Thursday, February 11, 2016

Agriculture Education Clearinghouse: Innovation Funded By a Virginia Beginning Farmer & Rancher Coalition Project Mini-Grant.

The Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition (VBFRC) announces the dissemination of over $30,000 of mini-grant funds to Coalition partner organizations for 2016 programming opportunities aimed at supporting the next generation of farmers and ranchers in Virginia.  A fundamental component of this mini-grant initiative is to assist VBFRC organizations to support the goals of the Coalition while, at the same time, increase the capacity of the partner organization's ability to either initiate new or enhance existing programming projects designed to support place-based and culturally-appropriate education, training, and networking opportunities for Virginia’s beginning farmers.  Funds support expenses directly related to the implementation of the project such as educator travel, human resources, and educational related materials.


Mini-grant projects illustrate new and enhanced programming opportunities to be implemented across the Commonwealth in 2016. These projects reflect a number of capacity building and farmer-led approaches.  Start-up issues these projects address include: gaining access to scale-appropriate markets and marketing channels; peer development for young and military veteran farmers; building ecological farming skills and experience for new farmers; and gaining access to farmer-knowledge through online networking and resource sharing. 


Virginia Cooperative Extension - Clarke and Warren Offices in cooperation with Fauquier Office of Agriculture Development, the Loudoun Rural Economic Development Council and Loudoun’s Office of Economic Development proposed the Agriculture Education (AgEd) Clearinghouse.  The clearinghouse will enable users to identify, review, and compare disparate agriculture related education programs available nearby.  The primary features of the AgEd Clearinghouse are 1) the convenience of a single, online information source and 2) a user interface that enables learners to create a personalized learning plan that identifies and sequentially aligns independent programs.  The primary benefit of the AgEd Clearinghouse will be its ability to empower VBFRC members and others to determine how, when, and where they apply life resources to obtaining knowledge.  A secondary benefit will be its innovation value. 


The Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition and this mini-grant initiative are sponsored through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) of the USDA-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Award Number: 2015-70017-22887.  For more information, Dr. Kim Niewolny at; 540-231-5784.  Virginia Cooperative Extension programs and employment are open to all, regardless of age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, veteran status, or any other basis protected by law. An equal opportunity/affirmative action employer. Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Interim Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.

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