The Federal Hatch Act of 1887 created a nationwide network of state agricultural experiment stations as part of the land-grant higher education mission. This system links experiment station research to cooperative extension programs and college academic programs. The State Agricultural Experiment Stations were originally charged with conducting research and development projects on behalf of farmers. Subsequent acts and appropriations established programs in forestry, animal health and disease and Multistate Research.

The Virginia General Assembly established the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station (VAES) on March 1, 1886, in anticipation of the Federal Hatch Act of the 1887. Today, the research projects and activities of the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station (VAES) encompass the work of over 350 scientists in five colleges on the campus of Virginia Tech: Agriculture and Life Sciences; Natural Resources and Environment; Liberal Arts and Human Sciences; College of Science; and Veterinary Medicine. The VAES research network also includes 11 field stations located throughout the state. These field stations are known as Agricultural Research and Extension Centers (AREC) and emphasize the close working relationships between the VAES and Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE).

In 2009 the National Science Foundation ranked Virginia Tech No. 5 in the country for agricultural research expenditures, much of which originated through the VAES. Our research directly supports Agriculture, the state’s largest industry, accounting for one in every five jobs and providing an economic impact of approximately $55 billion annually with an additional annual contribution from the Forest Products industry of approximately $27 billion. While our mandate is to support the Virginia citizens through research that would have positive economic impact, our goal is to conduct the research programs that will enhance quality of life for all people.