CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia Agriculture Commissioner Walt Helmick continued a tradition Wednesday started by his predecessor. It was sweet corn day at the state capitol.
Agriculture Department employees roasted up 50 dozen ears of corn and gave them away to those who lined up. There was a table filled with salt, pepper and butter to make those ears mouthwatering.
This is National Farmers Market Week and Helmick said what better way to promote West Virginia grown products than to let folks taste some for free.
“This is a product that’s straight out of the earth, straight out of West Virginia earth, grown by West Virginians, to be consumed by West Virginians,” explained Helmick.
The corn giveaway started with longtime Agriculture Commissioner Gus Douglass who retired in 2012. Helmick is keeping the tradition alive. He said it’s a way to get people thinking about the food they purchase and eat.
“We consume a little better than $7 billion worth of food in West Virginia annually. The number we use is $7.3 billion, yet we grow less than $1 billion,” according to Helmick.
The commissioner wants to change that.
“We’re trying to take the farmers market and leverage it to another level and move into the commercial market,” he said.
Helmick said you can see farming success stories all around. He shared one about a couple in southern Upshur County who grow what he believes is some of the best corn and potatoes anywhere. They’re not a big company but he stressed they don’t have a problem selling their homegrown products. They’re that good.
Helmick said his office is working towards putting more West Virginia-grown food in West Virginia supermarkets. He stressed it’s fresher than what comes from out of state and it’s a big economic benefit to West Virginia.