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News, feature coverage of research, teaching, and extension and outreach, and alumni spotlights

In the news

Virginia Tech’s SmartFarm Innovation Network of skilled and dedicated faculty researchers is expanding as part of a strategic effort to create a statewide network of interconnected faculty, partners, and resources for scientific discovery and developing and deploying new technologies.

Since 2020, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech has advertised 13 new tenure-track positions identified as the SmartFarm Innovation Network cluster including AAEC faculty Anubhab Gupta, economics of international agricultural development, agricultural and applied economics.

Eight additional new faculty hires within the college have been identified with the skills and knowledge that contribute to the strength of the SmartFarm cluster cohort including two AAEC faculty Elinor Benami, data analytics and machine learning in global agricultural sustainability; agricultural and applied economics, and Chi Ta, environmental, energy and public economics, and agricultural and applied economics.

Sept. 14, 2022 - Read full story 

“Ellerbrock: Universal justice – today and tomorrow” Why have rising gasoline prices pushed global famine, violent conflicts, refugee dislocation, degrading poverty and ecological devastation to the back pages? Economists know the answer: humanity has a high discount rate. In the minds of many people, today counts more than tomorrow. Check out AAEC professor Mike Ellerbrock’s commentary in the Roanoke Times.

More DC Region Residents Facing Food Insecurity: Washington ABC7 — A new survey finds one in three people in the DC Region face food insecurity and the pandemic has only made it worse. George Davis, Professor of Agricultural and Applied Economics at Virginia Tech broke down the research. Interview with George Davis

Fertilizer prices reaching record highs, worrying farmers as planting season is underway: Inflation, supply shortages and the war in Ukraine have driven fertilizer prices to record highs as concerned farmers begin the 2022 planting season. USA Today, Jason Grant interview

Original newsbreak - USDA grants Virginia Tech researchers +$633,000 to study farm-to-fork food waste
By Watchful Eye – Twitter handle
Northern Neck & greater Virginia

Independent Messenger - Virginia Tech researchers working to develop methods to measure farm-to-fork food loss
City of Emporia, Greensville County, and the surrounding communities. 

The Washington Post - Virginia Board of Health reprimands health commissioner 
Mike Ellerbrock interview/quote

The Washington Post - 1 out of 3 people in D.C. region face food insecurity, survey finds
Quote from George Davis

To provide new insight into the agricultural land values in the Commonwealth of Virginia, Jen Friedel and Patrick Kayser along with a team of undergraduate and graduate students, have published a peer-reviewed extension publication titled “Agricultural Land Sales in Virginia.” 

Awards and Achievements


  • Olga Isengildina-Massa was recognized with the Excellence in Career Advising Award from the Virginia Tech Career and Professional Development Office
  • Jonathan van Senten received the Distinguished Early Career Award from the U.S. Aquaculture society
  • Mike Ellerbrock was inducted into Virginia Tech's Academy of Faculty Service
  • AAEC had new undergraduate majors approved, including a new track in Food and Health Systems Economics


  • Kevin Boyle honored as AAEA Fellow, recipient of CALS' Faculty Alumni Engagement Award, Published in Science Magazine (third time in 12-month period)
  • Dick Crowder selected as Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets Distinguished Alumni, inductee to the Virginia Academy of Faculty Leadership, Reappointed C.G. Thornhill Professor of Agricultural Trade
  • Kim Morgan received Outstanding Teaching of a Course Award from the Southern Agricultural Economics Association, Reappointed Kohl Junior Faculty Fellow
  • Mike Ellerbrock received the Diversity & Inclusion Service Award from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences



  • Everett Peterson retired after 30+ years of service
  • Dick Crowder retired after 11 years of service
  • Lex Bruce retired after 12 years of service
  • Gordon Groover retired this fall after 35 years of service
  • James Pease retired this summer after 30 years of service
  • Leon Geyer retired this spring after 37 years of service

CALS Alumni Awardees


  • Dixie Dalton was honored with AAEC’s Distinguished Alumni in Academia
  • Megan Dickhans was honored with AAEC’s Outstanding Recent Alumni in Academia Award
  • Brad Copenhaver was honored with AAEC’s Recent Alumni in Industry/Government Award
  • Lindsay Reames was honored with AAEC’s Distinguished Alumni in Industry/Government


  • MG Thompson selected as Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets Distinguished Alumni
  • Katie Frazier to be honored with AAEC’s Distinguished Alumni in Industry/Government Award at this year’s CALS’ Alumni Celebration
  • Dixie Dalton to be honored with AAEC’s Distinguished Alumni in Academia Award at this year’s CALS’ Alumni Celebration
  • Megan Dickhans to be honored with AAEC’s Recent Alumni in Academia Award at this year’s CALS’ Alumni Celebration for her dedication to teaching in the college
  • Greg Glenn to be honored with AAEC’s Recent Alumni in Industry/Government Award at this year’s CALS’ Alumni Celebration for his commitment to teaching current CALS and AAEC students


Other Alumni Achievements


  • Katie Frazier promoted to Chief Marketing & External Affairs Officer at Farm Credit of the Virginias after 9 months at Farm Credit
  • John Whitley, 1996 graduate of the department confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the next assistant secretary of the Army (financial management and comptroller)
  • Sarah McKay, a graduate of AAEC’s master’s program and COINS’ first graduate fellow, was promoted to director of Market Development at the National Corn Growers Association
  • Keely Bushby, 2018 AAEC graduate became an Associate Brand Manager for Utz Snacks
  • Matt Lohr, a Virginia Tech alumnus with a minor in Agricultural Economics was appointed Chief of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service





  • Colburn Hassman was recognized as the department's outstanding senior for his academic achievements and widespread involvement during his college tenure


  • Zach Jacobs traveled to Kansas City on scholarship to advocate for agriculture as an American Royal Scholar, participated in the Agriculture Future of America’s Food Institute
  • Margaret Benson participated in the Agriculture Future of America’s Food Institute
  • Ben Garber selected as AAEC Outstanding Senior, top Three Finalist for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences 2019 Outstanding Senior, invited to speak at CALS Donor Appreciation Banquet




  • Alexis Villacis-Aveiga received the Randolph L. Grayson Outstanding CALS Diversity Scholar Award from the college's Diversity Council
  • Nasim Ebadi received a graduate teaching award from the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture (NACTA) association


  • Namhoon Kim received the Robert O. Herrmann Outstanding Dissertation Award from the American Council on Consumer Interests
  • Yanliang Yang and Chaoping Xie defended their dissertations


  • Alexis Villacis-Aveiga received fellowship to attend 2018 Future Leaders Forum by the Association for International Agriculture and Rural Development and a travel scholarship to attend OpenCon
  • Mina Hejazi defended her dissertation and accepted a position at Chico State university
  • Namhoon Kim and Ling Yu defended their dissertations
  • Yuri Woo, Jaifeng Zhu, Muntasir Hasan, Sydni Jackson, Wesley Johnson, and Tyler Neff defended their theses


Communications Contact:

Melissa Vidmar