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Virginia Cooperative Extension names assistant director


BLACKSBURG, Va., Aug. 31, 2004 – James E. Riddell, who has been with Virginia Cooperative Extension for 27 years, has been selected as assistant director for Agriculture and Natural Resource programs.

"Jim has been an outstanding Extension Agent and administrator at both the unit level and, for the past two years, an outstanding district director," said Patricia Sobrero, Extension director and associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. "He knows what it takes to build strong educational programs as well as collaborative partnerships at the local and regional level. Jim is highly respected by clientele, agri-businesses, legislators, and Extension colleagues.

"His programs have had significant and long-term impacts in increasing agricultural profitability and protecting Virginia’s environment," Sobrero said. "We are looking to Jim’s leadership to help us build even stronger educational programs that meet the changing needs of our clients so they can improve their lives and communities."

Riddell said: "Our programs have to be based on the needs of local people and their communities. We want to listen to and identify the needs expressed by our clients, making sure we understand what they are.

"Virginia is a diverse state and we face a number of challenges in agriculture and natural resources. It is important that Virginia Cooperative Extension be a catalyst for positive change."

Riddell began his career in 1977 as Extension Agent in Orange County and also served as 4-H Youth Agent in Madison County. In 1978, he was named unit director for Extension activities in Greene County. He was Extension unit coordinator and agricultural agent in Louisa County from 1987 until 2003 when he became Northern District director with administrative responsibilities for Extension programs of 56 agents in 19 counties. The district stretches from highly urban areas around Washington, D.C., to largely rural areas, such as Nelson County.

He has received numerous awards and honors, including the Distinguished Service Award and the Achievement Award from the National Association of County Agricultural Agents. He has been recognized with special Commendations from both the Virginia State Senate and the Virginia House of Delegates for his work.

Virginia Farm Bureau awarded him its Best In-State Educational Activity award for a environmental protection field day, and he received the Distinguished Service Award from the Thomas Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District. He also has received the Wall of Fame Award from his colleagues in the Virginia Association of Agricultural Extension Agents for his outstanding contributions to agriculture.

He is recognized across the state for his expertise in farm and forest land preservation. As a direct result of his educational programs, Agricultural and Forestry Districts have been established by citizens and local governments and encompass more than 400 farms and 90,000 acres in Central Virginia. He also has provided educational programs on farmland protection in more than 15 Virginia counties.

As a result of this work, he was appointed by the Commissioner of Agriculture to the Virginia Taskforce on Farmland Preservation.

During 2001 and 2002, as a result of his work with USDA, several Central Virginia counties were designated as disaster areas due to the drought. Through his field demonstration efforts and one-on-one contacts with producers in the region, farmers received more than $1 million in additional funds from two special USDA programs.

Riddell holds a bachelor’s degree in Animal Science and a master’s degree in Career and Technical Education from Virginia Tech. He holds national certification from the American Society of Agronomy as a Crop Advisor and is recognized in Virginia as a nutrient management specialist.

Consistently ranked by the National Science Foundation among the top 10 institutions in agricultural research, Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences offers students the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s leading agricultural scientists. The college’s comprehensive curriculum gives students a balanced education that ranges from food and fiber production to economics to human health. The college is a national leader in incorporating technology, biotechnology, computer applications, and other recent scientific advances into its teaching program.

Founded in 1872 as a land-grant college, Virginia Tech has grown to become among the largest universities in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Today, Virginia Tech’s eight colleges are dedicated to putting knowledge to work through teaching, research, and outreach activities and to fulfilling its vision to be among the top research universities in the nation. At its 2,600-acre main campus located in Blacksburg and other campus centers in Northern Virginia, Southwest Virginia, Hampton Roads, Richmond, and Roanoke, Virginia Tech enrolls more than 28,000 full- and part-time undergraduate and graduate students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries in 180 academic degree programs.