Alex Hessler

Instructor
Alex Hessler
306B Saunders Hall
Blacksburg, Va. 24061

Overview

I am an instructor of organic and sustainable vegetable production, and the director of Homefield Farm, a six-acre organic farm located at Kentland Farm that supports experiential learning around organic and sustainable agriculture and provides fresh produce to campus dining centers. I am jointly appointed by the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences and Virginia Tech Dining Services.

Expertise

  • Organic Vegetable Production

Education

  • M.S. University of Kentucky, 2013
  • B.S. University of Montana, 2010

While most of my activity at Homefield Farm is focused on production and education, I do integrate some applied research into production fields on occasion. Past projects include evaluation of living mulch management strategies in tomato production and downy mildew-resistant basil variety trials. I also collaborate with Tom Kuhar, vegetable crop entomologist, in utilizing Homefield Farm production fields for integrated pest management research.

 

The centerpiece of my teaching program is the Sustainable Agriculture Practicum (HORT 2834), a 3-credit hands-on course in organic and sustainable vegetable production located at Homefield Farm. Participants in the course have the important and exciting responsibility of growing vegetables, fruits, and herbs that are served to VT students, staff, and faculty on campus. Students are involved in all aspects of running the farm, including planting, pest control, irrigation, and post-harvest handling.  The course builds practical skills and insight into sustainable food and farming systems that students carry into their personal and professional lives.  

In 2019 I developed the Farm Market Field Study (HORT 2964), a hands-on course centered around operating and managing an on-campus farm stand that sells vegetables grown at Homefield Farm.

Homefield Farm is an educational farm-to-campus program located at Kentland Research Farm managed collaboratively by the Department of Horticulture, Dining Services, and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS).  Homefield Farm began in 2009 as a small garden at Kentland Research Farm to provide experiential learning opportunities for students in the Civic Agriculture and Food Systems Minor and grow fresh produce for Dining Services.  The farm now produces vegetables on approximately six acres of land at Kentland Farm and in a high tunnel at the Urban Horticulture Center. The farm provides more than 55,000 pounds of vegetables, fruits, and herbs annually to dining halls across campus. In 2018, Homefield Farm became certified Organic and passed a USDA Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) inspection. In 2019, the Homefield Farm began selling produce on campus each week at a farm stand located in front of Turner Place at Lavery Hall. Learn more at https://www.dining.vt.edu/sustainability/homefieldfarm.html