By: Carl C. Stafford
Senior Extension Agent
Hatching chicken eggs is a fond childhood memory as fertile eggs were placed under a broody hen each spring when I was growing up. The incubation period of 21 days was only the beginning of a fascinating show of chicken behavior, culminating with the eggs hatching. The new chicks, called biddies, instinctively know to follow their mother hen for food, warmth and safety. Baby chicks can walk the instant they are hatched as they must find food soon. Hearing the hen’s maternal clucks, they zero in on a seed, a bug, or a tender blade of grass.
Today in the Culpeper County School System at Farmington Elementary, 4H Program Assistant Joanna Kilby began an annual rite of spring with the setting the first eggs of the season in Rebecca Mazuch’ second grade classroom incubator. 4H volunteer Lori Hughes joins in the coordination of the Embryology program across 14 elementary classrooms in 5 schools. In total, they and their cooperating teachers will set more than 300 eggs this week. The Culpeper program began under the leadership of retired 4H agent, Mason Hutcheson and continues today with 4H agent Cristy Mosley leading our youth programs.
The teachers know to tell their students not to count their chicks before they hatch. An old saying spelling out that not every egg will produce a live chick. About half is a good number according to Joanna and they teach the children about these failures as well as the expected success of newly hatched chicks at the end of the 21-day incubation period.
Stay tuned for an update on hatching day May first in Culpeper County schools.
By: Carl C. Stafford
Senior Extension Agent, Secretary GWCARC
The photo shows a public hearing held this week to discuss plans for the George Washington Agriculture Research Center and its commercial kitchen project. By the time you read this article, a special grant application has gone in asking for $675,000 to begin work on this important resource.
If approved, the Department of Housing and Community Development funds will initiate construction in selected spaces at The Carver Center. This area will be the home of the commercial kitchen. Partners include Culpeper County, the Rappahannock Rapidan Regional Commission, Virginia Cooperative Extension and the GWC Food Enterprise Center. For additional information: http://gwcarc.org/
Michelle Edwards, Planner with the RRRC, provided background on the purpose and intent of the application. She pointed out identified need for the planned facilities as survey respondents have indicated that access to inspected commercial kitchen facilities was a desirable and needed improvement for the region. An Ohrstrom Foundation grant is also pending for the project.
Laura Loveday, Grants Administrator for Culpeper County, provided a progress report on programs underway at the Center and discussed relevance of the Commercial Kitchen as a centerpiece for planned food related programs there. The kitchen is intended to be of several benefits to the region.
Becky Gartner, FCS Extension Agent, Project Leader on the kitchen, described these benefits. Training will be provided under the program Stone Soup, now operating out of commercial kitchen spaces across several counties. Business incubation is planned for those seeking an affordable space to try out their recipes, prepare their products, scale up food production while under inspection. In the end, these people would graduate out and continue their food based business on their own.
By: Carl C. Stafford
Senior Extension Agent
Spring is in sight for those who look forward to the start of our annual growing season, usually measured in length by the number of frost-free days. In our area, we can count about 180 days as the frost-free period, about the third week of April until the third week of October. Row crop farmers are busy preparing for planting season with corn and soybeans on their mind.
They replace worn planter parts, apply grease, calibrate seeding rates, control weeds and apply fertilizer as needed. Seed is on hand; crop protection chemicals and fertilizer accounted for in production budgets and ready for application at the onset of the planting season.
Virginia Cooperative Extension conducts annual corn variety trials across the Commonwealth with Extension Agents recruiting cooperating farmers to host variety trials. Data from these trials helps corn growers gain knowledge on corn grown under localized conditions, on our soils and in our weather. Regional adaptability is important in making variety choices. The 2018 plot work planned by the George Washington Carver Agriculture Research Center is in conjunction with our cooperating producer, Battle Park Farms. Together we plan to plant 36 corn varieties across three maturity groups – involving all available corn companies.
These plots will be our second research trial delivering on our programing promise to conduct large plot research beneficial to the regions commercial farms. The first trial was to test disease control in soybean. Virginia Tech pathologist Dr. Hillary Mehl, tested her theory over four years, in Battle Park Farms soybean fields. http://gwcarc.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/VA-Soybean-Board-2014-Project-Report.pdf Follow this link for full detail on this first large plot study.
In the upcoming corn variety trial, large-scale planting (12-row planter) and harvesting equipment (six row combine) will allow our cooperators to cover the big plots in a timely fashion. This is in contrast to the small plot work conventionally done in state trials. We will use tester varieties spread out among the dozen varieties in each of the three maturity group plantings, to help account for variations other than corn genetics. Look for field day announcements and reports sharing results from this Northern Piedmont corn variety trial.
The “Carver Center” has several other program priorities moving ahead. The Commercial Kitchen, lead by Extension Agent Becky Gartner, awaits a design grant pending with the Ohrstrom Foundation. We should know in May if this has been successful. Becky will then kick off design work for the kitchen spaces she has identified in the main building.
