Web Research: Best Practices

Research on the web can be a daunting task with numerous approaches whether it’s a school project or a professional effort. Today we are going to focus on a source of information that most may not even be aware of that is free and available for those who request.

Data.gov is available from the United States Government and provides links to all sorts of information collected and compiled by the government. The fact is, there are lots of government websites which are noted with a .gov URL. Many of them you may be aware of already but did you know that Data.gov organizes information by subject matter to make it more easily accessible?  It’s true!  The site has categories for broad research such as agriculture, education, climate, consumer, ecosystems, education, energy, finance, ocean and more–lots more!

There is also a general search option on the main page that you can use to bring up all of the articles from the database on any given topic. This simplifies your search should you know exactly what information you are searching for or if you want a quick overview of what’s available within the many databases of this vast web resource.

When you click on one of the main topics, you will be able to drill down to more specific categories within that data set. Education, for example currently provides over 300 data sets for the subject covering topics such as teacher shortages, college campus safety and more.

Next time you need some information or you just want to check on data the government collects and makes public, check out Data.gov. You never know what you might find out.

2016 Octagon House Window Tour

[slideshow_deploy id=’1067’]

The Abijah Thomas Octagon House is not only a historic home located in Smyth County but it is an educational and interesting site to visit if you’re passing through. The home is located at 801 Octagon House Road, Marion VA (Thomas Bridge Community) and in recent years was purchased by Derek Orr.  Since then, he has formed the Octagon House Foundation in hope of restoring this once spectacular 1857 Civil War era octagonal home.

The Octagon House has a fascinating history locally and is on the register of historic buildings. The house has been the topic of historical research as well as urban legend and is thought to be haunted. Contrary to popular urban legends that claim that the house is haunted by slaves who were beaten and died at the hands of their owner, Abijah Thomas was actually documented to treat the slaves he owned very well–so well in fact that a number of them returned to work for him after slavery was abolished.

Today, the Octagon House Foundation hosted its 2nd Annual Open Window Tour fundraising event. This event allows people to come out and see the home with the boards removed from the 1st floor windows so that the interior of the house can be viewed in a walk around tour. The window tour features several historians and docents who provide information about each window you come to so that you may get a better idea of what the house once was.  We filmed a short teaser at the beginning of the tour today to give people an idea of what they could expect when they attend this wonderful event.  In the area of the first window on the tour, a sign is posted where fingerprints of a small slave child can be found in the brick of the home.

The rest of the tour continues around the house showcasing the parlor area, bedrooms, the winter kitchen, dining room and office of Abijah Thomas accompanied by lots of historic facts and research.  The tour is loosely guided but at your own pace. You can take as long as you like at any area, photos are permitted and questions are encouraged.  This is all included for a $5 donation to the Octagon House Foundation.

After the main attraction of the window tour, you can spend some down time just relaxing on the beautiful lawn. At one time this location was known as Mountainview, likely because of the beautiful view of the mountains it overlooks.  There were tents, tables and chairs set up in various locations across the property, merchandise was sold to benefit the restoration of the house that included a variety of t-shirts, original prints of the Octagon House, Christmas ornament pre-purchase, and even some of the original nails from the house that were collected in cleanup. Other volunteers had tables set up displaying artifacts that were found in and around the property thought to be original to the home in the era in which it was constructed.

Food and drinks were available for purchase and a bluegrass band was on site to entertain throughout the day.  At the other end of the yard, a confederate camp display was set up to pay tribute to the historic significance of the Civil War in our area.

Here’s another clip of some of the music and happenings at today’s event

An interview was conducted with Derek Orr, owner of the Octagon House –he says there’s more to come! Check out the interview below!

If you are interested in becoming a member of the Octagon House Foundation, please see information provided at the link above. Donations also accepted online via PayPal.

Alumni Group Continuing to Sponsor Book Drive to Benefit School

Sugar Grove School Alumni Book DriveThe Sugar Grove School Alumni group is currently sponsoring a book drive to benefit the Sugar Grove School library. The goal of this book drive is to fill the gaps where budgets fell short and to provide the library with books on approved reading lists that coincide with Standards of Learning goals. Many of these books are popular ones that children at other schools enjoy but are not available in our school library. A wishlist has been put together by working with school administration, the local librarian and students and contains over 150 different items to choose from in a variety of price ranges.

