Virginia Cooperative Extension continues education and outreach for Ag Expo producers despite COVID
When this year’s Virginia Ag Expo was canceled, Extension pivoted to an online video educational series to provide producers with the knowledge they trust
Every year, Virginia Cooperative Extension specialists and agents share their knowledge of how to grow the commonwealth’s largest private industry at the Virginia Ag Expo.
The event — which is cosponsored by Extension, the Virginia Grain Producers Association, and the Virginia Soybean Association — is the state’s largest outdoor agricultural showcase and attracts producers from around the commonwealth. One of the highlights of the event is when Extension specialists and agents host a field tour where they share information and research with farmers on newest ways to boost their profits and increase yield.
This year, the August event was canceled due to COVID-19, but that didn’t stop Extension from continuing to deliver the research-based scientific knowledge that producers know and trust.
“Throughout this pandemic, even though many of our in-person outreach and education programs were canceled, Extension continued to provide everyone we serve — farmers and families, businesses and homeowners — with the information and resources that help their local communities thrive,” said Ed Jones, director of Extension. “We found ways to deliver our programs online, on social media, over the phone, and more. We want to meet people where they are, no matter the circumstances. ”
For Ag Expo, that meant creating a series of videos where Extension specialist shared insights on topics ranging from soybean seeding rate of to how to manage fertilizer inputs to maximize corn yields. There is also a video of Trent Jones, an Extension agent in Northumberland and Lancaster counties, talking about how he extends the knowledge specialists create with the many Northern Neck producers he has had long relationships with, such as Michael Downing.
Downing’s family has owned the Bleak House Farm — the site where Ag Expo was scheduled to be held this year — since the 1700s. Downing said Extension is an important partner on his farm.
“Between Trent and [Extension Specialist] David Holshouser, we are trying to push soybeans pass the 100-bushel [yield] consistently,” Downing said in one of the videos. “We have been here a long time and we’d like to be here a couple hundred more years and doing the same thing and pass it on to continuing generations. Pushing these crops for profitability and higher yields is the way we are going to get there.”
One of the videos features Holshouser, an associate professor and Extension specialist at the Tidewater Agricultural Research and Extension Center talking about his work with soybeans.
Wade Thomason, an Extension specialist and professor in the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said the videos are an excellent way or sharing the body of research that he and others provide to help families and businesses around the commonwealth.
“Just because a pandemic hit, that doesn’t mean our work stopped,” Thomason said. “If anything, these last few months have proven how vital agriculture and Extension are to the communities we serve. We are proud to deliver knowledge and information to help producers get through these trying times — and through the next 100 years.”