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.”

Local educators react to DeVos confirmation

by Ashley Cimino–

Blacksburg, Va., Feb. 15 – LOCAL IMPACT: Blacksburg High School is just one of four high schools in the Montgomery County Public Schools district that could be affected by new policies. According to U.S. News, Blacksburg High has a math proficiency rating of 84 percent, which is higher than the district and state average. Photo: Ashley Cimino

Betsy DeVos was confirmed as the eleventh United States Secretary of Education after an unprecedented tie-breaking vote cast by Vice President Mike Pence. Much controversy surrounding DeVos’ devotion to private school education has caused widespread public concern both leading up to and following her confirmation.

Concerns were initially revealed during her senate confirmation hearing. Professor Nicholas Goedert of the Department of Political Science of Virginia Tech explained that the controversy surrounding her nomination was partly due to the ideological conflicts that are common with cabinet nominees.

“There were [questions], largely revealed in her confirmation hearings, related to her competence to do the job, as she had almost no work experience in education and seemed unaware of broad principles and terms commonly used in the state administration of education.” said Goedert.

Clips of Virginia Senator and former Vice President Candidate Tim Kaine’s questioning of DeVos’ during her senate hearing was shared on social media and many became concerned about DeVos’ inability to agree that public and private schools should be held equally accountable if receiving federal funds.

WASHINGTON, Jan. 17 – HEATED HEARING – Betsy DeVos with Sen. Joe Lieberman and Sen. Tim Scott at her confirmation hearing before testifying for Senate committees. Photo: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

No Child Left Behind, now replaced by the Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA)Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA), introduced higher accountability for schools and school districts receiving funding. ESSA, signed in 2015 by President Obama, shifts for power over education to the states and moves away from the “one size fits all” approach to education in schools. Still, DeVos would be reviewing each state’s ESSA plans outlining their education goals and plans to reach them.

Montgomery County Public School teachers and administrators are very concerned that DeVos doesn’t have the expertise to handle the one trillion dollar budget of the United States Department of Education or fix the current state of the public education system. In a survey of 99 MCPS faculty, nearly all respondents agreed that Ms. DeVos seems unfit for the job.

The image above is a link to the public infographic published via Piktochart.

In regards to accountability, one teacher said, “[I don’t] see her lack of experience bringing any of the accountability issues to the forefront.”

However, most of their concerns were regarding money and where it was going to go. When asked to describe a way that DeVos’ policies could impact their work and their students, one respondent said, “Her policies and desires to take money from public schools and put it towards private schools (which are not held to the same standards) will greatly impact the already hurting public school system.”

Amongst the many negative responses to the survey lay tiny glimmers of hope within the MCPS community.

One faculty member said, “I work for a fantastic public school. We offer a huge amount of programs for our students and the administration works hard to not leave any student behind. Public schools are not disasters.”

Student entrepreneurs

Blacksburg, Va., Feb. 15-Career Center: Many students, especially upperclassman, come to the Career Center seeking advice on resume building, job seeking, and future employment opportunities. Photo: David Jones

by David Jones–

At colleges across the country, there seems to be a common trend among undergraduate students regarding their personal finances. While the stresses of student loans are not unheard of, young men and women seek financial opportunities at their respective colleges and institutions.

From odd jobs to strong budgeting practices, students try to find a way to treat themselves in other areas of their life. While that is the case, there are other students whose lifestyles outside of the classroom that financially benefits them and on their own terms.

In the world of entrepreneurship, money flows based on what you put into it. If you sell well, then you can make good money from time to time. Some people are fixed on their creativity, hard work, and passions to the extent that they’re willing to bet everything on what could possibly lead to a better life.

Many students today have adopted this mindset, and are exploring new ways to build their businesses and to seek better financial gains than they ever did while working for somebody. More than just for the money, a lot of them do it because it’s in an area that they know and love.

Aside from being a well-known DJ at Virginia Tech Marcus Finney aka DJ Finesse is a senior studying human development at Virginia Tech. He is also the main talent of a group he started back in 2016 known as Finesses Entertainment. While the group’s ultimate goal is to run the night-life scene someday, at the same time Marcus and his colleagues enjoy making money for what they love to do.

Finesse Entertainment is just one of many business ventures that were started by a group of college students. There’s also Savage Entertainment (based in Radford, VA), Randolph Photography, The Gold Coast Warriors (fitness group), and GloFleaux (beauty products and services). Each with a distinct characteristic, these young business leaders make it seem easy to do what they do.

Service dogs: When the training is complete

BLACKSBURG, Va., Feb. 6 – Training Day:  Dakota, a seven-month old white Golden Retriever, is part of the SDWR training program.

by Kameron Kopecky–

If you have been on the Virginia Tech campus recently you have more than likely seen a handful of students accompanied by dogs with colored vests on.  These dogs are part of the SDWR and the Saint Francis Service Dogs training program and the students are their trainers.

