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Community, Local, and Regional Food Systems

Local, Community, and Regional Food Systems

Virginia’s food system directly impacts the survival and viability of farms and farmland; the economic development of rural and urban communities; the care, restoration, and resilience of ecological resources such as local waterways; and critical health issues. Demand for local and regionally identified foods continues to grow in Virginia and across the United States. It has also created a myriad of economic and social opportunities for agricultural producers, entrepreneurs, and communities.

Bringing the Past Forward – Mike Phillips of Valley View Farms – A Soil, Conservation, and Place supplement

Soil, Conservation, and Place Video Series

Introduction to Soil, Conservation, and Place video series (1/5)

Soil, Conservation, and Place -- Renard Turner of Vanguard Ranch, Ltd. (2/5)

Soil, Conservation, and Place -- Amy Hicks of Amy's Garden (3/5)

Soil, Conservation, and Place -- Mike Phillips of Valley View Farms (4/5)

Soil, Conservation, and Place -- Philip Witmer of Grazeland Dairy, Inc. (5/5)

Foundations of Local Food Systems Development

The Evolving Heritage of Food and Farming in Virginia
An interview with Jeff Ishee of On the Farm Radio and Virginia Farming

As part of the Foundations of Local Food Systems Development course — which Virginia Cooperative Extension is developing with North Carolina State University and Clemson University Extension — Jeff Ishee responded to a number of questions. For a number of years, Ishee has worked closely with VCE in his role with On the Farm Radio and Virginia Farming.

• PART 1
Audio (MP3)
Transcript (DOCX)

Audio (MP3)
Transcript (DOCX)

Audio (MP3)
Transcript (DOCX)

Virginia Cooperative Extension, in cooperation with community partners, hosted the 2016 Community, Local, and Regional Food Systems (CLRFS) Forum on Tuesday, March 29, at the Carillon Bell Tower in Byrd Park, Richmond, Virginia.

The CLRFS Forum featured presentations, exhibits and posters of Extension programming related to the development and strengthening of Virginia’s community, local and regional food systems. Our goal was to facilitate dialogue and a shared understanding of the innovative approaches and collaborations that comprise food systems work in Virginia to collectively bring about social, economic, and ecological change that benefits all residents. This Forum was therefore one step in helping to develop a collective strategy to enhance and promote community, local, and regional food systems resources, information, and partnerships. 

Enjoy the presentations of the day and contact Joyce Latimer or Kim Niewolny if you want to be more involved.

Soil, Conservation, and Place Video Series


This educational project aims to deepen community understanding of the importance of agriculture and soils to a sense of place, community, and culture. The project highlights the distinct voices and diverse farms of Virginia’s agricultural community who are protecting and conserving soil and water resources.

The project is generously funded and supported by a community viability grant from Virginia Tech’s Department of Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education and the Agua Fund.

The project team includes Eric Bendfeldt, Mike Parrish, Kim Niewolny, Wade Thomason, and Maureen McGonagle from Virginia Tech and Virginia Cooperative Extension. The project team especially wants to thank the participating farmers for sharing their time, experiences, and insights with us and the broader community.

Below are the first five videos of the series on Soil, Conservation, and Place. Two additional sets of videos will be added to this series in the coming months and year.

Introduction to Soil, Conservation, and Place video series 1/5

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Soil, Conservation, and Place -- Renard Turner of Vanguard Ranch, Ltd. 2/5

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Soil, Conservation, and Place -- Amy Hicks of Amy's Garden 3/5

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Soil, Conservation, and Place -- Mike Phillips of Valley View Farms 4/5

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Soil, Conservation, and Place -- Philip Witmer of Grazeland Dairy, Inc. 5/5

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Cooperating farms highlighted in these videos:

Vanguard Ranch

Vanguard Ranch is a diversified farm business owned by Renard and Chinette Turner. The ranch is located near Gordonsville, Virginia in Louisa County. Their central focus is their herd of free ranged meat goats. Their goat operation offers a unique product using organic, pasture-based methods not readily available through other local livestock farms. The goat meat is sold directly to customers as a ready-to-eat meal through their concession trailer. Their delicious goat burgers, goat kabobs, and curried goat are frequently available at live events, fairs, and festivals, breweries, and wineries in Central Virginia and beyond. Most recently, the Turners have added a squabbery to their farm business to raise and market meat pigeons to area restaurants. The Turners also host their own music festivals on property adjoining their farm, which offers additional sales opportunities for their in-season, farm fresh produce and herbs.

Amy’s Organic Garden

Amy’s Garden has been growing and selling great organic produce and cut flowers since 1995. What began as an ambitious backyard garden quickly blossomed into a full-time farming career for husband and wife team Amy Hicks & George Ferguson. Nowadays, with the help of a dedicated team of seasonal employees they grow an amazingly diverse selection of specialty vegetables, small fruits and cut flowers on their organic farm in historic Charles City county, VA.

