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January 29, 2021

Master Gardeners honor education farm director

Contributed Photo
Jim Hankins, executive director of the Fauquier Education Farm, with a hand-painted plate created for the Master Gardener Association of Fauquier and Rappahannock Counties Community Partnership Award. The plate features the “Ed Farm” barn and sunflowers.
The Master Gardener Association of Fauquier and Rappahannock Counties has presented its fifth annual Community Partnership Award to Jim Hankins, executive director of the Fauquier Education Farm.

The award acknowledges a community member who collaborates with the Master Gardeners program to support their mission to educate residents about safe, effective and sustainable garden management practices.

“Jim’s wealth of knowledge and experience, along with his dedication and enthusiasm, have been instrumental to the success of the farm and to the partnership with the local Master Gardeners,” the organization said in a press release Friday morning. “Since March of 2020, in order to protect the health of our volunteers and the public, the Virginia Cooperative Extension all over the state had to cancel or reduce most of its public events. Due to the size of the farm, and volunteers’ ability to safely socially distance, the ‘Ed Farm’ has been one of the only means of this sort of interaction. We really appreciate Jim for providing us that opportunity.”

Food donations also have been more critical during the pandemic. “With a slew of volunteers,” the farm in 2020 harvested 71,428 pounds of produce, donated to community foodbanks.

That represents a 42-percent increase from the 50,250 pounds harvested and donated in 2019.

Last fall, in addition to its usual spring and summer sowings, the farm planted 1.5 acres of cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and kale in an area that normally gets put to rest for the season with a cover crop of hairy vetch, red clover and rye.

“This came at the perfect time, since so many families have experienced economic hardship during the Covid-19 pandemic,” the Master Gardeners said. “Jim was able to distribute some of that extra harvest, with the help of 4P Foods, to those in need all over our region.

“In addition, Jim teaches classes at the extension office, including the ‘Northern Piedmont Beginning Farmer Program,’ an introduction to farming and farming resources in our county. This is geared towards aspiring farmers or existing farmers who are thinking of diversifying their current offerings.

“ ‘Getting your Hands Dirty’ ” is the second course, which introduces students to the business requirements of operating a farm. They are recommended to anyone who is considering farming, even on a small scale, to supplement their income.”

Mr. Hankins also offers a series of free, public workshops at the Education Farm. They cover topics throughout the growing season, such as fruit and vegetable variety trials, using cover crops as “green manure” and managing deer in the farm or garden. Check the Fauquier Education Farm website or Facebook page for more details.

Extension Master Gardener volunteers dedicate at least 20 hours a year (and usually more) to community outreach and education — at farmers markets, the Master Gardener help desk, the education farm and community events.
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Chris Butler · January 31, 2021 at 7:52 pm
Jim has done a great job at the EdFarm! He makes it fun for everyone! Congratulations Jim!
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