Virginia agriculture is incredibly diverse, and farmers all across the commonwealth stay committed to keeping food on their customers' tables no matter the challenges that are thrown their way.   In this program, we take virtual tours of ­­­­Virginia farms and learn how food is produced on them.  Then we will learn how to prepare new recipes with those foods.  These sessions were held from Spring - Fall of 2020.  

Strawberries

4-H Agent Kari Sponaugle in Highland County runs a fresh produce operation with her husband Michael called Church Hill Produce. They’ve been growing seasonal fresh produce since 2011.  Part of that operation is an acre of strawberries. Kari will show you around her strawberry ‘patch’ and explain how to grow and manage strawberry plants and what it takes to get them ready for harvest. Then Becky Gartner, Family & Consumer Sciences Extension Agent from Culpeper County, will show how to make an easy recipe for Strawberry Spinach Salad. This recipe is so delicious that you will want to make it often for your family.

Strawberries Growing at Church Hill Produce

Hydroponic Salad Greens

From large scale greenhouses supplying salad greens to the East Coast to smaller operations serving local farmers’ markets, Virginia’s hydroponic production of salad greens and microgreens is diversified, safe and local. In addition, you can grow your own salad greens and microgreens at home in small scale systems designed for small producers, schools, restaurants, and home use. Join us for all the details and resources. Then Caitlin Verdu, 4-H Agent for Arlington County, will show you how to prepare a simple and tasty Mediterranean Salad.

A variety of hydroponic salad greens.

Honey

What is the Buzz About Bees? Join us as we explore the world of bees and learn more about the buzz that they create in our world!  You will learn about the importance of bees as pollinators; how bees are an important to Virginia’s Agriculture; where to purchase honey, the health benefits of honey; and how your family can get involved in beekeeping in your own backyard.  We will hear from Jeff Brown, a beekeeper from Franklin County, VA who will demonstrate tools and techniques for successfully starting and maintaining bee hives.  We will also spotlight Campbell County 4-H members who are enrolled in a beekeeping project.  Becky Gartner, an Extension agent and beekeeper from Culpeper, VA; will provide some expertise on best management practices for beekeeping and also highlight how the beekeeping industry supports agriculture in Virginia. Then, Alani Adkins, Family and Consumer Sciences SNAP-Ed Extension Agent in Danville, VA will share a recipe and demonstrate how to make delicious honey pumpkin bars for your family.

 

Shiitake Mushrooms

Shiitake Mushrooms… loved for their flavor and nutrition but not for the sticker price at the grocery store. You can grow them yourself with a little investment of time and money if you have the right kind of shade (a small patch of woods is ideal) and patience. Join Adam Downing, Forestry Agent, to learn how and then Tiffany Patrick and Lenah Nguyen from the Fauquier County 4-H Program will show you how to prepare Garlicky Roasted Shiitake Mushrooms and give you some tips for cooking with kids and encouraging them to try new foods.

Shitake Mushrooms Blooming

Turkey

Virginia ranks 6th in the nation in turkey production. Of the top 20 commodities in the state, turkeys rank 5th. Most turkeys in VA are grown in the Shenandoah Valley. We will explore a turkey farm in Highland County and learn about raising turkeys from poult to processor. We will then learn how to quickly harvest breast meat from a wild turkey killed during hunting season.  Most of the time when we think turkey we think thanksgiving or a deli sandwich. Turkey can provide so much more – it doesn’t have to be a holiday meal. Learn how to make turkey tacos and a turkey stir fry  - two recipes that can are quick and easy for everyday cooking.  

Turkey Poults in Highland County, Virginia.

Dairy

In this session, we will learn all about dairy production from Jeremy Daubert, ANR/Dairy Extension Agent from Rockingham County.   Then Cathy Howland, 4-H Extension Agent from Powhatan County, will show you how to make Chocolate Chia Pudding – a tasty source of dairy!

 

Beef

After learning a little bit about the beef industry in Virginia, we will zoom in on Fresh Branch Farm, a small but growing farm located in Southern Chesterfield County. We are excited for you to take a trip to this farm and learn to forage for plants without using a till, seed, or drill for Fresh Branch Farm’s grass fed/finished cow operation. This farm focuses on growing Piedmontese cattle which produces lean and tender beef thanks to their double muscling gene. Danielle Wilson, the Foods and Nutrition Program Educator in Chesterfield County can't wait to get into the kitchen and teach you how to make a scrumptious meatball with lean grass-fed ground beef that includes items from a variety of food groups and puts your leftovers to good use.

PIedmontese Cattle
Piedmontese Cattle at Fresh Branch Farm

Herbs

Let’s take a trip to a commercial grower to see how herbs are grown on a large scale and then learn about growing herbs in containers and raised beds.  Now that you have an idea how to start growing herbs lets learn some traditional and not-so traditional pesto recipes you can make to add them to your plate.

