A 501(c)(3) non-profit citizen’s organization dedicated to thoughtful planning and policies for sustainable growth, stewardship of our natural, cultural and historical resources and the protection of the rural character of our region.
Bald Top Brewing Co. and Rural Madison Inc. are proud to present the 2017 Hops & Homestead Festival, featuring local seasonal produce, fine arts, hand made and hand decorated crafts, homesteading and agricultural demonstrations, live entertainment, food, and children’s activities. Get more information on our event page.
Many of our neighbors are struggling day-to-day with the effects of both acute and chronic poverty. Malnutrition, physical & mental health, education, employment and crime are issues that 18.3% of children in Madison are faced with every day. Please join the conversation and help raise awareness about how poverty drives negative outcomes for our most vulnerable citizens.
We are very fortunate to live in an exceptionally beautiful area with a relatively low crime rate, good schools, and world-class recreational opportunities. Many of our Madison neighbors, however, are struggling day-to-day with the effects of both acute and chronic poverty. Malnutrition, physical & mental health, education, employment and crime are issues that 18.3% of our children …
The controversy over genetically modified crops has long focused on largely unsubstantiated fears that they are unsafe to eat.
But an extensive examination by The New York Times indicates that the debate has missed a more basic problem — genetic modification in the United States and Canada has not accelerated increases in crop yields or led to an overall reduction in the use of chemical pesticides.
An analysis by The Times using United Nations data showed that the United States and Canada have gained no discernible advantage in yields — food per acre — when measured against Western Europe, a region with comparably modernized agricultural producers like France and Germany. Also, a recent National Academy of Sciences report found that “there was little evidence” that the introduction of genetically modified crops in the United States had led to yield gains beyond those seen in conventional crops.
The promise of genetic modification was twofold: By making crops immune to the effects of weedkillers and inherently resistant to many pests, they would grow so robustly that they would become indispensable to feeding the world’s growing population, while also requiring fewer applications of sprayed pesticides.
“Bayer in the U.S. is known largely for its pharmaceuticals, with scientists who developed modern Aspirin and Alka-Seltzer.” And you might need a little of both to process the company’s latest deal; a massive $66 billion acquisition of Monsanto. Here’s more on the deal that could reshape the world’s food supply. (If Bayer/Monsanto’s pesticides make you sick, don’t worry. Bayer/Monsanto has a drug to help you. Synergy!)
Bayer in the U.S. is known largely for its pharmaceuticals, with scientists who developed modern Aspirin and Alka-Seltzer. But the deal would pivot the 117,000-employee company more towards its farm-targeting business in agriculture chemicals, crop supplies and compounds that kill bugs and weeds.
The public hearing on the proposed permit (VPA00076) took place Wednesday, June 8, 2016 at the Madison County High School. The Virginia Water Control Board will render a final decision to deny or approve (or approve with amendments) the application during its next regular meeting on June 27th. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 9:30 am.
General Assembly Building, House Room C 9th & Broad Streets, Richmond, Virginia 23219
Only those citizens who spoke at the hearing on June 8 and/or submitted a public comment by June 17, 2016 will be permitted to address the Water Control Board on June 27.
Rural Madison announces partnership in food enterprise center
Joins with other organizations to make George Washington Carver center a reality
BY BECCA PIZMOHT
Earlier this month, Rural Madison announced that it would partner with several other like-minded organizations in the George Washington Carver Food Enterprise Center (GWCFEC).
Billed as the ultimate recycling project, the GWCFEC plans to rehabilitate and restore the facilities at the historic former all-black George Washington Carver Regional High School on Route 15 in Culpeper County. The building has been virtually unused since the early 1960’s when Virginia’s public schools were desegregated.
A consortium of groups is involved including the Rappahannock-Rapidan Regional Commission, Cooperative Extension, Rural Madison and the George Washington Carver Regional High School Alumni Association, all of which are trying to return the property to a productive use that respects the facility’s history.
The plan is for the facility to host a broad range of agricultural activities including a food processing center where small farmers can prepare products for market, produce storage, large plot agricultural research, and culinary training. The group’s mission is to provide infrastructure for year-round production of healthy and affordable food.
Back in 2014, the Rappahannock-Rapidan Regional Commission partnered with the Virginia Food Enterprise Center and Cooperative Extension to complete a study to determine the viability of turning the former George Washington Carver Regional High School facilities into a multi-use agricultural center.
Last May and June, consultants for the project held regional focus group sessions with farmers, growers, producers, gardeners and other food entrepreneurs within the region to determine the need and interest level for the GWCFEC.
The results of this research show both a need and a desire for a food enterprise center within this area. The study found that there was interest in local food products and a need for a facility to process local products.
Janet Bearden, GWCFEC Team Leader, has been a driving force behind the project and has brought her 30 years of management experience to the group. As a volunteer for MESA, she saw a need for affordable, locally grown food. As early as 2009, she began efforts to make locally grown food available year-round.