The farm has been Certified Organic since 2000. Amy’s Garden sells their USDA Certified Organic produce and flowers at local farmers markets in Richmond and Williamsburg and offers the only Certified Organic CSA option in the area. ​Nurturing healthy soil is critically important for nutritious crops and vibrant flowers. Planting and rotating cover crops which naturally fix nitrogen, add organic matter to the soil and provide habitat areas for beneficial insects and wildlife while preventing erosion is a cornerstone of the farm. Permanent plantings of flowering plants provide a vital source of food and nectar to insects and wildlife that make the farm their home and several areas of native milkweed have been planted just for our monarch butterfly friends who migrate through each season.

Valley View Farms

Valley View Farms is a cow-calf rotational grazing farm owned by Mike and Susan Phillips in Rockingham County of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Mike and Susan are great educators and advocates for land stewardship, soil health, natural resource conservation, and the present and future of agriculture. Mike has been active in Future Farmers of America throughout his life and sees the importance of taking care of and improving the land and water resources he and Susan have on their farm. Rotational grazing, cover cropping, wildlife habitat, no-till, and soil health building practices are foundational to the operation and care of the animals and land. Presently, Mike and Susan are working closely with Massanutten Technical Center and area schools and universities to provide practical hands-on educational experience for students interested in farming, conservation, and agricultural careers. Mike and Susan are always looking for ways to give back and pass on the knowledge they have gained to others in the community and around the world.   

Grazeland Dairy, Inc.

Grazeland Dairy is a certified organic dairy farm owned by Phil and Terry Witmer and their family in the central Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. As grass-based dairy farm with 200 milk cows and about 100 replacement heifers, Grazeland Dairy sells their milk through Organic Valley, a cooperative of farmers across the country who share similar values and commitments to growing food and raising livestock. The Witmer family works together with their community and their dairy cooperative to create quality milk and a stronger food system.

Virginia agriculture is incredibly diverse, and farmers all across the commonwealth are busy keeping food on the table despite our current challenges.  In this program we will take a virtual tour of ­­­­Virginia farms and learn how food is produced on them.  Then we will learn how to prepare new recipes with those foods.  All sessions will be offered on Fridays at 2 PM and are open to everyone.  Please register for each session you would like to attend.  After registering, you will receive a link to login to the webinar. 


May 15, 2020

4-H Agent Kari Sponaugle in Highland County runs a fresh produce operation with her husband Michael called Church Hill Produce. They’ve been growing seasonal fresh produce since 2011. Part of that operation is an acre of strawberries. Kari will show you around her strawberry ‘patch’ and explain how to grow and manage strawberry plants and what it takes to get them ready for harvest. Then Becky Gartner, Family & Consumer Sciences Extension Agent from Culpeper County, will show how to make an easy recipe for Strawberry Spinach Salad. This recipe is so delicious that you will want to make it often for your family.


Hydroponic Salad Greens

May 22, 2020

From large scale greenhouses supplying salad greens to the East Coast to smaller operations serving local farmers’ markets, Virginia’s hydroponic production of salad greens and microgreens is diversified, safe and local. In addition, you can grow your own salad greens and microgreens at home in small scale systems designed for small producers, schools, restaurants, and home use. Join us for all the details and resources. Then Caitlin Verdu, 4-H Agent for Arlington County, will show you how to prepare a simple and tasty Mediterranean Salad.



May 29, 2020

What is the Buzz About Bees? Join us as we explore the world of bees and learn more about the buzz that they create in our world!  You will learn about the importance of bees as pollinators; how bees are an important to Virginia’s Agriculture; where to purchase honey, the health benefits of honey; and how your family can get involved in bee keeping in your own backyard.  We will hear from Jeff Brown, a bee keeper from Franklin County, VA who will demonstrate tools and techniques for successfully starting and maintaining bee hives.  We will also spotlight Campbell County 4-H members who are enrolled in a bee keeping project.  Becky Gartner, an Extension agent and bee keeper from Culpeper, VA; will provide some expertise on best management practices for bee keeping and also highlight how the bee keeping industry supports agriculture in Virginia. Then, Alani Adkins, Family and Consumer Sciences SNAP-Ed Extension Agent in Danville, VA will share a recipe and demonstrate how to make delicious honey pumpkin bars for your family.


Shitake Mushrooms

June 5, 2020

Shiitake Mushrooms… loved for their flavor and nutrition but not for the sticker price at the grocery store. You can grow them yourself with a little investment of time and money if you have the right kind of shade (a small patch of woods is ideal) and patience. Join Adam Downing, Forestry Agent, to learn how and then Jeanell Smith, from the Family Nutrition Program to learn some ways of cooking this delicacy.



