Leonhardt: West Virginia agri-businesses weather worst of COVID-19 pandemic – The Daily Times

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Steven Allen Adams
LEONHARDT — Agriculture Commissioner Kent Leonexhaustingt and spouse, Shirley, stopped at Capitol Market in Charleston on Wednesday, Definitely one of many state’s premiere farmers markets.

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CHARLESTON — Whereas shut toly all companies in West Virginia have struggled Over the previous 18 months As a Outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic proceeds to unfold throughout the state, West Virginia’s farmers and meals producers have been In a place to improvise, adapt, and overcome.

Kent Leonexhaustingt, the state’s agriculture commissioner, is Aware of The biggest Method to improvise, adapt, and overcome. As a retired lieutenant colonel Inside the U.S. Marine Corps, the phrase “improvise, adapt, and overcome” is actually drilled into leathernecks from their time at boot camp till their honorable discharge.

This summer time, the state Division of Agriculture is celebrating West Virginia’s farmers and meals producers. There are 155 farmers markets throughout the state, a 50 % enhance As a Outcome of the department took over regulation of the markets.

The department has a searchable database of farmers markets for people To Search out the shutst to them. The farmers market search Might be found at agriculture.wv.gov. Leonexhaustingt said farmers markets current An important service not Solely for farmers, However in addition The purchasers, and assist construct relationships.

“It’s all beneath the Division of Agriculture, and that’s made issues Tons simpler for the farmers markets and, subsequently, for the farmers who Want to convey a product to these markets,” Leonexhaustingt said. “The farmers market is a method for that farmer To actually entry The general public and The general public come to them, Similar to going to a grocery retailer.

“The farmers markets are being run by the farms themselves, not like a grocery retailer,” Leonexhaustingt proceedd. “Everytime you come to the farmers market, you get to know your farmer and know your meals. I really feel that’s terribly important. Whether or not or not they’re using pesticides if that’s A precedence to you, what Sort of agricultural practices they’re using, And also you’d possibly ask them flat out did you develop this or did you import it? That’s important to many, Many people.”

Leonexhaustingt said the pandemic disrupted The current chains And the method people store for meals. Initially of the pandemic shutdowns By way of the spring of 2020, grocery retailers have been raided by hoarders. Farmers and meals producers used farmers markets and even promoting meals immediately off the farms To current a supply of meals for people in a socially distanced method.

“West Virginia did Very properly,” Leonexhaustingt said. “We had some shortages, but we didn’t have shut to whOn The completely different states did. I’m very Joyful with agriculture And the method our farmers stepped up. Proper now, our farmers are promoting A lot of product right off the farm. Our farmers market numbers have been rising As a Outcome of of deregulation.”

Ancompletely different method Leonexhaustingt and the state’s farmers are celebrating is with the re-start of the State Truthful of West Virginia. The State Truthful was canceled final yr Collectively with all festivals and festivals As a Outcome of of enhance of COVID-19 numbers On The start of final summer time.

The 96th annual State Truthful returns to Farlea in Greenbrier County starting Aug. 12 through Aug. 21. The fair has an estimated financial influence of $13.8 million for the state and assists promote the state’s farmers, FFA college students, and agri-companies.

With A lot of the fair’s rides, factors of curiosity, and reveals being both outdoors or within open barns, masks Aren’t being required although Division of Agriculture staff Shall be sporting masks while indoors.

“Most of the actions are outdoors, So that you will Have The power to nonetheless get The complete taste and really feel Similar to you’re going to be protected Because you’re going to be outdoors On the fair,” Leonexhaustingt said. “That is simply as important as like a farmer’s market, the place there’s a gathering Of people Inside the agricultural enterprise And completely different people can convey their households and have nice.

“Not only that, but They will furtherly educate their youngsters on the place your meals actually comes from,” Leonexhaustingt proceedd. “All too typically, people don’t actually understand that meals doesn’t come from a grocery retailer. It comes from the exhausting work of a farmer, After which it comes from a distribution system. Then it comes from, ancompletely different processing system. There’s A lot of issues thOn They will Research agriculture. Farming is a enterprise.”

The State Truthful, farmers markets, and the meals merchandise produced And located on grocery cabinets and freezers throughout the nation assist with tourism Inside the state as properly. Farms, farmers markets, and even state parks are internet hosting farm-to-desk dinners event extra frequently, with people driving from completely different states for the expertise.

“We acquired the Farmers Market Affiliation and state parks and the Division of Ag together. And we used our planning coordinators Inside The sector To assist convey these farmers’ produce and merchandise to the state parks so thOn They might then put these on. They’re Incomes money Each time they do Definitely one of manyse dinners. The state parks are Incomes money and All of us know the state parks need some further niceding. So as that’s an initiative thOn the Division of Agriculture started, and We now have to proceed that.”

Leonexhaustingt wants The general public To Think about the successes of West Virginia’s farmers, meals producers, and agri-enterprise entrepreneurs. Researching from The teveryings of the pandemic, Leonexhaustingt said all West Virginians ought to rejoice the successes of agriculture.

“It is a celebration,” Leonexhaustingt said. “As quickly as extra, agrienterprise and agriculture stored on going. All of us have to eat Three hundred and sixty 5 days a yr, However It is a return to the celebrating of the harvest, which is what fall Might be Truthfully typically about. And a lot of Of these gatherings happen Inside The autumn. So, We ought to almethods rejoice and Be grateful for the harvest and grateful for the bounty that we’re, we’ve been blessed with.”

(Adams Might be contacted at [email protected])

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