Our Beginning Farmer program lead by volunteer Roger Williams, is working with county government and Virginia State University to design a suitable agreement for all our needs. We are optimistic VSU will begin classes at Carver this spring. Final additions are in the works for our hi-tunnel greenhouses, slatted for inclusion in VSU plans and the Rapidan River Master Gardeners demonstration gardens. With spring around the corner, farmers and gardeners are making plans for the new growing season.
By: Carl C. Stafford
Senior Extension Agent 9/29/17
Farmers are a curious bunch, naturally drawn to new information and capable of solving their own problems. You see, problem solving is necessary if farmers are to keep on track with timely work. Ultimately, they save the cost of hiring someone and save time too. They find ways around problems or invent new and novel solutions to them. They do not give up easily and often have more than one plan for the day and more than one solution at the ready.
The best get ahead of trouble through preventative maintenance, early action on planting and harvest and early adoption of new methods. While this makes many of them leaders, there are also a large group in the middle looking for good ideas. This makes them sharp about recognizing the good ideas of others and willing adopters when beneficial ideas are found.
Just the other day I was using an unusual distance-measuring device. A wind up cable capable of measuring football field length. Not often seen in use, it drew the attention of the young men I was helping. Their interest in and curiosity about this tool made me think of these important traits. Thankfully, these traits still exist in our next generation of farmers. Maybe the business draws this type of personality or at least quickly culls those who do not master its importance.
Many farm magazines have a page describing inventions and plenty of these good ideas are in place on local farms. A special gate latch copied from a farmer who loves to make modifications improving the function and ease of operation on his farm near Reva. Time saving, labor saving, safety improving inventions are all around us. A farm north of town is in the finishing phase of improvement, where the new owner shows remarkable and functional ideas at work. Cantilever overhangs on buildings protecting poles from likely damage when set out on front corners. Water catchments and piping systems made from recycled materials, a back gate not easily breached, decorated for looks and security. Interior roads connecting the property within itself, making easy access in all weather.
Equipment inventions are less common, but often seen are equipment modifications. Adding a hydraulic cylinder eases the burden of lifting; attaching a hitch pin rope allows the operator to remain seated, and a sliding wagon tongue makes connections simple, a rear view mirror soothes the strained neck while keeping an eye on what is following. However, inventions are the real story.
Making a machine do twice the work is a great advancement – many do this. Anytime farmers can replace labor with equipment, they often do. You see the equipment shows up every day, has no complaints, is never sick (almost never), works in cold and hot, dusty conditions, forgives operator error and has few paperwork needs. Equipment inventions are simply once you understand how they work. The few capable of these inventions make the rest of us their beneficiaries, as we adopt what we see working, it becomes possible then. Our rate of adoption is increasing as the benefits of new and proven inventions take less time to be realized by each generation.
By: Carl C. Stafford
Senior Extension Agent
Slow but steady wins the race according to Aesop’s fable, a story about the tortoise and the hare. One would assume the fast hare could easily cross the finish line first, but there is more. Many interpretations surround this fable and here we can agree that slow and steady leads to progress.
This is the rate progress is made at the Carver School on route 15 here in Culpeper, slowly unfolding after a kick-start. This stimulus came from a feasibility study funded in early 2015 by the Building Collaborative Communities grant by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. See the article published in several papers at the link provided:
http://www.dailyprogress.com/madisonnews/news/rrrc-receives-bcbg-grant-for-agricultural-asset-study/article_ab9c5106-acb4-11e4-a7fd-d71806b24c49.html or search for key words on the topic.
Once the good bones of the 1948 structure were confirmed in the study (http://gwcarc.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/20160128-CPAI.pdf), interest in and support for regionally beneficial uses increased. Not only were the original agriculture research and education center plans supported (http://gwcarc.org/) but also validation was found for the planned vocational education uses important to Culpeper and surrounding counties.
To date there is much progress to report. From route 15, visible changes show with window replacement ongoing with new, energy efficient glass to occupy the old spaces while maintaining the original appearance. Inside, thousands of square feet are undergoing rehabilitation. Lead and asbestos removed, floor and ceiling improvements and utility upgrades to spaces on each side of the entry foyer. Plan to visit the school during the October 7 & 8 Farm tour https://www.facebook.com/culpeperfarmtour and see these and other changes for yourself.
The GW Carver Regional High School alumni have plans for a museum; see their website https://www.gwcrhsaa.org/ to find out more about their work. In the other spaces undergoing renovation will be offices for those whose programs are coming online. These include a commercial kitchen headed up by the GW Carver Food Enterprise Center found at https://www.facebook.com/GWCFEC/ . In vocational training, New Pathways progress is described at the link provided to an article describing their work
http://www.starexponent.com/news/culpeper-machinist-school-attracting-global-attention/article_181bf62f-fb0e-553d-8363-fb9cbd96519e.html . Learning by doing for young adults who can use their machinist training as a springboard to a meaningful career.
The Rappahannock River Master Gardeners have been busy at Carver since spring. See their link https://www.facebook.com/rapidanrivermastergardener/?rc=p for details on their demonstration garden, a teaching lab in keeping with the educational mission planned by the GWCARC. To conclude, the Beginning Farmer program is geared towards giving new farmers opportunities to learn and practice before going it alone. Find more on this program at our website http://gwcarc.org/news-announcements/page/2/.