Gagnon received the award at the Virginia Forestry Summit in Charlottesville on April 16. The council presents awards annually to faculty, staff, and administrators of the commonwealth’s land-grant universities, which include both Virginia Tech and Virginia State University, for meritorious or exemplary services to the industry of agribusiness during their careers.
As coordinator of the Virginia Forest Landowner Education Program, a Virginia Cooperative Extension program based in Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment, Gagnon develops educational programs and materials for over 375,000 private forest landowners in Virginia, including short courses, an online class, retreats, the Virginia Forest Landowner Update website, and a quarterly newsletter.
Gagnon coordinates the annual Forestry and Wildlife Field Tours, in which landowners, natural resource professionals, and other interested Virginians spend a day visiting private, industry, and public lands that center on multiple-use management opportunities and practices. The tour series is the longest running program of its kind in the commonwealth.
In addition to traditional landowner programs, she developed the Real Forestry for Real Estate Program to reach new woodland owners. This program engages real estate professionals who sell woodland properties by offering them continuing education credits on forestry topics and provides educational materials to new woodland owners.
Forestry industry members attribute Gagnon’s success to her engagement with landowners and the forestry industry across the commonwealth.
“Virginia Tech’s forestry Extension programs are widely viewed as a benchmark that all others in the field are judged against,” said Easton Loving, with MeadWestvaco and a member of the council’s board of directors. “Jennifer is a big part of the reason why. She has successfully leveraged technology to reach the commonwealth and beyond, without compromising the personal touch that is so important to Extension.”
In presenting the award, council member Brad Fuller, with Huber Engineered Woods LLC, said, “Forestry education is such an important part of our profession, and Jennifer accomplishes outstanding forest landowner education in Virginia through innovative programs and dedicated service. Her thoughtful dedication to educating and engaging forest landowners has earned her the supreme respect of our entire forestry industry.”
Gagnon is currently the chair of the Appalachian Society of American Foresters as well as a member of both the Association of Natural Resource Extension Professionals and the Virginia Forestry Association’s Board of Directors. She has been a regional chair for the Virginia Tree Farm and a volunteer for the Virginia Master Naturalist Program since 2006.
Gagnon received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Florida. Before coming to Virginia Tech in 2005, she was the lead technician of the Forest Ecology Lab at the Jones Ecological Research Center in Georgia.
The nonprofit Virginia Agribusiness Council, located in Richmond, represents the interests of the agriculture and forestry industries in the commonwealth by serving as liaisons between governing bodies and industry. Its membership includes farmers, foresters, and other agricultural producers; industry suppliers; marketers and processors; and commodity and industry associations.