The Rocky Mount Rotary "Moo" Crew purchases milk to distribute to area food banks. Courtesy of Farm Credit of Virginias

Here’s a round-up of news briefs from around Southwest and Southside. Send yours for possible inclusion to

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Farm Credit of the Virginias gives grants to groups in Southwest and Southside

Farm Credit of the Virginias, a lending cooperative that serves Virginia, West Virginia and western Maryland, has awarded $100,000 in grants to eligible charitable organizations through the newly established Farm Credit of the Virginias’ Charitable Contributions Fund. Many of the receipients are in Southwest and Southside. The following organizations were awarded funding to support their efforts and expenses:

Farm Credit of the Virginias’ Charitable Contributions Fund was established in 2022 as a means for the association to engage with and build stronger partnerships with organizations that preserve and promote farmers and families in the rural communities they serve. Applications for the next round of funding through the Farm Credit of the Virginias’ Charitable Contributions Fund will be available in spring 2023. Learn more about the program on our website:

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Robert Saunders (third from left) was named the 2022 Swisher/Sunbelt Southeastern Farmer of the Year. Saunders operates Saunders Brothers Inc., along with his brothers (from left) Jim, Bennett and Tom. Photo by Tim Skiles for Virginia Tech.

Nelson County farmer named Southeastern Farmer of the Year

Nelson County farmer Robert Saunders has been named the 2022 Swisher/Sunbelt Southeastern Farmer of the Year.

Saunders is the general manager of Saunders Brothers Inc., a multi-generational farm in Piney River that he operates along with his brothers, Tom, Bennett and Jim. All are graduates of Virginia Tech. They grow woody ornamentals, annuals, perennials, boxwood, grafted trees, peaches, nectarines, apples, and Asian pears on their farm.

The Saunders family’s most recent accolade was announced last week at the Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie, Georgia, where Robert Saunders represented Saunders Brothers and the Commonwealth of Virginia as the 2022 Virginia Farmer of the Year. Robert Saunders is just the fifth Virginia farmer to earn the Swisher/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year recognition.

The Saunders Brothers farm has roots that are deep at Virginia Tech. The university has issued degrees to 36 of Robert and Pat’s family members including brothers, sisters, nephews, and nieces. Also, Saunders Brothers currently has five other Hokies as a part of their team in sales and production.

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Farmville group receives grant to help care for pets of Meals on Wheels clients

Piedmont Senior Resources Area Agency on Aging in Farmville has received a $7,500 Meals on Wheels Loves Pets grant to expand access to veterinary care through its PSR Pet Love Veterinary Assistance Program, which provides support directly to pets of Meals on Wheels clients.

“With our clients being homebound and many socially isolated, their beloved pets are sometimes their only companionship,” said Nikki Dean, Nutrition Program Coordinator and lead for the PSR Pet Love Program for Piedmont Senior Resources in a statement. “In order to honor our PSR mission to keep our older clients healthy and independent in their homes, we have to help ensure that their beloved pets are able to receive the same care.”

“We have found that when our drivers deliver meals to some of our homebound clients, they find their meal trays on the floor near where pet food should be,” said Director of Nutrition and Transportation Thomas Jordan Miles III in a statement. “Their pets are often just as important to them as their children, and this program will result in their furry companions having healthier lives, which will have a positive effect on our clients’ happiness, combatting loneliness.”

Funding for this grant was made possible through a partnership between Meals on Wheels America and PetSmart Charities as part of Meals on Wheels America’s strategic effort to combat social isolation and loneliness among seniors across the country. This year, Meals on Wheels America is specifically seeking to expand its Meals on Wheels Loves Pets grantmaking in an effort to address existing service gaps and facilitate pet care for more seniors in need and will distribute $1.1 million in funding to local programs by the end of this year. 

Piedmont Senior Resources Area Agency on Aging, Inc. provides supportive services and advocates for persons 60 years of age and older. The agency is a private, nonprofit agency serving residents of Amelia, Buckingham, Charlotte, Cumberland, Lunenburg, Nottoway and Prince Edward counties.