Community meetings to help West Virginia’s agriculture economy

CHARLESTON — Partners who seek to grow the state’s agriculture economy are encouraging residents to attend community meetings in their area, including one in Parkersburg, in October to help develop strategies over five years that could shape the future of agriculture in West Virginia.

Based on survey results from more than 500 stakeholders, the West Virginia Agricultural Advisory Board identified eight key opportunity areas. They are: 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.

Meetings are being held at 14 locations across the state. During those meetings, guests can help turn the opportunity areas into strategies, officials said. Visit wvagadvisory.org, where there is a link to register for a meeting. Those who register also can take a short survey to choose the key opportunity areas they wish to focus on during their area meeting.

Meeting locations and dates for the West Virginia Ag Community meetings are listed below. All meetings will begin at 6 p.m.

* Monday, Oct. 1: Camp Virgil Tate, Charleston

* Tuesday, Oct. 2: Wetzel County 4-H Camp, New Martinsville

* Wednesday, Oct. 3: Ghent Volunteer Fire Department, Ghent

* Wednesday, Oct. 3: Holly-Gray Park, Sutton

* Thursday, Oct. 4: Berkeley County Youth Fairgrounds, Martinsburg

* Thursday, Oct. 4: South Branch Inn, Moorefield

* Tuesday, Oct. 9: WVU-Parkersburg campus, Parkersburg

* Tuesday, Oct. 9: Philippi Baptist Church, Philippi

* Wednesday, Oct. 10: Core Community Center, Core

* Wednesday, Oct. 10: State Fair of West Virginia, Lewisburg

* Wednesday, Oct. 10: The Highlands Event Center, Triadelphia

* Thursday, Oct. 11: Wayne High School, Wayne

* Thursday, Oct. 11: Mason County Board of Education, Point Pleasant

* Thursday, Oct. 11: Horizons Church, Lost Creek

A steering committee has been formed to guide the creation of this five-year strategic plan to grow the agriculture economy. The committee is made up of the following agencies: the West Virginia Department of Agriculture; the West Virginia Farm Bureau; the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development (WV); USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (WV); the West Virginia Conservation Agency; West Virginia University Extension Service; WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design; and the West Virginia State University Extension Service.

Other partners in the community meetings include the state’s 14 conservation districts and the West Virginia Association of Conservation Districts.

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