The group’s goal was set at 50 books over summer break; to date, 48 new books have been shipped to the school to be cataloged into the library for the new school year. Some community groups have contributed to the drive as well making it possible to place group orders and therefore get free shipping so that every dollar spent can go toward books, not shipping.

The Sugar Grove School Alumni Group is made up of 360+ members hailing from all across the country with one thing in common–a love for Sugar Grove School.  Since the group has grown exponentially since it’s creation just a few years earlier, a unanimous decision was made to sponsor several efforts throughout the year to improve the school, provide needed materials, items, etc. for the benefit of the students, faculty and staff.

You may read the full rundown of this effort here and also get a link to the wishlist.

 

We’re Open, Come On In!

We're open, come on in!

We’re open, come on in!

The Sugar Grove Farmers Market has been serving our community since 2013 and will continue to serve our community and the greater Rye Valley and Smyth County areas thanks to our new partnerships in 2016 with Locally Grown and our existing partnerships with the USDA, Virginia Grown, VDACS and our loyal vendors.

Last year, the 2016 season didn’t look too promising and our market faced several challenges that we needed to overcome, the main one concerning hosting the event at a physical location and without existing conflicts to benefit the community, vendors, organizations and businesses we were serving and supporting.  For the 2016 season, the Sugar Grove Farmers Market has taken on an entirely new face!  We are available online, anytime, anyplace, anywhere! https://sugargroveva.locallygrown.net is our new home!

Vendors are still able to keep 100% of their profits just as they were in the past there years of operations at the Sugar Grove Farmers Market. Customers can shop online, make purchases with free memberships on our website or even call in orders to vendors who offer this service and bypass having an account altogether.

The current Sugar Grove Farmers Market provides only locally sourced items that are of the highest quality. We select our vendors carefully so that you are guaranteed to get a high quality item when you shop the market online. Our vendors must adhere to our market’s existing guidelines concerning their products, food safety and other criteria designed to maintain a high standard.

We have been open online since April 2016, however, more vendors have recently listed items beginning in June to account for a majority of our merchandise currently available. We have a wonderful selection of cakes, pies, cobblers, jams, jellies, brownies, and breads provided by Four Seasons Bakery in Marion. These items are all made fresh to order and are available via call in or website purchase. In addition to these items, we also offer exclusive Sugar Grove themed merchandise, locally crafted items as available and books written by local authors.

Having an online market allows more vendors to participate and offer a wider variety of merchandise for our customer base. There are local pick ups and deliveries for those in the community. Other items may be shipped. All transactions are handled according to vendor preferences.

 

*The Sugar Grove Farmers Market is not Affiliated or Associated with the Rye Valley Ruritan

 

 

Online Farmers Market

The Sugar Grove Farmers Market was created in 2013 and has taken place during Spring and Summer months on the parking lot at Sugar Grove School. This location provided a great place for a farmers market in recent years however, we did face some challenges that made it difficult to operate at this location.  At this location, we only enjoyed one market day each month, weather permitting. Some Grovers expressed schedule conflicts or that they would like to see the market grow and expand. I am happy to say that these concerns have been addressed and that the perfect solution has been found for both!

Beginning in June, you will start seeing our market listed daily on our community calendar. You can access the Sugar Grove Farmers Market now online at https://sugargroveva.locallygrown.net/ to view the available items listed. Some items have limited availability, some are made to order and others are continually listed depending on availability and their vendors.  We are currently working toward getting new vendors and their products listed and expect many more items to be available to the general public soon.

This new online option works well to meet our community’s needs because it allows vendors to sell and deliver on their terms and those of the purchaser by working together. It still facilitates the support of local groups, organizations, farmers, individuals and businesses in the same manner the physical location did–this one’s just a little more accessible to a broader audience and there’s no setup, weather concerns or worries that people just may not show up–we’re always online!

