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Going Green in the Valley with Blue Ridge Community College
Blue Ridge Community College hosted the “Going Green in the Valley” symposium on September 22 at their Plecker Workforce Center featuring speakers on sustainable agriculture, alternative energy, and green construction and design. The symposium was attended by Blue Ridge students and staff, members from the Shenandoah valley community, as well as others from the education field. The focus of the event was not only about incorporating “green” into business-as-usual practices and using clean, renewable energy, but also on the importance of keeping the jobs in the community and supporting your neighborhood businesses.
The keynote, Joel Salatin of Polyface, Inc., spoke about the sustainable agriculture business referencing his own farm’s practices. Polyface is “beyond organic” with pasteurized livestock and poultry that are grass fed and moved to new “salad bars” frequently. They do not ship products, but provide to local businesses and neighbors. Joel also stressed that we should keep the jobs at home – from the farm to the plate, “most steaks have seen more of America than the farmer that grew the cow.” Local food processing also means a smaller carbon footprint.
Other speakers included Charles Hendricks from The Gaines Group, PLC, highlighting green construction and building design practices that are more than just good for the environment, they are “common sense” practices. Bob Zickefoose, an assistant professor of mechanical design at Blue Ridge Community College, opened his talk with a renewable energy version of John Denver’s “Back Home Again” which received a huge round of applause – Bob’s talk focused on alternative energy opportunities including passive solar and geothermal. Dabney S. Lancaster Community College’s Earl Dodrill talked about Dabney’s wind turbine technician training program; the program launched this fall with 32 students enrolled. Earl focused on some of the physical requirements of being a wind technician – being able to climb up a 300 foot tower at least three times, plus not having a fear of heights. And one of the most important bits of information shared – entry level wind technicians can start at $55,000.
Image: Jen Fournelle, NWF Campus Ecology coordinator, at Blue Ridge Community College