By Rebecca Barnabi, The Augusta Free Press – More than $3.9 million in grant funding and sub-awards are going to Virginia State University’s Small Farm Outreach Program (SFOP).
Part of the Virginia Cooperative Extension, the program will educate and empower limited-resource, socially disadvantaged and military/veteran farmers and ranchers to own, operate and sustain small-scale farms and ranches independently with agricultural training programs.
“VSU College of Agriculture is proud of the transformational leadership SFOP provides in offering innovative solutions to pressing issues that face not only minority and veteran farmers but also the environment,” Dr. Robert N. Corley III, interim dean/1890 Extension administrator of Virginia State University College of Agriculture and vice provost for Academic Affairs, said.
The program provides outreach and learning opportunities to small-scale farmers about production management, financial and risk management, marketing, USDA assistance programs and other topics designed to improve farm profitability and promote sustainability. Educational programming is provided throughout Virginia, parts of North Carolina and Maryland.
A total of nine grants will be awarded:
- USDA-NIFA American Rescue Plan (ARP) Technical Assistance Investment Program to provide outreach, training and technical assistance to socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. (More than $1.5 million)
- USDA-NRCS Climate Smart Sustainable Agriculture Solutions to Plastic Pollution to use alternative crops, such as hemp, to produce recyclable products. ($1.1 million)
- USDA-NRCS Climate Smart Grassland—Fescue Belt to assist farmers in implementing better grazing practices along the U.S. I-81 corridor. ($916,570 sub-award received with the University of Tennessee serving as lead.)
- USDA-NIFA AgrAbility Virginia to assist farmers with disabilities and promote their safety, wellness and accessibility on their farms. ($200,000 sub-award received with Virginia Tech serving as lead.)
- SARE- Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Expanding the Agroforestry Regional Knowledge (ARK) to train the trainers through the Exchange Network in Virginia. ($75,000 awarded.)
- Walmart.org Center for Racial Equity and the Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers (SDFR) Policy Research Center at Alcorn State University to reduce the decline of black farmers in the United States. The number of black farmers fell from nearly one million in 1920 to fewer than 50,000 according to U.S. Department of Agriculture and 2020 U.S. census data, respectively. ($74,993)
- USDA-NIFA Southern Extension Risk Management to offer risk-management education. ($50,000)
- USDA-NIFA Renewable Resource Extension Act to educate small landowners on alternative farm and forest land uses. ($13,500)
- Agua Foundation award to provide funding, outreach, training and technical assistance to SDFR. ($60,000)