“My passion has been making wholesome locally grown food available year-round, giving farmers additional markets and providing jobs to those who need them,” Bearden said. ‘The funding we’ve previously helped us carry out the feasibility study, everything else has been done by volunteers. Now we’re developing funding proposals for the project to move on to the next phase.”
Plans include a certified commercial kitchen so that local farmers and growers can process small batches of value-added products—sauces, jams or jellies—for sale to the public, storage facilities for small producers, agricultural research plots, and an educational center. Ren LeVally, vice president of Rural Madison, sees a need for an agricultural support center and is passionate about the project.
“I’m very hopeful about this,” he said. “Our visions (Rural Madison and GWCFEC) are so closely aligned they are almost the same. We have a need to support our community and a project like this helps assure the long-term viability of Madison’s economy. Madison is an agricultural community; our young people see limited opportunities and leave. This can be a great way to help farmers and the community as a whole.”
Jill Grace Jefferson, the volunteer project coordinator, believes that the pieces are coming together for the project and that it is possible parts of the center will be operational within the calendar year.
“We have plans in place, as soon as there is funding, we will be able to start on each aspect of the project,” she said. “As we secure the funding it’s like putting another piece of the puzzle in place. This is a great project on many levels. It allows us to re-use an empty facility providing support and training to rural communities. While we can’t erase the past, we can use this facility in such a way as to honor [its] history while providing support to the community.”
It is hoped that the facility will be by offering certified kitchen rentals and for-profit food service training classes.
LeVally believes that the GWCFEC has the potential to help the region on several levels.
“This facility can help our community in workforce development and in support of agribusiness but it also serves individuals by making healthy and affordable foods more readily available,” he said. “My personal interest is in human health and nutrition. Increasing the availability of healthy, affordable food is good for the whole community. Madison is not immune to America’s health problems. We have obesity, hypertension, and diabetes here. By empowering people to take care of themselves, you give them the tools to succeed.”
Rural Madison Vice President Ren LeVally talks to Stone Soup Project Graduate Nathan Good as Good chops a tomato. Photo by Becca Pizmoht/ Madison County Eagle
The Madison Stone Soup Project concluded its six-week course with a graduation celebration Dec. 14.
Out of 12 original enrollees, 11 students completed the program and graduated. The graduates each received three certificates—the National Restaurant Association ServSafe Food Handler Certificate of Completion, the Cooperative Extension Customer Service Certificate, and the Stone Soup Job Skills Training Certificate. The graduates received their certification and celebrated with friends and family with refreshments prepared by the class.
The Stone Soup Project, a food service training course run by Virginia Cooperative Extension and the Virginia Food Enterprise Centers with assistance from Rappahannock Goodwill Industries and Rural Madison is designed to help low-income individuals get skills that can aid entry into the workforce. The program partnered with Rappahannock Goodwill Industries to provide graduates with jobs. Goodwill Industries will pay the graduates salaries for six weeks. At the end of the six-week trial, employers will have the option to hire the graduate.
According to the staff and students, the Madison course was a success. Ren LeVally, vice president of Rural Madison and professionally trained executive chef taught culinary skills to the participants and happy with the program’s outcome.
“This is a good fit for Madison and something near and dear to me. When I heard about Stone Soup, I knew that I wanted to be a part of it,” he said. “We were really pleased with the participation and interest in this program and hope to make it permanent.”
Marty Bywaters-Baldwin, workforce center manager of Rappahannock Goodwill Industries was also pleased with the program and its results.
“There is a real need for this type of training,” he said. “Foodservice provides many entry level jobs and there are many restaurants, hospitals, schools, and institutions that are looking for qualified workers. Partnering with Cooperative Extension and Rural Madison helped reach out to a different group; I’m pleased with this and hope it can continue and grow.”
Claire Lillard of Cooperative Extension echoed their sentiments.
“We had a diverse group of participants, some were looking to get and improve job skills, some looking for the ServSafe certification and some just looking to improve their kitchen skills. I think they all got something out of this,” she said. “One of the students is working with ‘Marty to get an internship, too.”
The group is enthusiastic about the program and is hopeful that it will become a permanent part of the curriculum at the George Washington Carver Agriculture Center in Culpeper. The Madison and Culpeper Stone Soup courses were funded through a grant from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. LeVally and Lillard said they are exploring other possible sources of funding so that the project can continue.
Meanwhile, the students were equally enthusiastic about the pilot program and plan to use their training in different ways.
“I did this so I can get better job options,” graduate Nathan Good said. “I’m not someone that’s looking for a handout, but this is a leg up, a way for me to do a little better. I’ve done all kinds of jobs; [food service] has more opportunities right now.”
“My dream is to open a small café after I retire,” graduate Betty Madison said. “I learned some things and got my ServSafe certificate. Hopefully, that’s the first step towards that.”