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.