CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State Commissioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt says that if you know your farmer, you know your food.

Local farmers were celebrated on Thursday in Charleston as part of the Department of Agriculture’s “Shake and Steak” event dedicated to West Virginia’s cattle industry, as well as kick off National Dairy Month.

Kent Leonhardt

“The closer that food is produced to where it is consumed, the food is fresh and it’s safer,” Leonhardt said. “I also like to think it’s tastier as well. Also at the same time, it also helps with the health of our citizens in West Virginia. Without having to have all the processed foods that we get.

“It also helps with the health of our economy. Those dollars are spent within West Virginia and we are supporting those local businesses. Let’s face it, farms are a business.”

The West Virginia Cattleman’s Association, Buzz Foods, United Dairy, Ellen’s Ice Cream joined the department at Capitol Market for the event that featured cooking demos and free samples of steak and milkshakes from state farmers.

Buzz Foods hosted a demonstration on PSMO (Peeled, Silver Skin, Side Muscle On) and the ins and outs of what cuts restaurants and butcher shops sell.

Chef Paul Smith was on hand to help cook up the butcher meats in the live demo.

“We are combining the promotion of our dairy industry in West Virginia and our beef producers in West Virginia. Two very hard working groups of folks that provide food that we all have to have every day,” Leonhardt said.

The department was also promoting buying meat from local farmers for Father’s Day, which is June 16.

Leonhardt said that raising cattle is a $200 million industry for West Virginia. He added that almost all of that industry is done by 10,000 small, family-owned farms.

On July 1, two state laws will go into effect that will benefit local farmers and the local economy including SB 285, a bill dealing with points of sale for homemade food items, and HB 2396, the West Virginia Fresh Food Act.

“Talk to your local farmers, go to the farmers’ markets, talk to those folks out there,” Leonhardt said.

“They are hard working, they want to talk to you and they take pride in what they produce.”