A “Berry” Good Opportunity for Southside Virginia Farmers

Jay berriesVirginia State University Cooperative Extension Specialists are looking for Southside Virginia farmers, especially those who formerly raised tobacco, who are interested in trying their hand at growing blackberries, blueberries or strawberries. Extension specialists believe the region has potential for satisfying the high demand for locally-grown berries.

“Locally-grown produce, especially berries, which are known to have significant health benefits, have experienced a sharp increase in consumer demand,” explained Dr. Raza Rafie, VSU horticulture extension specialist. “We’ve done extensive research throughout central and southside Virginia, and we feel confident that the growing conditions are right for local farmers to help meet this demand.”

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VSU announces new dean of school of agriculture

Dr. Jewel E. Hairston

Dr. Jewel E. Hairston has been announced as Dean of the School of Agriculture for Virginia State University.

While serving as Interim Dean As Interim Dean of the VSU School of Agriculture, she has led the School’s efforts in developing the strategic vision and plan for the Extension and Research Divisions and the Academic Departments of Agriculture, Family and Consumer Sciences and Hospitality Management.

“Dr. Hariston has a talent of bridging the gap between academics and small and disadvantaged farmers.  In this role, it is very important to inspire researchers/professors while challenging their assumptions to develop practical information that can be used by farmers to increase their profitability,” said Martha Moore, vice president of governmental relations for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “ In serving on various committees or discussing ideas about what farmers need from land grant institutions, Virginia Farm Bureau finds Dr. Hairston as a partner willing to help.  It is this cooperation that will help VSU move forward as well as helping small and disadvantaged farmers move the agriculture industry forward.”


In July 2008,  Hairston was appointed associate administrator for programs with Cooperative Extension at VSU where she provided leadership for Extension programming efforts in agriculture, aquaculture, family and consumer sciences, and 4-H youth development. She has also served as an assistant professor at Bowling Green State University and a Marketing Teacher and Adult Education Coordinator in Roanoke. She holds a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Career and Technical Education and Master of Science degree in Education (both from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University).

“She is a highly respected professional among her peers throughout the nation, Dr. Hairston is a life-long member of our community who has served VSU’s stakeholders with distinction,” said Dr. W. Weldon Hill, provost and vice president for academic Affairs for VSU.