The trainers are with the dogs throughout the duration of the 12 to 18 month program where the dogs are required to learn over 50 commands in order to one day aid a child or other individual in need.  Once their training is complete, the dogs graduate to service dog school where they are further trained for specific disorders, which include autism, epilepsy, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and diabetes, also known as invisible disabilities.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, “an individual with a disability is a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment.”

After the dogs complete service dog school, they are assigned to an individual with an invisible disability.  Most of the time, this individual is a child, but under no circumstances is there an age restriction to qualify for a service dog.

Unfortunately, qualifying and obtaining a service dog is not as easy as signing a few papers and bringing the dog home like it is for adopting a regular pet.  A trained service dog can cost upwards of $25,000.  Many recipients start GoFundMe pages and other similar forms of funding to help pay for the cost of the service dog.  If a recipient does have the money to pay for the service dog, they still have some time to go before the entirety of the training process is complete.

“The training continues with the family until the dog is three years of age and can test for their official title of a service dog,” said Carey Johnson, an SDWR trainer at Virginia Tech who has been training her service dog, Dakota, for the past two months.

When the service dog has completed all of its training it officially belongs to the recipient and remains with them throughout the remainder of the dog’s lifetime.

If for any reason the service dog is unable to complete its training, the service dog trainer is first-in-line to adopt the dog.


Hokies make statement with 2017 recruiting class

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Blacksburg, Va., Feb. 2 – Lane Stadium Video Scoreboard: Virginia Tech’s 2017 recruiting class came to Blacksburg to play at historic Lane Stadium, the home of the Hokies. Lane Stadium’s atmosphere is one of the many reasons players want to play at Virginia Tech. Photo: Johnny Kraft

by Johnny Kraft–

Coach Justin Fuente and his staff made a statement with Virginia Tech’s 2017 recruiting class. The 2016 ACC coach of the year welcomes 27 new players following his first full recruiting cycle as leader of the Hokies.

Fuente built off his impressive debut season in Blacksburg by signing Virginia Tech’s highest-ranked class in four years. According to USA TODAY High School Sports, the Hokies’ inked a consensus top 25 recruiting class. The full year made a huge difference for Fuente’s staff.

“Last year was speed dating trying to get to know people. This is much more calculated. I probably shouldn’t use that term. I’m much more comfortable because I been around these guys and their families a lot more,” said Fuente at his National Signing Day press conference. “As a class, I have been able to spend a lot more time with these kids and their families. I was able to teach them about Virginia Tech and what Virginia Tech can do for them.”

Virginia Tech prioritizes in-state recruits by keeping them home. This recruiting class is highlighted by three recruits ranked in the state’s top 10 led by prized defensive back Devon Hunter. The other two top in-state recruits are defensive end TyJuan Garbutt and linebacker Dylan Rivers, who flipped his commitment from Penn State in January. This is the first time since 2012 Virginia Tech has signed more than two of Virginia’s top 10 players.

“It’s extremely important. We want the rest of the country to know they’re in for a battle if they’re coming into the state of Virginia,” said Director of Recruiting Operations, Thomas Guerry about in-state recruiting.  “This state is our top priority and we’re going after the in-state guys first and foremost.”

Click the image to view the full version of the infographic breaking down Virginia Tech’s 2017 recruiting class

Tech has nine early enrollees this semester to participate in spring practice. The nine Hokies currently enrolled are: quarterbacks Hendon Hooker and junior college transfer AJ Bush, athletes Caleb Farley and Terius Wheatley, wide receiver Kalil Pimpleton, tight end Dalton Keene, offensive lineman Silas Dzansi, linebacker Rico Kearney and Australian punter Oscar Bradburn.

“I think the most important detail about this class is the fact that we were able to early enroll nine of these guys. This day in age, it’s so crucial to get these young guys in a semester early and have them develop in the weight room, at the training table with their meals and obviously on the field during spring ball,” said Guerry about the early enrollees. “At the quarterback position, for example, we are going to get to watch all of our quarterbacks compete for 15 practices, which will largely determine where we are headed into fall camp.”

Fuente’s biggest challenge is replacing the offense’s best weapons with receivers Isaiah Ford and Bucky Hodges as well as quarterback Jerod Evans all leaving for the NFL. However, Fuente is well equipped with many young weapons.

While Virginia Tech welcomes one of the most talented recruiting classes in school history, the Hokies know all of this is meaningless unless they prove it on the field with wins.

“I don’t think it says anything until we produce on the field. There are highs and lows in this industry, especially in recruiting. And it carries over to wins and losses,” said Guerry. “The key is to never get too high and never get too low, always take each challenge as it comes and we’ll be the best we can be. We need to win and keep the momentum going.”