Sands delivered the keynote address on “The Future of the Land Grant Mission” Dec. 2 at the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention in Hot Springs. He began his term as Virginia Tech’s 16th president in June and previously served as acting president, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost at Purdue University.
It was at Purdue, he said, that he came to appreciate the significance of the nation’s land-grant universities. “It became a passion of mine, even though I don’t work in the agricultural area. I came to appreciate the impact that it has had on the history of the United States.”
Land-grant universities are U.S. institutions designated by individual states to receive benefits of the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890. Those acts granted federally controlled land to states to sell to establish colleges that would teach practical agriculture, science, military science and engineering in addition to traditional classical studies. Most land-grant schools, Virginia Tech and Virginia State University among them, became large public universities.
In 1914, land-grant universities’ outreach mission was expanded by the Smith-Lever Act to include cooperative extension, the practice of sending agents into rural areas to share the results of agricultural research.
Today, Sands said, Virginia’s two land-grant universities “have the ability and the responsibility to share meaningful knowledge in every corner of the commonwealth.” He said the relationship between Virginia Cooperative Extension and Virginia’s agriculture industry “really sets an example for the other mission areas” at Virginia Tech through “that direct transfer of knowledge.”
In the coming years, Sands said, “we must continue to honor the history of our partnership with the agriculture industry” by seeking opportunities for new growth and by conducting research related to key issues such as nutrition, food safety and security and water usage.
“We want to develop a new generation of entrepreneurs who can contribute to their communities and to Virginia’s economy,” Sands said. He called farmers “the ultimate entrepreneurs” for their willingness to seek out new markets, stay abreast of current science and take risks.
Moving forward, he said, “we will see future challenges, but we will see them together.”
With 128,000 members in 88 county Farm Bureaus, VFBF is Virginia’s largest farmers’ advocacy group. Farm Bureau is a non-governmental, nonpartisan, voluntary organization committed to protecting Virginia’s farms and ensuring a safe, fresh and locally grown food supply. View more convention news as it becomes available atVaFarmBureau.org/NewsVideo/