W.Va. Dept. of Agriculture

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Agriculture Advisory Board wants to hear from West Virginia residents on the best way to grow the state’s agriculture economy.

West Virginia Agriculture Commissioner Kent Leonhardt indicated more than a dozen public, community meetings will be held across the state to gauge the public’s interest in agriculture and ways to shape the future.

“We’ve always relied on extraction industries and we’ve got to diversify our economy,” Leonhardt said. “Agriculture is one way to do that.”

A recent survey of approximately 500 stakeholders in the state’s Agriculture Industry identified eight areas of opportunity where the state could see growth in the industry.

Those eight areas, according to a press release from the Department were : Increasing access to farmland through preservation, restoration and affordability; increasing agritourism; boosting the pool of qualified farm labor; increasing access to higher-value markets (big cities, restaurants, institutional purchasing); boosting the number of processing facilities and commercial kitchens; increasing local demand for West Virginia-grown products; placing more emphasis on new farming techniques (forest farming, high tunnels and hydroponics) and evaluating the efficiency of existing operations (such as fencing or liming); and increasing the pipeline of new farmers through education and training.

“Given our topography, terrain and micro climates, we’re not going to have just one crop, but we’ll have a multitude of crops,” Leonhardt explained. “We could be a cornucopia of special crops.”

The public meetings schedule:

o Tuesday, Oct. 2 — Wetzel County 4-H Camp, New Martinsville
o Wednesday, Oct. 3 — Ghent Volunteer Fire Department, Ghent
o Wednesday, Oct. 3 — Holly-Gray Park, Sutton
o Thursday, Oct. 4 — Berkeley County Youth Fairgrounds, Martinsburg
o Thursday, Oct. 4 — South Branch Inn, Moorefield
o Tuesday, Oct. 9 — WVU-Parkersburg campus, Parkersburg
o Tuesday, Oct. 9 — Philippi Baptist Church, Philippi
o Wednesday, Oct. 10 — Core Community Center, Core
o Wednesday, Oct. 10 — State Fair of West Virginia, Lewisburg
o Wednesday, Oct. 10 — The Highlands Event Center, Triadelphia
o Thursday, Oct. 11 — Wayne High School, Wayne
o Thursday, Oct. 11 — Mason County Board of Education, Point Pleasant
o Thursday, Oct. 11 — Horizons Church, Lost Creek