Growing buzz surrounding "local food" movements in other parts of the country may garner nothing but a few eye rolls in a state like West Virginia. Here, as Food & Farm Coalition Program Manager Savanna Lyons put it, "I think we may have more farms per person than any other state in the country."
But that does not mean the state does not have something to learn when it comes to using agriculture to improve the health of its economy and its people. West Virginia University Extension Service Community Economics Specialist Daniel Eades points out crop farming could be a viable business option, provided there is a cultural shift among both lawmakers and farmers.
One such shift involves getting farmers to think of themselves as business people - taking into account processing, transporting, marketing and the many people and institutions in the state who want to use locally grown fruits and vegetables but are not sure how. But, of course, there are many other aspects to consider, like the high cost of land and the amount of labor involved in any farming operation.
Meanwhile, attendees at the West Virginia Food & Farm Coalition's examination of its Road Map for the Food Economy recently talked about the infrastructure challenges facing groups such as meat producers, and the potential for job creation in that industry.
It is encouraging to see so much effort to support this often-forgotten, but vital, part of our state's economy. Forging stronger links between West Virginia farmers and the marketplace will be good for the economy - and for the health of West Virginians who enjoy the fresh, good food produced here.