Picking of vegetables in the garden

Cindy Conner started growing food in 1974, when her first child turned one.

“I wanted a healthy family,” she says. She was interested in learning as much as she could about organic gardening and farming.

The growing family moved to Virginia in 1977, and then to a five-acre farm near Ashland in 1984. A few years later, she was selling vegetables and eggs to local restaurants and working with a gardening project at her youngest child’s school. Over time, she became recognized as an expert in sustainable farming and began to teach others.

Then, J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Goochland came calling, asking her to teach. Conner’s classes were popular and informative, and ultimately led to the innovative sustainable agriculture certificate program established by the college.

“We saw the need for this type of program, due to the rapid growth in planning, production and marketing of organically produced foods,” says Steven Vehorn, assistant director of public relations at Reynolds. “There’s so much interest in sustainable agriculture now with the growing local food movement and concern about our environment. This is particularly true of the current generation of students.”

Vehorn says that interest translates into a need for qualified personnel trained in sustainable agriculture and organic food production methods.

“Our certificate program is designed for persons interested in producing food crops for personal consumption or for sale to the public through farmers markets and other direct-to-consumer marketing strategies,” he says.

The classes are geared toward providing information about food crop production, restaurants, farmers markets, herb production and pick-your-own operations. In addition, those who earn certificates would be prepared to manage entry-level workers at food production businesses.

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Meanwhile, Conner is the author of the 2014 book, Grow A Sustainable Diet, and founder of the blog HomePlaceEarth.com, among many other endeavors.

Since entering the agriculture profession in the 1970s, Conner has passed her love of farming to the next generation. Her daughter, Betsy Trice, also teaches sustainable agriculture classes at Reynolds.

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