Michael J. Parrish of Dinwiddie, Va., received the Virginia Tech 2010 Alumni Award for Excellence in Extension. He is the unit coordinator and agriculture and natural resources agent for the Virginia Cooperative Extension Dinwiddie County Office.

Sponsored by the Virginia Tech Alumni Association, the Alumni Award for Excellence in Extension is presented annually to two Virginia Cooperative Extension professionals who have made outstanding contributions to the land-grant mission of the university. One award goes to an Extension specialist and the other is given to an Extension agent. Each award winner receives $2,000.

Parrish began his career with Extension in 1993 as the agriculture and natural resources agent in Greenville County. In 1995, he took educational leave to attend graduate school at Virginia Tech and returned to Virginia Cooperative Extension in 1996 as the agriculture and natural resources agent in Dinwiddie County, where he has focused his programming efforts on agriculture issues and the needs of the agriculture community in Dinwiddie Country and Southeastern Virginia.

"Mike provides innovative ways to help growers with pesticide safety, improving crop yields while lowering costs, and he also teaches farmers how to scout fields for insects and weed problems," said Billy Bain, Dinwiddie County peanut farmer and the 2009 Virginia Farmer of the Year.

For example, Parrish established the Peanut Maturity Clinic for Dinwiddie, Prince George, Sussex, and Greenville counties. The program is conducted annually to help peanut producers make more accurate harvest decisions. Since 1996, the clinics have tested more than 1,000 individual samples from 45 different farms, representing more than 6,000 acres of peanuts each year. Over the last 12 years, participants indicate that they have saved about 10 percent more peanuts using the harvest information from the clinics – an approximate gain of $75 per ton.

"Mike's close working relationship with personnel in the Plant Disease Clinic at the Tidewater Agricultural Research and Extension Center and other laboratories on campus reflects his initiative to solve problems and provide the most accurate and up-to-date information to clientele," said Patrick Phipps, professor of plant pathology at the Tidewater Agricultural Research and Extension Center. "This is certainly an example of team effort working to achieve excellence in outreach of our programs to the industry of agriculture in Virginia."

In addition, Parrish has started or participated in many environmental improvement programs to help farmers and citizens in Dinwiddie County, including agriculture tire collections, plastic pesticide container recycling, waste oil collection, and the Dinwiddie-Petersburg household hazardous waste collection program. For example – with support from the Appomattox River Soil and Water Conservation District, Dinwiddie County Extension Leadership Council, Dinwiddie County, Southern States-Southside Cooperative in Petersburg, and MXI Environmental – the hazardous waste program collects approximately 3,500 pounds of unwanted waste chemicals. Over the past 13 years, the program has collected more than 35,000 pounds of unwanted chemicals and has saved program participants more than $140,000 in disposal fees.

Parrish earned his associate degree in agriculture technology, his bachelor's degree in horticulture, and his master's degree in agriculture and extension education, all from Virginia Tech.

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