Farmers work to keep New River clean

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Blacksburg, Va., May 3- New River: Farmers work to keep the New River a favorite summer spot.

by Katie Lukens, Dylan Holliday–

With summer quickly approaching, the New River will be a highly visited destination for recreation and relaxation. Little thought, however, goes into what is done to keep the river clean.

Recent concern has developed about E. Coli in the Shenandoah River due to livestock, and the question arises as to how the farmers are working to keep water clean.

Farmers have a vested interest in keeping water clean because they rely on water for their families, livestock and crops, explains Dr. Katharine Knowlton, a professor in the Dairy Science Department at Virginia Tech.

Farmers in the New River Valley take extra precautions to keep the river clean, including using nutrient management plans, grass filter strips and fencing livestock out of the water.

Nutrient management plans are a common practice to keep rivers clean. “Nutrient management plans are used by farmers to prevent runoff by helping to estimate the nutrient needs of crops and then help farmers plan appropriate fertilizer or mineral application without oversupplying nutrients,” Knowlton said. “Nutrient management plans balance economic, environmental, and crop management concerns for farmers with the goal of finding the perfect balance so there is no risk of nutrients being lost into the water.”

Virginia dairy and beef farmers have been proactive about addressing cattle in streams and rivers. Fifteen years ago, the Virginia State Dairymen’s Association released a policy which stated that all cattle should be fenced out of the stream, Knowlton said. Virginia continues to encourage farmers to fence out their cattle by offering cost-share money to farmers.

Instead of planting a crop right up to the river, farmers make mindful efforts by using grass filter strips along the border of rivers and streams. Grass filter strips are used to buffer runoff from fields to keep pollutants from entering the water. These not only benefit the water but provide benefits to wildlife and help to prevent erosion of the land.

Immediate results are not always seen from these efforts. It may take up to 100 years to see the impact, but in the end, if you have people making a conscious effort, it makes a difference, Hunter Wyatt from Virginia Cooperative Extension explains.

The New River is a place that will continue to be enjoyed by both wildlife and the people of the New River Valley with the careful efforts made by farmers and community members daily.

Efforts to honor cadet

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Blacksburg, Va., April 20- Capital Projects: Donors are a big reason building construction is possible at Virginia Tech. Photo: Katie Lukens

by Katie Lukens–

Virginia Tech is continuously building and expanding the university to accommodate the growth of the student body. Although Virginia Tech is a state university, only about 23% of funds for the school come from the state, according to Andy King, a Virginia Tech student. This means that the other 77% of funds comes from donors. These donations support students, faculty, academic initiatives, university programs, athletics and capital projects.

These capital projects include the new buildings across campus. “Private support is an essential component of the funding for important projects across the university” states Virginia Tech. It has been a tradition that if someone makes a large enough donation to a capital project they can have the new building named after them.
Three students had an idea to break the norm of how buildings were named and wanted to honor someone who lived out Virginia Tech’s core value, Ut Prosim. Although they saw how vitally important donors are to the university, Andy King, Nicholas Oberle, Tristan Nguyen wanted to recognize the sacrifice of Matthew La Porte, who was killed defending the lives of others on April 16, 2007.

King, Oberle and Nguyen began a petition to rename a new cadet hall after La Porte. The petition began with hopes of acquiring 5,000 signatures but it quickly grew to over 43,000 signatures.

The university took notice to the large response but has decided not to rename the new building.

King shared his frustration with the university, not because they denied the request to rename the building, but because he felt the request was not taken seriously by the officials.
The efforts of these students have not gone unseen and the memory of La Porte will continue to live on.

An Uncommon Field: Women in Agriculture

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Blacksburg, Va., March 31- Women in Ag Panel: Six Virginia Tech alumni spoke about their experiences as a women in the agriculture industry. Photo: Katie Lukens

by Katie Lukens–

In an industry that is dominated by men over the age of 50, women are a minority in the agriculture industry. The image of farmers are men working the fields, not women plowing the land. Women control seven percent of farmland in American according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

“It’s a vermale-dominateded industry and a very older industry as well,” Julie McIntire Divis from PRE Brands said. “People have been there generations after generations. Their dad and grandfather worked on the same farm or in the same role.”

Divis was among the six women alumni from Virginia Tech gathered on March 31 to share their experiences, trials and triumphs in the agriculture industry. These women came from all over the industry including food science, dairy, equine and extension. They expressed their passion for their work and the importance of communicating with consumers.

Bridgett McIntosh, involved with equine at Virginia Tech, expressed her desire for women involved in agriculture to always be finding opportunities to work together. Everyone involved in agriculture has the same goal of feeding and clothing our world, so it makes sense to be working as a unified team. She also shared that feeling good about the work you’re doing matters.

“Compared with men, women don’t consider themselves as ready for promotions, they predict they’ll do worse on tests, and they generally underestimate their abilities,” The Atlantic states. This proved to be true as these women in agriculture shared their favorite accomplishments. These women had jobs to be proud of and resumes that were pages in length, but the room was quiet as they tried to answer this question.

“Being a young female coming into the agriculture industry, how do you put a stamp on the fact that I can do a good job too? Divis said. “I know what I’m talking about, I want to learn from you, but I also have a lot to provide and give. That may be new ideas and ways to do things that might be resisted in a very established well know industry that is male dominated.”

Although women are a minority in the agriculture industry, these Virginia Tech alumni were an example of the future that agriculture holds for young women perusing a degree in the field.

Divis left all women involved and hoping to get involved in the agriculture industry with an important question, “What are you going to do to highlight that women can succeed in the agriculture field, because we can.”