When the nation thinks of West Virginia resources, coal is the first image to cross minds. “Wild and Wonderful” follows suit with scenes of white water rafting, mountain biking, snow skiing, and rock climbing stimulating visitors’ imaginations. Coal and tourism definitely are two sources of revenue for the mountain state economy; but agriculture and its partner, agribusiness, provides the mountain state with renewable, home-grown sustenance.
On January 29, the West Virginia Department of Agriculture and the West Virginia Conservation Agency lined the well of the Capitol with display booths representing the successes of state agriculture production, business and conservation programs.
A quick look at state agriculture shows West Virginia leading the nation in the percentage of family-owned farms. It’s number one crop is hay with the Eastern Panhandle specializing in apples and peaches. According to the Department of Agriculture, West Virginia ranks 10th in apple production. In 2006, there were approximately 410,000 cattle, 32,000 sheep and 19,000 goats in the state – with the Eastern Panhandle alone raising over 86 million chickens annually. There also are 860 registered beekeepers who maintain over 11,700 thriving colonies in West Virginia.
A variety of agribusinesses ranging from cottage industries to farmers’ markets, fish farms and buffalo ranches, to name a few recent business enterprises, have proven West Virginians to be innovative and productive.
In keeping with maintaining the land, conservation districts also focus on soil and water conservation programs to guarantee a healthy agricultural and public safety environment.
With the production of crops and animals comes a myriad of local fairs and festivals which highlight the efforts of the state’s farm communities. While most fairs and festivals provide communities with an identity and needed additional revenue, the West Virginia State Fair, touted as “West Virginia’s Biggest Garden Party”, rises above them all and impacts its home county of Greenbrier with an estimated $8.9 million and generates approximately $1.3 million in fair-related spending.
Both chambers of the legislature have committees dedicated to agriculture in the state – the House Agriculture & Natural Resources and the Senate Agriculture Committees give lawmakers insights into the difficulties and successes of West Virginia’s farming industries.
Lawmakers had the opportunity on Tuesday to meet with many of their farming constituents and sample the fruits of their efforts – apples from the tree, poultry farm chicken, dairy farm ice cream and many other home grown specialties.
During both of the House and Senate floor sessions, lawmakers adopted House Resolution 12 and Senate Resolution 10 honoring The West Virginia State Grange, which is the world’s first Farm Fraternal Association and the state’s oldest agricultural and rural community organization by designating January 29, 2008, West Virginia State Grange Day.