Because we are going to be open 24/7, new vendors always have the opportunity to sign up and offer their products. Merchandise is still approved by management and examined for quality in order to maintain existing high standards. The same selling guidelines still apply to online selling as applied to physical location selling.

If you want to be a vendor, you simply need to go to our online market site and sign up as a “grower” to get started. From there, you will be reviewed and approved by management and your merchandise can then be listed. It is best to have photos of your items as well as detailed descriptions for each.

For the 2016 season, vendors will continue to keep 100% of their profits earned at the Sugar Grove Farmers Market.

The online farmers market concept is relatively new in our area however, the Independence Farmer’s Market decided to follow suit and give it a try as well. They have since been successful in their endeavors and we strive to do the same. Aside from bringing about a new experience in the digital age, this also allows vendors who may be committed to one market to also offer their merchandise at multiple markets maximizing their profits and production and also creating stronger local support for locally sourced merchandise.

 

Sugar Grove School Alumni Reunion

It has been more than 25 years since Sugar Grove School’s famous “Gathering of the Maple Leafs” reunion in 1990. According to the local newspaper, more than 1500 people attended the event and it was lauded as the biggest event ever held in Sugar Grove and likely the largest school reunion in the county.  Now, in 2016, Sugar Grove School Alumni will once again get the opportunity to gather and enjoy an event in the community.

This highly anticipated event is set for Saturday, August 27, 2016 beginning at 11 AM until 3 PM at Sugar Grove School. This year’s event will take place in the school cafeteria dining room rain or shine.  Ticket purchase in advance is required for this event. Each ticket includes 1 catered meal, beverage, and an event exclusive souvenir book “The History of Sugar Grove School” which is a full color publication in 7 x 10 format.  **PURCHASE TICKETS HERE**

“The History of Sugar Grove School” was originally written in 2014 to document the history of the school in our community when we learned that our school faced closure or consolidation and eventually a name change. This original version was published for a while on our community website until which point it was further researched and revised for the purpose of this event.

The book features a collection of historic photographs as well as recent documentation of the 2015 Alumni Luncheon and more. There’s even a memories section in the back for you to write down your thoughts, friends contacts, etc.

Four Seasons Bakery from Marion will be providing the catering for our event this year and will be serving Pulled Pork BBQ, 2 sides, bread, salad, desert and beverages.

Tickets for this event are $20 each and will be on sale until July 1, 2016. You may purchase tickets securely here. For more details about the event, please visit THIS SECTION of the page.

Smyth County Needs to Get On Board Early

Sunset Digital Communications is a name that may soon be familiar in households in our area. Why is that? It’s because Sunset just bought BVU’s fiber optic cable and the company is interested in bringing expanded services to our area and using the existing cable to facilitate it.

The fiber optic cable currently takes a right turn off of interstate 81 and runs along Highway Sixteen/Sugar Grove Highway through Sugar Grove and extends into Galax. It has great potential to be the delivery pipeline for improved internet and phone services as well as television options but that’s not all–this fiber optic has great potential to provide some of the technology necessary to support cellular service in Sugar Grove.

Presently, we have a limited number of service options in Smyth County because companies like Comcast and Century Link monopolize these services and therefore keep the prices higher. Fiber optic would allow higher speeds at lower cost which would be passed along to the customers in the end.

Sunset is now asking everyone to fill out their survey to show interest in their services. You can find that form here.  Sunset has already scheduled meetings with the board of supervisors in Dickenson, Tazewell, Buchanan and Russell counties. There are plans in the near future for meetings with Washington county officials. An inquiry was made to the company recently to ask whether or not they would be visiting Smyth County–they indicated that they would be interested but had not yet been contacted or placed on the agenda. In other words, no interest was shown at this time.

If you want more services and to establish cellular service, you need to let your county administrator know that we will settle for no less than an active attempt to attract these services. Please fill out the form and send an e-mail to your representative on the Smyth County Board of Supervisors requesting that they show some interest in Sunset Digital Communications. This is yet another window of opportunity that will close and pass us by if our leaders fail to show some interest!

