Virginia State University Transfers Agricultural Equipment, Facilities to Southside Virginia Fruit and Vegetable Producers Association
With the handing over today of equipment and facilities worth more than a quarter million dollars to the Southside Virginia Fruit and Vegetable Producers Association (SVFVPA), one of the longest running projects supported by the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission (TRRC) has come to a close. Between 2013 and 2020, Virginia State University (VSU) has worked with farmers in Southside Virginia to promote production, processing, and marketing of vegetable soybean, commonly known as edamame. The work, supported by three TRRC Agribusiness grants, involved more than 50 farmers from Sussex, Dinwiddie, Lunenburg, Prince Edward, Buckingham, Charlotte, Halifax, Pittsylvania and Franklin counties. The first grant was awarded to Dr. Mebrahtu, a soybean breeder at VSU who developed the three edamame varieties ‘Randolph’, ‘Asmara’ and ‘Owens’ introduced to Southside growers by the project. In a tribute to Dr. Mebrahtu who passed away in 2013, Dr. Rutto who led the project after him notes that the focus of the work has since expanded to include string beans, lima beans and southern field peas.
The resources transferred by VSU to the SVFVPA are two ASA-Lift GB1000 green bean harvesters, and an assortment of other equipment including a walk-behind edamame harvester, four stationery bean threshers, a produce sorting line, a produce washer, and a produce drier. Some of the equipment is housed at a produce processing facility in Farmville, Prince Edward County that is part of the transfer. It was the original intent of the project to establish or support a Farmers’ Association in Southern Virginia, and the transfer of equipment to the Southside Virginia Produce Growers Association fully meets this objective. The association was established to promote commercial fruit and vegetable production in Southern Virginia through pooling of resources and aggregation of produce to achieve economies of scale. Individuals are welcome to join the association either as active, commercial, or complimentary members. More information is available at the association website https://www.southsideproducers.com/.
Virginia State University notes with gratitude the steadfast support of the TRRC for the duration of the project. Special mention goes to Mr. Timothy S. Pfohl, TRRC grants director, and Ms. Sarah K. Capps, TRRC grants administrator for the Southern region who worked directly with VSU scientists to plan and implement project objectives. Through the project, a number of VSU research and outreach programs including plant breeding, food safety, food processing and engineering, small farm outreach, agricultural marketing, and specialty crops have enhanced their relationships with agencies and landowners in Southern Virginia. The project also collaborated with other state agencies including the Agribusiness Division of the Virginia Department of Corrections, the Farmville office of Virginia Cooperative Extension, and the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Virginia Food Works, a non-profit, Delight Soy, a food company based in North Carolina, and Epic Gardens of Bon Air, Virginia have also lent support to the project.
In transferring ownership of the equipment, VSU College of Agriculture is happy to acknowledge the enduring relationship between members of the farmers’ association and the college. An important observation made during project implementation is the logistical headache of getting fresh produce out of the field and into the retail value chain in a timely and efficient manner, and it is reassuring that the association has invested in cold storage and trucking capacity to meet this challenge. Through Small Farm Outreach and other programs, VSU will continue to provide technical support to the association.
Contact: Jordan Butler
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE