Lynchburg Grows and Virginia Cooperative Extension celebrated the important role that agriculture plays in the commonwealth’s economy and the designation of October as Urban Agriculture Month in Virginia with a ceremony at the Lynchburg Grows H.R. Schenkel Urban Farm and Environmental Center in Lynchburg on Oct. 17.

The ceremony included a presentation by delegates Kathy Byron, Ben Cline, and Scott Garrett of the Virginia General Assembly; a proclamation by Lynchburg Mayor Michael H. Gillette; and testimonials by Edwin Jones, director of Virginia Cooperative Extension, and by members of the state Extension Leadership Council. Mayor Gillette praised Lynchburg Grows for making the city a better place.

Delegates Byron, Cline, and Garrett presented Jones and Michael Van Ness, executive director of Lynchburg Grows, with House Joint Resolution No. 758, designating October 2013 as Virginia’s first annual Urban Agriculture Month. The delegates were among the measure’s 27 legislative patrons.

Edwin Jones, director of Virginia Cooperative Extension; and Michael Van Ness, executive director of Lynchburg Grows are presented the Virginia General Assembly's resolution designating October as Urban Agriculture Month in Virginia. Pictured from left to right: Delegate Ben Cline, Van Ness, Jones, Delegate Kathy Byron, and Delegate Scott Garrett.

"Lynchburg Grows is proud to be considered a leader in educational urban agriculture," said Van Ness. "We promise a hands-in-the-soil learning experience that should leave a lifelong impression on eating habits. We’re guided by and advocate principles of sustainability. We provide dignified, gratifying work to disabled folks, and we aspire to self-sufficiency by 2017."

Lynchburg Grows celebrates 10 years of educating others about the importance of sustainable, local agriculture and healthy living. The organization operates a nine greenhouse rose and produce farm in the heart of Lynchburg that provides vocational training for disabled and low-income individuals.

Since 2003, more than 5,000 volunteers have contributed roughly 70,000 hours working in conjunction with the Lynchburg Grows staff that includes 11 disabled workers with tenures of up to nine years. Lynchburg Grows has produced approximately 100,000 roses and 80,000 pounds of food, of which 57,000 pounds have been donated to Lynchburg area food banks and soup kitchens. More than 170 families obtain fresh vegetables regularly through subscriptions to the farm’s community supported agriculture program.

"Urban agriculture can have an important role in filling critical needs within a community," said Jones. "Virginia Cooperative Extension and Lynchburg Grows are a great example of a public-private partnership that supports urban agriculture and the community."

"A Virginia Cooperative Extension report showed that if every Virginia family spent an additional $10 a week on local, farm-grown food, the economic impact on Virginia would exceed $1.65 billion," said Van Ness.

Virginia Cooperative Extension brings the resources of Virginia's land-grant universities, Virginia Tech and Virginia State University, to the people of the commonwealth. Through a system of on-campus specialists and locally based educators, it delivers education in the areas of agriculture and natural resources, family and consumer sciences, community viability, and 4-H youth development. With a network of faculty at two universities, 107 county and city offices, 11 agricultural research and Extension centers, and six 4-H educational centers, Virginia Cooperative Extension provides solutions to the problems facing Virginians today.

Source: Virginia Cooperative Extension News Release