Catawba Sustainability Center

Virginia Tech’s Catawba Sustainability Center is a 377 acre farm property situated in the beautiful Catawba Valley of Virginia and serves as a living laboratory to advance environmental stewardship and community engagement to provide a learning environment for the research, teaching, and demonstration of sustainable practices in agriculture, forestry, and land management. As a member of Virginia Tech’s College of Outreach and International Affairs, the work at the Catawba Sustainability Center transcends all University Departments to exemplify the notion that learning is interdisciplinary and occurs in both the classroom and on the farm with hands in the soil. The Catawba Sustainability Center strives on its local partnership with the County of Roanoke, as well as a close relationship with Virginia Cooperative Extension. The Catawba Sustainability Center offers a space for faculty, students of all ages, community members, and visitors just passing through to learn about sustainable agriculture production, agroforestry, water quality monitoring, wetland restoration, and much more.

Catawba Sustainability Center nurtures budding farmers with the Small Farm Incubator Plots program
Catawba Sustainability Center nurtures budding farmers with the Small Farm Incubator Plots program.
The CSC provides hands-on learning opportunities to students interested in taking on projects related to their programs and initiatives.

Catawba Sustainability Center Programs, Initiatives & Parnterships

This one day workshop will prepare the beginning beekeeper for a successful season. A combination of classroom instruction and field demonstrations will provide the participant with a strong foundation of beekeeping knowledge. Led by Virginia certified beekeeper Mark Chorba, topics will cover everything from starting out to caring for you colony and harvesting honey. Visit the Beginning Beekeepers Workshop website for upcoming dates and information.

Agroforestry is the integration of trees into a farm landscape for economic and environmental benefits. In an effort to create more diverse and healthy land use, the Center has incorporated several species of trees onto the property.

Partnerships:  Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation (FREC) in the College of Natural Resources and Environment (CNRE)

The Backcross Breeding Orchard will breed American chestnut trees with those resistant to the chestnut blight. Installation of Phase I of the orchard took place during April 2014 and is expected to produce a 300 – 500 tree orchard within five years.

Partnerships: American Chestnut Foundation, Catawba Landcare

Roanoke County and Virginia Tech are collaborating to construct trails that connect hikers from the Appalachian Trail to Catawba via the Catawba Sustainability Center property. This project includes a trailhead and an area for parking at the Center. The initial phase will open several miles of new trail and a new access point to McAfee Knob. Construction is underway and the trail system is slated to open soon.

Partnerships: Roanoke County, Pathfinders, Appalachian Trail Conservancy

VCE has dedicated a specialist to the Catawba Sustainability Center that will conduct sustainable agriculture education and demonstration programs.

Partnership: Virginia Cooperative Extension

For questions regarding internships, please contact CSC Manager Adam Taylor at adamht@vt.edu or (540) 588-0283.

Over 40 acres of pasture host a mature stand of Native Warm Season Grass, including switchgrass, big bluestem, and Indian grass. These grasses serve as ground bird nesting habitat in the spring, livestock forage during the summer, and biofuel feedstock in the winter.

Silvopasture is a land management conservation practice where trees are integrated into pasturelands for environmental and economic benefits. Currently 12 acres of silvopasture have been installed.

Partnerships: Department of Crop, Soils, and Environmental Science (CSES) in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), VA Division of Forestry (VADOF), and the American Chestnut Foundation

This project provides land and resources for beginning and expanding farmers and entrepreneurs. In 2017, six growers successfully produced vegetables, flowers, and sorghum. The program works to support young and beginning farmers by providing access to land, tools and equipment, pre-season land preparation, educational programming and technical expertise. The CSC's objective is to grow viable, independent farm businesses and to serve as a model new-farmer program by providing access to land and resources in a low-risk environment.

Partnerships: Local growers and entrepreneurs, Virginia Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Coalition

The StREAM project brings together scientists and educators in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) and the greater Virginia Tech community to develop a nationally recognized research facility that can be used to attract major competitive funding, improve undergraduate and graduate teaching, and enhance outreach opportunities.

Partnerships: Biological Systems Engineering (College of Engineering), Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science (ICTAS), and the Virginia Water Resources Research

The restoration of once native wetlands enhances water quality for the Chesapeake Bay, as well as provides habitat for various species of insects, reptile, amphibians and water fowl. The installation of wetlands improves the way water drains on the farm landscape, and provides education and enhanced scenery for visitors.

Partnerships: Biological Systems Engineering