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Agriculture West Virginia

By: Jillian Risberg Email
By: Jillian Risberg Email

It's a plan West Virginia hopes will grow on you – their new direction of agriculture is about growing the crops here and keeping them here.

The Parkersburg Rotary Club got to hear all about it on Monday from the state’s own Agricultural Commissioner Walt Helmick.

Parkersburg is inspired to make this a destination for great fruits and vegetables everyone can get right here at home.

There's more to it than just that, though it’s a good start.

"We consume about seven billion dollars worth of food, using USDA figures now, seven billion," Helmick says. "But we grow less than one billion dollars."

So there's a significant gap.

"In other words, some six billion dollars worth, we could say problem,” Helmick says. “We don't see it as a problem; we see it as a huge opportunity."

One man is definitely on board.

"As you can tell, the commissioner is very motivated about Parkersburg being one of the main sources of agriculture in the Mountain State,” says Mayor Bob Newell.

We have the ability to grow all that here.

According to Newell, we have to have a preservation center, and be able to can it, freeze it and preserve it so we can get it in our own school systems.

Home is where the heart is and they want the produce to be too.

"We want West Virginians growing food for West Virginians to consume and growing it on West Virginia land,” Helmick says.

Getting crops from out-of-state is nothing new.

"Because we've depended on coal, we've depended on chemicals and we're still going to be depending on natural gas and so forth,” Newell says. “All those things were good, but we're missing an opportunity."

The commissioner shared where we've been, where we are and how we intend to grow.

"To make sure we have a fresh product on the plates in West Virginia and we keep that economy as much as we can in West Virginia,” he says.

It’s a long-term strategy -- that starts now for the state's farmers.


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