VSU will offer urban agriculture certification program this spring

virginiaVirginia State University will offer a 10-week certification program in urban agriculture starting March 11. The College of Agriculture program will include lectures and hands-on outdoor lab activities at VSU’s Randolph Farm near Petersburg.

Urban food production is rapidly growing into a mature business sector in cities across the country, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“From neighborhood gardens on abandoned properties to aquaculture operations, urban gardens give residents exposure to fresh produce, possibly even involvement in growing the produce itself,” noted Chris Cook, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation assistant director of rural development. “It introduces them to healthy, fresh, nutritious food, which is especially important in underserved areas.”

Cook said the VSU certification program will provide a platform for individuals to learn from experts in the field.

According to Dr. Leonard Githinji, Virginia Cooperative Extension urban agriculture specialist at VSU, training hasn’t kept up with demand for groups that want to start urban farms.

“There’s a lot to learn,” Githinji explained. “From business planning, legal issues and market development to soil quality, pest management and plant health. We need more science-based, boots-on-the-ground training for these urban pioneers.”

The course is designed for anyone who is starting or managing an urban farm or anyone who wants to increase their marketability to do so.

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