 

Potatoes

Andean potatoes, often called Irish potatoes, are an easy to grow crop that is a good source of potassium and vitamins B6 and C. Learn more about potatoes, how to grow them, and how they get into your bag of Route 11 Potato Chips.  In this session, you will also learn how to make cheese-stuffed twice baked potatoes.

 

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are important to consumers, gardeners and farmers in Virginia. They're easy to grow and can be eaten so many ways. In this session, you will learn how tomatoes are grown by farmers both in the field and in greenhouses during the colder months. We'll also discuss how gardeners can be successful with tomatoes along with some production tips. Once you've learned how tomatoes grow, we will show you how to make a delicious fresh salsa that's great for a snack or as a topping.

 

Chicken

In this session, we will learn all about the number one commodity in Virginia – chicken.  After an overview of Virginia’s broiler industry, we will get a closer look at the industry by seeing how Shenandoah Valley Organics approaches the production of organic broilers and how Restoration Acres Farm raises their pastured poultry.  Then we will learn the how to make homemade chicken bone broth.

 

Sweet Potatoes

We take you to the farm to see how sweet potatoes are planted and harvested on a large scale. Then we will show you how to plant sweet potatoes at home. Finally, we will show you how to prepare baked sweet potato fries and a special Virginia Tech themed sweet potato dish.

 

Eggs

Hello, from the Chicken coop! Let’s go collect some eggs. After learning about Virginia’s Egg Industry, we will walk through Fresh Branch Farm’s small egg operation and show you how they raise and handle the eggs that their farm sells direct to consumers.  Dr. Mike Persia from the Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences at Virginia Tech will also give you some tips for keeping laying hens in your own backyard.  Finally, you will learn several options for using eggs as a nutritious and economical option for protein in the diet.

 

Virginia Wine and Lamb

Did you know that Virginia has a sheep population of more than 89,000? Did you know that Virginia is the 8th largest producer of wine in the country? Tune in to learn a little bit about raising sheep and the process of turning grapes into wine! We’ll also demonstrate how to make a lamb chili with a Virginia red wine and discuss appropriate wine pairings featuring popular Virginia-grown grape varieties.

 

Pork

We will visit a small hog farm operation in Virginia and show you how pigs are raised. After learning where your pork comes from, Ruth Wallace, 4-H Agent in Buckingham, will show you how to make a dry spice rub, sear your pork roast/loin/shoulder, and blend a sweet sauce mixture to use in the slow cooking process. Preparation takes about ten to fifteen minutes and the slow cooker takes it from there. Yum.  Check out the full recipe here.

 

Aquaponics

The demand for high-quality, healthy protein in the urban community has increased tremendously in the last few years. With the movement for locally grown farm products, aquaponics is fulfilling this niche. Aquaponics is the combination of growing fish in tanks and using the nutrient-rich water to feed the plants.  The water is recirculated back to the fish tanks and plants, making it a sustainable, eco-friendly urban aquaculture venture.  Dr. David Crosby with VSU Extension will give you an overview of aquaponics.  Then Dr. Carlin Rafie, Assistant Professor in the Department of Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise, will provide information about the dietary guidelines in relation to fish intake, things to look for when purchasing fish, and tips on storing it.  She will then highlight a tilapia recipe as tilapia is a type of fish commonly used in Aquaponics.

 

Peanuts

Let’s visit a local Virginia peanut farm to see where and how peanuts are grown. After you see how peanuts are grown, Katie Strong, FCS Agent serving Fairfax County, demonstrates a simple and healthful peanut soup recipe.

 

Greenhouse and Nursery Ornamentals

From the vegetable transplants you planted this spring to the shrubs and flowers that decorate the outside and inside of your home, Virginia’s greenhouses and nurseries supply a wide range of crops to regional and local markets. In addition, we have many farmers producing specialty cut flowers to decorate your home and dinner table. Learn how to create a simple pumpkin floral arrangement for your own table. 

Nursery Hydrangeas

Grains

In this session we will learn about the Common Grain Alliance and learn about how grains are grown and harvested.  We will then take a virtual tour of Ardent Mills in Culpeper, Virginia to learn how grain is milled into flour.  Finally, we will learn how Great Day Gardens makes scones with 100% locally-grown grains.  

 

Pumpkins

Pumpkins are Virginia's 20th in the list of the top 20 farm commodities in Virginia.  In this session, you will travel to three different pumpkin farms and learn about growing pumpkins for wholesale and for agritourism operations from three Agriculture Extension Agents- Sarah Sharpe, Amy Byington, and Roy Flanagan.  Then Christine Hodges, 4-H Agent in Alleghany County, will share a family recipe for pumpkin bread.  

 

Virtual Farm to Table Flyer