June 12, 2020

Virginia ranks 6th in the nation in turkey production. Of the top 20 commodities in the state, turkeys rank 5th. Most turkeys in VA are grown in the Shenandoah Valley. We will explore a turkey farm in Highland County and learn about raising turkeys from poult to processor. We will then learn how to quickly harvest breast meat from a wild turkey killed during hunting season and cook a delicious turkey recipe.



June 18, 2020
In this session, we will learn all about dairy production as we tour dairy farms from different parts of Virginia. First, Jeremy Daubert, ANR/Dairy Extension Agent from Rockingham County, will offer a general introduction into dairy production. Claudia Lefeve, 4-H Extension Agent from Clarke County, will take us to Harvue Farms, to learn about cheese production. Then Cathy Howland, 4-H Extension Agent from Powhatan County, will show you how to make Chocolate Chia Pudding – a tasty source of dairy!



June 26, 2020

After learning a little bit about the beef industry in Virginia, we will zoom in on Fresh Branch Farm, a small but growing farm located in Southern Chesterfield County. We are excited for you to take a trip to this farm and learn to forage for plants without using a till, seed, or drill for Fresh Branch Farm’s grass fed/finished cow operation. This farm focuses on growing Piedmontese cattle which produces lean and tender beef thanks to their double muscling gene. Danielle Wilson, the Foods and Nutrition Program Educator in Chesterfield County can't wait to get into the kitchen and teach you how to make a scrumptious meatball with lean grass-fed ground beef that includes items from a variety of food groups and puts your leftovers to good use.



July 10, 2020

Let’s take a trip to a commercial grower to see how herbs are grown on a large scale and then learn about growing herbs in containers and raised beds.  Now that you have an idea how to start growing herbs lets learn some traditional and not-so traditional pesto recipes you can make to add them to your plate.



July 17, 2020

Andean potatoes, often called Irish potatoes, are an easy to grow crop that is a good source of potassium and vitamins B6 and C. Learn more about potatoes, how to grow them, and how they get into your bag of Route 11 Potato Chips.  In this session you will also learn how to make cheese stuffed twice baked potatoes.



July 24, 2020

Tomatoes are important to consumers, gardeners and farmers in Virginia. They're easy to grow and can be eaten so many ways. In this session, you will learn how tomatoes are grown by farmers both in the field and in greenhouses during the colder months. We'll also discuss how gardeners can be successful with tomatoes along with some production tips. Once you've learned how tomatoes grow, we will show you how to make a delicious fresh salsa that's great for a snack or as a topping.


Sweet Potatoes

August 7, 2020

We take you to the farm to see how sweet potatoes are planted and harvested on a large scale. Then we will show you how to plant potatoes at home. Finally, we will show you how to prepare baked sweet potato fries and a special Virginia Tech themed sweet potato dish.



August 14, 2020

Hello, from the Chicken coop! Let’s go collect some eggs. After learning about Virginia’s Egg Industry, we will walk through Fresh Branch Farm’s small egg operation and show you how they raise and handle the eggs that their farm sells direct to consumers.  Dr. Mike Persia from the Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences at Virginia Tech will also give you some tips for keeping laying hens in your own backyard.  Finally, you will learn several options for using eggs as a nutritious and economical option for protein in the diet.


Virginia Wine and Lamb

August 21, 2020

Did you know that Virginia has a sheep population of more than 89,000? Did you know that Virginia is the 8th largest producer of wine in the country? Tune in to learn a little bit about raising sheep and the process of turning grapes into wine! We’ll also demonstrate cooking with lamb and discuss appropriate wine pairings featuring popular Virginia-grown grape varieties.



August 28, 2020

We will visit a small hog farm operation in Virginia and show you how pigs are raised. After learning where your pork comes from, Ruth Wallace, 4-H Agent in Buckingham, will show you how to make a dry spice rub, sear your pork roast/loin/shoulder, and blend a sweet sauce mixture to use in the slow cooking process. Preparation takes about ten to fifteen minutes and the slow cooker takes it from there. Yum.



September 4, 2020

Dr. David Crosby with VSU Extension will give you an overview of aquaponics, the integration of growing plants and fish into one system. Then Dr. Carlin Rafie, Assistant Professor in the Department of Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise, will provide information about the dietary guidelines in relation to fish intake, things to look for when purchasing fish, and tips on storing it.  She will then highlight a trout recipe.



September 11, 2020

Let’s visit a local Virginia peanut farm to see where and how peanuts are grown. After you see how peanuts are grown, Katie Strong, FCS Agent serving Fairfax County, demonstrates a simple and healthful peanut soup recipe.