News & Announcements

Counting Chickens: An Update on the Culpeper 4H Embryology Program

Posted by on April 24, 2018 in Blog, Featured, News & Announcements | 0 comments

L to R, Laurie Hughes, 4H volunteer and JoAnna Kilby 4H program assistant, Kendall Bopp and Carter Hodgson AG Richardson students.

 

By:  Carl C. Stafford
Senior Extension Agent

Readers remember my article from earlier this month describing an annual rite of spring with the setting of chicken eggs at Culpeper schools. The Culpeper 4H embryology program set 300 chicken eggs on April 10, across 14 classrooms in five Culpeper County Elementary schools. Today marks the end of the second week of incubation and time to check on the chicken embryo’s progress.

Candling is the term used to describe this visual test, coming from the original use of a candle providing enough light to illuminate the contents of incubating egg.  Signs of life are the presence of blood vessels noted as lines scattered across the egg, or a dark shape at one end of the egg that can represent an embryo and if you are lucky and can wait, it will move inside the egg.  A perfectly clear egg has no signs of life.

Today and since the advent of electricity, special lights “candle” the eggs.  A flash light can also work or a directed light from an incandescent bulb.  Candling uncovers one of the mysteries of life – are the eggs going to hatch?  Laurie Hughes, 4H volunteer and Joanna Kilby 4H program assistant candled the first eggs of the season in Mrs. McFarland’s class at A.G. Richardson Elementary.

The 4H embryology program began under the leadership of retired 4H agent, Mason Hutcheson and continues today with 4H agent Cristy Mosley leading our youth programs.  An effective method of teaching is to learn by doing, 4H embryology does this.  Children are excited about and interested in the incubator in their classroom, they turn eggs, watch the temperature, maintaining humidity, and candling charts incubation progress.

Hatching is next on May 1 and we know not every egg will be a success, so remember, don’t count your chicks until they hatch.  Contact information available at: https://culpeper.ext.vt.edu/

 

 

 

 

Master Gardeners Demo Garden

Posted by on April 23, 2018 in Blog, Featured, News & Announcements | 0 comments

Gail Holland (center) and the Rapidan River Master Gardeners at The Carver Center gearing up their demonstration garden.

 

Deer fence (foreground) protects the Rapidan River Master Gardener demo garden at The Carver Center.

 

Caption reads: Julia Coates, Rapidan River Master Gardener Association intern, plants a vertical garden at The Carver Center demonstration garden.

Embryology Kick Off Day

Posted by on April 10, 2018 in Blog, Featured, News & Announcements | 0 comments

By: Carl C. Stafford
Senior Extension Agent

L to R, Joanna Kilby, Rebecca Mazuch, Isabella Hendley, Hamilton Carter and Lori Hughes.

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.

Funding for GWCARC Public Hearing

Posted by on March 29, 2018 in Blog, Featured, News & Announcements | 0 comments

By:  Carl C. Stafford
Senior Extension Agent, Secretary GWCARC
3/28/18

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.

Updates on large plot crop work, kitchen design grant, Beginning Farmer program

Posted by on February 16, 2018 in Blog, Featured, News & Announcements | 0 comments

By:  Carl C. Stafford
Senior Extension Agent

VCE LogoSpring 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.

Full Circle

Posted by on September 29, 2017 in Blog, Featured, News & Announcements | 0 comments

Bill Estes is a master electrician with the Culpeper County Dept. of Environmental Services. He was hard at work Thursday morning inside the historic George-Washington Carver School on U.S. 15 in Culpeper installing new power circuits. Opened in 1948 as a regional high school for African-Americans during segregation, the facility is structurally solid, according to Estes, but much of the wiring needs replacing to meet modern building code standards. Incidentally, Estes, a Rappahannock County native, received electrical training at the school back in the mid 1970s when it offered vocational classes. He said he was proud to now be helping with its renovation. The GWC Alumni Association will host an open house here on October 7 as part of the Culpeper Havest Days Farm Tour. The association is leading efforts to establish a museum in the old library space, which recently received a new heating/air system, ceiling tiles and paint. New carpet goes in next week.

Bill Estes is a master electrician with the Culpeper County Dept. of Environmental Services. He was hard at work Thursday morning inside the historic George-Washington Carver School on U.S. 15 in Culpeper installing new power circuits. Opened in 1948 as a regional high school for African-Americans during segregation, the facility is structurally solid, according to Estes, but much of the wiring needs replacing to meet modern building code standards. Incidentally, Estes, a Rappahannock County native, received electrical training at the school back in the mid 1970s when it offered vocational classes. He said he was proud to now be helping with its renovation. The GWC Alumni Association will host an open house here on October 7 as part of the Culpeper Havest Days Farm Tour. The association is leading efforts to establish a museum in the old library space, which recently received a new heating/air system, ceiling tiles and paint. New carpet goes in next week. Photo by Allison Brophy Champion, Culpeper star exponent.

The former library at the George Washington Carver School in Culpeper County will become the new museum for the GWC Alumni Association, hosting an open house here on Oct. 7.

The former library at the George Washington Carver School in Culpeper County will become the new museum for the GWC Alumni Association, hosting an open house here on Oct. 7. Photo by Allison Brophy Champion, Culpeper star exponent.

Curious Farmers

Posted by on September 29, 2017 in Blog, Featured, News & Announcements | 0 comments

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.

Hops variety trial harvest, Sept 5, 2017, pictured left to right Dr Laban Rhutto, VSU specialist, operating his hops “combine”, Brad Jarvis, Extension Agent, Madison, not pictured Extension Agent Carl Stafford, Culpeper and Bald Top Brewing staff, Caleb Highly.  Thank you to Bald Top Brewing, Madison County for hosting this trial, also supported by Rappahannock Electric Coop, Dominion Resources, GWC Regional High School Alumni Assoc., Spruce Rock Farm, Madison Young Farmers, Rosenberger Farms, Copper Hill, Bordeaux Farms, Red Crest Farms and the George Washington Carver Agriculture Research Center.

Hops variety trial harvest, Sept 5, 2017, pictured left to right Dr Laban Rhutto, VSU specialist, operating his hops “combine”, Brad Jarvis, Extension Agent, Madison, not pictured Extension Agent Carl Stafford, Culpeper and Bald Top Brewing staff, Caleb Highly. Thank you to Bald Top Brewing, Madison County for hosting this trial, also supported by Rappahannock Electric Coop, Dominion Resources, GWC Regional High School Alumni Assoc., Spruce Rock Farm, Madison Young Farmers, Rosenberger Farms, Copper Hill, Bordeaux Farms, Red Crest Farms and the George Washington Carver Agriculture Research Center.

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.

September Progress Report

Posted by on September 26, 2017 in Blog, Featured, News & Announcements | 0 comments

County drilling a new well said to yield 60 gallons per minute to support the Carver Ag Center.

Ohrstrom funded hi tunnels covered and end walls nearing completion at the Carver Ag Center

Ohrstrom funded hi tunnels covered and end walls nearing completion at the Carver Ag Center.

Rapidan River Master Gardeners demonstration garden produces into fall alongside the hi tunnels at Carver Ag Center.

Rapidan River Master Gardeners demonstration garden produces into fall alongside the hi tunnels at Carver Ag Center.