Need Homesteading Help? Your Local Cooperative Extension Service to the Rescue!

By Fritzi Newton

Are you trying to identify a snake you recently saw on your property? Do you have questions about which shade plants might do well in your yard? Does keeping chickens appeal to you, but you have no idea where to begin? Are you interested in getting your soil or well water tested? Never fear, your local branch of the Cooperative Extension Service can answer all of these questions/concerns and a myriad of others.

Since 1914, the United States Department of Agriculture has partnered with local universities to offer Cooperative Extension Services (CES) in each of our 50 states. Originally aimed at the rural farming communities, today the Extension Services provide answers to the public on gardening, livestock, homemaking, 4-H activities, and more. They also administer the renowned Master Gardener program where a person can get an answer to just about any gardening-related question, as well as learn the process for becoming an Extension Master Gardener.

Virginia's Cooperative Extension Services are coordinated by Virginia Tech and Virginia State University. Spotsylvania County's division is located in The Marshall Center, along with Central Rappahannock Regional Library's C. Melvin Snow Branch. Stafford County's CES is housed in the Rowser Building, 1739 Jefferson Davis Highway. And, here is the link for the Cooperative Extension Service in Westmoreland County. Almost any question can be answered via telephone, and pertinent material can be emailed or faxed. The statewide website (, opens a new window) also offers enhanced digital publications on many topics.

How does CRRL partner with our local CES departments? A variety of programs are brought into the branches, including visits from the Master Gardeners who, as noted above, answer gardening questions from the public and direct them to pertinent resources. Other programs range from planning menus to making the most of a family's budget to creating holiday crafts.

Of course, Central Rappahannock Regional Library has a vast collection of materials on these topics as well. Listed below are a few of the books which are available on gardening, raising livestock, and personal budgeting

Attainable Sustainable by Kris Bordessa

Backyard Farming by Kim Pezza

The Backyard Homestead Guide to Raising Farm Animals by Gail Damerow

Deerproofing your Yard & Garden by Rhonda Massingham

Snakes of Virginia by Donald W. Linzey

Vertical Vegetables by Amy Andrychowicz

The Year-round Solar Greenhouse by Lindsey Schiller

You Need A Budget by Jesse Mecham

If you haven’t already discovered the many free services offered via the Cooperative Extension Services, hopefully this post will direct you to check out this invaluable local resource!