cooperative Extension