Virginia’s Gateway Region team members were invited by the Virginia State University’s (VSU) College of Agriculture to attend its 29th Annual Agriculture Field Day at Randolph Farm. Open to the public, the event was attended by farmers, students, alumni and VSU faculty members, all interested and engaged in the farm’s current projects and seasonal crops.
Dean of VSU’s College of Agriculture Dr. Jewel Hairston opened the event, taking time to express VSU’s interest in creating and sustaining local businesses and truly “serving Virginia.” VSU President Dr. Keith Miller assisted in welcoming participants, explaining the importance of inviting the public to campus and encouraging their participation.
“VSU is at your disposal, we’re an open book,” Miller said.
Agriculture and food are the top two industries in the state, with 47,000 farms across Virginia. Due to an increase in food industry related projects and activity over the last few years, programs like these are gaining more and more importance on both local and national levels.
Michelle Olgers, VSU College of Agriculture director of Marketing and Communications, explained the impact of educating local and state economic development leaders on VSU’s cutting-edge activities.
“You [as economic developers] need to know what we offer here, especially in regards to the workforce we are producing and the research we are doing,” she said. Some of that research includes aquaculture, which is researched and grown on-site at Randolph Farm. Aquaculture, the practice of farming aquatic produce and fish, such as the lettuce and tilapia that is currently thriving in their greenhouses. VSU is currently training over 50 students in aquaculture, adding uniquely trained labor to the local workforce.
Other crops found around the farm include wheat, blackberries, soy beans, ginger, turmeric and grapes, to name a few. This list also includes the newly harvested chickpea crop that was grown in partnership with Sabra Dipping Company, the number one seller of hummus in the U.S. This was the first crop of chickpeas to be grown in Virginia history. Sabra manufactures their hummus locally in Chesterfield County, hoping to utilize local farmers such as Randolph Farm to source their ingredients.
VSU is on the forefront of Virginia agriculture innovation, providing the region yet another unique and game-changing asset in the food and natural products industry. “Economic developers need to know what assets are in the region, and we are one of those assets,” said Olgers.
For additional pictures from the Field Day, visit and “like” VGR’s Facebook page. Please visit VSU’s College of Agriculture website for more information.