Kent A. Leonhardt, West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture
Readers of this column undoubtedly have an interest in West Virginia agriculture. I appreciate you reading this column each month. There’s a lot of information that goes into this publication. The Market Bulletin helps us share the highlights and challenges of our industry and has served as an important resource for our farmers for more than 100 years. It reaches tens of thousands of households in the state and some beyond our borders.
The WVDA and the West Virginia Conservation Agency (WVCA) employees certainly appreciate and respect your love and investment in our state. We are lucky to live and serve a state rich in natural resources with a strong agricultural heritage. Both of our agencies work tirelessly to preserve our state resources, protect animal and forest health, keep our soils and waters clean, and promote and grow our agribusinesses. This work takes vision and willing partners who are equally invested in seeing the agriculture industry grow.
We have forged so many great relationships, including but not limited to, the West Virginia Farm Bureau, the West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition, the West Virginian Farmers Market Association, various law enforcement agencies, West Virginia University, and West Virginia State University. In the coming months, I hope to write in more detail about how we are working together to reach our goals. Starting in the January Market Bulletin, I will discuss our Vet Start initiative with WVU and WVSU.
As we wind down from a bountiful harvest and head into a busy holiday season, it’s a good time to take stock of our blessings. However, as I write this, the world is in turmoil with two wars and many of our citizens in harm’s way. Please, keep those in danger and need in your thoughts and prayers. Find some time to volunteer to help others. There are many organizations that could benefit from your time.
As the end of the year approaches, it’s a time to reflect on our achievements and set goals for the future. One long-term goal is to continue to shorten the distance from where our food is grown to where it is consumed. Our collaborative efforts appear to be working as red meat production is up over 50 percent. We have also tripled the number of farmers markets over the past five years through promotion and deregulation. In the coming months, you will also see further promotion of our West Virginia Grown Program.
Speaking of West Virginia Grown, do you have a tough-to-buy-for person on your Christmas list? Food is the perfect gift. We have so many West Virginia value-added products that go great on their own or in a gift basket. You hear it every year, “Buy local!” I can’t stress how important this is to our small agribusinesses. Buy a bottle of West Virginia wine or a growler of hard cider to take to a holiday party. Cook with meats raised and sourced right here in the Mountain State. Choose local jams, honey and maple syrup to sweeten your recipes. Those dollars spent at a local business make a big difference. If you need suggestions on where to shop, please contact our Business Development Division at 304-558-2210 or check out our WV Grown Directory (https://agriculture.wv.gov/agbusiness/west-virginia-grown/).
On a personal note, I want to thank my wife, Shirley, and our family for all their support. Without them standing with me, I could not do what I do. My wife has stood by me through a career in the military; she knows what it’s like to have a loved one in harm’s way. She worked with me to build a farm from scratch and has been by my side during some hardfought political campaigns. We wish you a wonderful Christmas and Hannukah season. Relax and enjoy this time with loved ones.