The next meeting is scheduled for April 12 at 5 PM. Please take the time to show up at these meetings and demand that interest be shown so that Sugar Grove can have the same access to services and resources as the rest of the county.

2016 Sugar Grove Farmers Market

VENDORSThe 2016 season of the Sugar Grove Farmers Market is quickly approaching launch time and we’re ready to kick it up a notch this time around and offer many more options through available technology.

A necessity to review the success, operations and structure of the existing market taking into consideration other local events, community organizations and vendor concerns came about in 2015. This resulted in what should create a much improved experience for both customers and vendors who have enjoyed the Sugar Grove Farmers Market since its establishment in 2013.

For the 2016 season, vendors will have the option to sell their wares online via https://sugargroveva.locallygrown.net and customers can likewise make purchases online OR in person. Merchandise delivery terms are completely left up to the vendor. The current options are in-person pick up or delivery locally or shipping goods and merchandise.  We are also inviting other vendors participating at other local farmers markets to participate in our online market to broaden merchandise options and provide a larger vendor opportunity for the future success of our market.

If you are interested in using our online market, you will need to visit https://sugargroveva.locallygrown.net and set up an account. This is free of charge for the 2016 season just like our physical farmers market has been in the past. If you have questions you can e-mail Sarah Combs, Manager at sugargrovevirginia@gmail.com.

The Sugar Grove Farmers Market invites local businesses, organizations and individuals to participate and to partake in our opportunities for local business networking, to promote products and services and enjoy a community event.

The Sugar Grove Farmers Market is not affiliated with Rye Valley Ruritans.

 

Sunset Digital Communications Wants to Hear From You!

Sunset BVURemember all of those fiber optic cables that took a right turn off exit 45 and came across the mountain right through the middle of Sugar Grove several years back?  Those lines are owned by BVU and are presently being purchased by Sunset. Sunset is interested in who wants services in our area and they are currently accepting responses from interested people via their online form here. Please take a moment and provide your name and address where you’d like to see this service available and submit it so that our community can develop its infrastructure on the same levels as the rest of the county and greater Southwest Virginia. This could be the start to bringing a wider variety of services to our community as well as more competitive pricing. An introduction package form for our area is available at THIS LINK with more details about pricing, services and coverage.

Sunset provides not only residential services but also a wide variety of business services. This is important to Sugar Grove because we presently do not have a service provider who can offer this type of service in our area. Having these services available as an option may attract businesses to our community and will most certainly have a positive effect on property values, population growth and economic development for the future.

Most importantly, the more services that are available in our area and the more technology that exist, the better our chances are of establishing cellular service. Each new technology that’s available here is an attraction point for cellular providers that can be added to existing efforts to establish service.

Special thanks to Ken Heath for bringing this information to my attention to share with our community.

2016 Sugar Grove Farmers Market

market quoteThe Sugar Grove Farmers Market was established in 2013 and since has shown measurable progress in our community and has been enjoyed by all who have participated. We have overcome several barriers during this time and constantly strive toward improvement with each season.

In the 2015 season, we struggled a bit with some issues beyond our control however, we overcame those issues and ended up with donations from the community that funded the purchase of some beautiful new banner signs that were unveiled at the end of the season last year (thank you!) as well as a hand made sign that was donated in the absence of our original sign.

While we can’t give up all of the secrets just yet, we can say that the Sugar Grove Farmers Market will continue during the 2016 season as planned and will boast some new features that are designed to make merchandise available from around the area right here in our community from a larger variety of vendors.

If you are interested in becoming a vendor at the Sugar Grove Farmers Market please contact management at SugarGroveVirginia@gmail.com as soon as possible so that we can integrate you into the new and improved market plan.  As always, the Sugar Grove Farmers Market not only encourages individuals to participate but we also welcome the participation of area groups, businesses and organizations. The Sugar Grove Farmers Market aspires to be a strong community function that everyone can enjoy and benefit from.

 

 

 

 

*The Sugar Grove Farmers Market is not affiliated with the Rye Valley Ruritans