All things Extension in Suffolk

Published 8:57 pm Thursday, October 22, 2015

If there’s anything that’s pestering you about plants, animals, the environment, nutrition, youth education on topics ranging from financial literacy to gang prevention — or even pests — you should consider the Virginia Cooperative Extension your best resource.

That’s the message local Extension agent Marcus Williams was pushing at a recent educational event that attracted several dozen people, who were drawn by the free sweet potatoes donated by Williams’ friend but wound up learning a little something in the process.

I learned a lot, too. I knew the Extension service offered expert help to farmers with their crops and livestock and sponsors the 4-H and Master Gardener and Master Naturalist programs, among others.

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However, I didn’t know that the Extension is available to offer help to homeowners planning their backyard garden or that 4-H covers topics like gang prevention and financial literacy in addition to agriculture.

“We’re trying to shed the moniker of Cooperative Extension being the best-kept secret,” Williams told me during the event.

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

Williams said many Suffolk people probably think of Extension as the research center in Holland, which is a font of knowledge of all things agricultural and regularly conducts groundbreaking research in its humble fields and barns.

But the downtown office is available to help most anybody with a range of issues. And if they’re not the agency to help, they can probably tell you who can.

In other Extension news related to Suffolk, Dr. Allen Harper, who served as an Extension agent, swine specialist and director of the aforementioned Tidewater Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Holland, will be inducted into the Virginia Livestock Hall of Fame at a ceremony at Virginia Tech this Saturday.

Dr. Harper, who now is living the life of a retired person, was one of my favorite sources when he still worked at the research center (although he, out of an abundance of humility, politely ignored my requests for a story on his retirement). A more learned and nicer man one would be hard pressed to find in Suffolk, although I can think of a few close competitors.

Dr. Harper’s research in swine nutrition and management in the area of reducing environmental impact have affected the swine industry immensely, according to the press release from Virginia Tech.

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