Extension: For more than just farmers

Published 6:16 pm Saturday, October 17, 2015

The many services and programs available through Virginia Cooperative Extension might not be widely known, but Extension agent Marcus Williams is hoping to change that.

“We’re trying to shed the moniker of Cooperative Extension being the best-kept secret,” Williams said Wednesday during an educational event that attracted several dozen people.

Virginia Cooperative Extension is a statewide program run by the two land-grant universities, Virginia Tech and Virginia State.

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Designed for people to learn more about the services of the Extension, the event featured a giveaway: free sweet potatoes donated by Williams’ college roommate, Michael Combs, who now runs Willie Mae Farms in Yorktown.

But in order to get the sweet potatoes, folks had to go down the line at each table representing Extension programs.

The Master Gardeners, 4-H, Family and Consumer Sciences and more were at the event promoting their programs.

“A lot of people think it’s just livestock,” said Danielle Smith Jones of the 4-H program. “But it’s a lot more, too.”

She listed gang prevention and financial literacy as among the skills 4-H participants can learn.

Tonya Bishop also was promoting healthy eating.

“There’s no bad food out there, it’s just how to prepare it,” she explained to visitors just as she would say to program participants. “Eat more fruit — it’s nature’s candy.”

Williams said many people in Suffolk think of the Extension just as the research center in Holland. But it’s much more than that.

“A lot of people think we only work with farmers when we work with everybody,” he said.

The Extension service is available to help anyone from backyard gardeners to folks who need assistance getting rid of “urban pests,” such as bedbugs and cockroaches.

Folks keeping backyard chickens also frequently request and get help, Williams said.

“I’ve seen an influx of interest in backyard poultry,” he added. He spends a lot of time explaining city regulations to people, he added. Backyard chickens are not permitted in certain zoning districts in Suffolk.

For more information on Virginia Cooperative Extension, call 514-4332.