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About the Center

Eastern Shore Agricultural Research and Extension Center

Vision Statement 

We will support the agricultural community to ensure economic and environmental sustainability by building on the land grant mission to serve the Commonwealth of Virginia and global communities.

Mission Statement 

The ESAREC’s faculty, staff, and students serve to create, integrate and disseminate knowledge to stakeholders by:

  • Improving vegetable, grain, oilseed, and fiber crop production and sustainability;
  • Protecting land, air, and water resources; and
  • Fostering undergraduate and graduate education through applied and basic research coupled with experiential learning and outreach.



The Eastern Shore AREC embraces the following core values:

  • Freedom of inquiry;
  • Mutual respect;
  •  Lifelong learning;
  • A commitment to welcoming, inclusive, and diverse communities;
  • Ut Prosim (That I May Serve);
  • Personal and institutional integrity;
  • A culture of continuous improvement and inclusive excellence;
  • Integrated scholarship across the land-grant missions;
  • Global engagement in teaching, research, and outreach; and
  • Interdisciplinary collaboration.


Our Motto 

Our motto, UT PROSIM (That I May Serve), emphasizes our commitment to serve individuals and society.


Strategic Priority 1: Advance excellence in research, teaching, and extension for the Commonwealth and beyond.


The Eastern Shore AREC will be a global leader for vegetable, grain, and oilseed agricultural systems with world-class faculty and students by advancing its research, teaching, and extension missions as part of a comprehensive land-grant university.

  • Advance excellence in basic and applied research and discovery.
  • Advance undergraduate and graduate teaching and learning excellence.
  • Advance excellence in extension and outreach for the Commonwealth and beyond.


  • Diversify and increase extramural expenditures by 20%.
  • Increase number of interdepartmental, intercollegiate, national, and international collaborations by 10%.
  • Increase faculty participation in extension training by 5% annually.
  • Broaden collaborations by building new and leveraging existing partnerships at multiple scales, from campus to global.
  • Increase indicators of excellence across our missions, including nominations of faculty, staff, and students for awards.


Strategic Priority 2: Elevate the Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) Difference.


The ESAREC is the foundational component of Virginia Tech’s Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) mission of service to the agricultural community. The ESAREC will build and support communities of discovery and learning for global citizens to engage with critical and emerging challenges.

  • Address critical challenges related to environment, economy, and food to build communities.
  • Increase global impact and visibility of Eastern Shore AREC.
  • Support lifelong engagement and learning for alumni and local communities.


  • Increase partnerships with stakeholders (e.g. government, industry, nonprofits) and participation in public events highlighting critical environment, economy, and food challenges by 10%.
  • Continually update and enhance graduate teaching and experiential learning to reflect current and emerging challenges.
  • Increase external communication about ESAREC activities addressing critical environment, economy, and food challenges as measured by the number of scholarly publications, citations, and popular media stories by 15%.
  • Increase ESAREC’s impact on Virginia and beyond as measured by inventions, job creation, social change, startups, and economic impacts by 10%.
  • Increase on-site and virtual learning opportunities for alumni and community members at the ESAREC by 10%.


Strategic Priority 3: Be a Destination for Talent.


The Eastern Shore AREC will be a force for positive change by attracting and retaining innovative, diverse, and dynamic faculty, staff, and students. Alumni, local, and global communities will recognize Virginia Tech as a lifelong learning destination. The Eastern Shore AREC will invest, empower, support, and value a workforce that will champion our vision for the future.

  • Attract, retain, and develop the talents of diverse faculty and staff in research, teaching, and extension.
  • Assist faculty and families with assimilation into the Eastern Shore community.
  • Increase faculty and staff numbers to better align with original 1985 MOU guidelines established by Virginia Tech and the Virginia Truck and Ornamentals Research Stations (VATORS).
  • Attract, retain, and ensure degree completion of students.
  • Increase representational diversity and cultural awareness in academics, research and extension.


  • Increase hiring and retention of diverse faculty, staff, and graduate students.
  • Increase resident faculty numbers from 2 to 7, as established in 1985 to fulfill MOU requirements to ensure excellence in entomology, horticulture, plant pathology, produce food safety, soils and nutrient management, and weed science.
  • Increase resident classified staff numbers from 7 to 14 to ensure adequate applied research and extension programming for farm and laboratory areas, as established in 1985 to fulfill MOU requirements.
  • Mentor junior faculty and staff to achieve internationally recognized research and extension programming and funding.
  • Achieve progress in competitive administrative and professional faculty and staff salaries towards the 50th percentile of relevant market range.
  • Increase the percentage of faculty and staff that remain employed at ESAREC beyond 5-years.
  • Increase diversity training programs, beyond requirements, for current faculty, staff, and students.
  • Increase diversity of applicant pools for faculty, staff, and hourly wage positions.


Strategic Priority 4: Ensure ESAREC Excellence.


The ESAREC will, through continuous strategic planning with intentional stakeholder involvement, create opportunities to solicit and explore innovative ideas, and inform resource allocation. The ESAREC will also optimize efficiency, effectiveness of personnel, fiscal resources and processes in support of strategic goals.

  • Continually enhance the physical and technological resources and human capital of the AREC to nurture robust, inter-disciplinary research and extension.
  • Develop and foster mutually beneficial relationships with internal and external stakeholders.
  • Develop sustainable financial models necessary for meeting the human and physical aspirations of the AREC.


  • Implement fiscal processes, such as utilization of fallow land and cost-recovery strategies, to solidify AREC income to support incoming faculty start-up packages.
  • Develop and implement (with annual evaluation) a sustainable strategy for regular replacement and upgrades of machinery and instrumentation.
  • Develop a 3-year strategic facilities plan identifying programmatic space needs for renovation, major maintenance, and new construction
  • Ensure periodic discussion with the AREC advisory board and other relevant stakeholders to encourage stakeholder involvement.

History of the AREC

The history of the Eastern Shore Agricultural Research and Extension Center can be traced to the late 1890's when a group of truck (vegetable) growers and marketers in the Norfolk area formed the Southern Produce Company. Soon thereafter, they purchased land in the Norfolk area. In 1907, following discussions with the Virginia State Board of Agriculture, the Virginia Experiment Station at Blacksburg, and the United States Department of Agriculture, a vegetable research center at Norfolk, was established. At this time, the USDA assumed the responsibility for personnel salaries and the Station began operations. In 1920, the State assumed responsibilities for the operations of the Station and placed it under the administration of the Department of Education.

By 1912, it was realized that research of a similar nature was needed on the Eastern Shore and on February 13, 1913 land was leased near Tasley for this undertaking. In 1918, the Eastern Shore Station was moved from Tasley to another leased farm just south of Onley where it was located until 1955. During those years, staff would take the ferry to the Eastern Shore to conduct research in this important vegetable area.

On January 1, 1956, the Eastern Shore research activities were moved to the present location near Painter, on state-owned land, a purchase made possible by funds appropriated by the General Assembly in 1954. Money was made available for construction of an office and laboratory building, a garage, shop, storage building and a residence for the farm manager. Since then, additional buildings were constructed which include a greenhouse with attached head-house, a vegetable grading building, a sweet potato curing and storage facility, additional offices and laboratories were added to the main building, and most recently, housing for graduate students was added.

A change in affiliation and administration of the center occurred when the Virginia General Assembly approved a "Memorandum of Agreement" which made the Station a part of Virginia Tech, effective July 1, 1985. This administrative structure continues.

Research and Extension Focus

The primary focus of this center has always been to support this major vegetable production area of Virginia through research and Extension activities. Five, full-time faculties have worked to enable the sustainability of production in the areas of soil fertility and plant nutrient management, horticulture, entomology, plant pathology, and weed science. Research also addresses the rotational crops of importance to the region, plasticulture, and possible alternative crops with potential economic significance.

In addition to faculty, staff includes a team of research supervisors, a farm manager, an office specialist, farm laborers, a mechanic, and a custodian. In recent years, as many as six to eight graduate students annually have conducted research leading to their M.S. and Ph.D. degrees at this facility.