WVSU, KISRA Target Minority and Veteran Farmers with New Agriculture Initiative

Contact: Kimberly Osborne
(304) 766-3363
Dec. 15, 2014
WVSU, KISRA Target Minority and Veteran Farmers with New Agriculture Initiative
INSTITUTE, W.Va. – West Virginia State University (WVSU) Extension Service has partnered with the Kanawha Institute for Social Research and Action (KISRA), the West Virginia Department of Agriculture (WVDA), the West Virginia Army National Guard and the West Virginia AgrAbility Project on a new agribusiness initiative designed to promote agriculture enterprise development, expansion and sustainability among minority and veteran farmers in central and southern West Virginia.

The project will construct three production sites in Kanawha, Fayette and McDowell counties, including a reclaimed mine site, on land provided by the West Virginia Army National Guard. The three sites will host educational workshops and demonstrations in an effort to become food sources for the communities served.

“Our goal with this project is to address the chronic poverty and job security issues of our region by targeting groups known to have agricultural interests but not necessarily the means and skillset to be successful, sustainable producers,” said Melissa Stewart, assistant program director for WVSU Extension Service's agriculture division.

WVSU Extension personnel will work with National Guard staff on garden construction and will train active-duty soldiers and veterans in agricultural practices. Additional participants will come through the WVDA’s Veterans and Warriors to Agriculture program and the West Virginia AgrAbility Project, which helps people with disabilities remain active in agriculture.

At the conclusion of the year-long project, participants will have acquired the skills and means to be able to contribute to the local food supply, as well as business training for agricultural production and self-employment through new enterprise development, enriching both the lives of the growers, their communities and agriculture in West Virginia.

“This is a ‘triple P’ approach: people, planet and profit,” said KISRA Chief Operating Officer Carl Chadband, noting that the non-profit organization’s foray into agriculture is a newer initiative. “We believe that fads will come and go, but food is forever.”

The collaborative project is funded by a nearly $200,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture's Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program. Program logistics will be finalized during the winter, with construction of the production sites beginning next spring. 
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West Virginia State University is a public, land grant, historically black university, which has evolved into a fully accessible, racially integrated, and multigenerational institution, located in Institute, W.Va. As a “living laboratory of human relations,” the university is a community of students, staff, and faculty committed to academic growth, service and preservation of the racial and cultural diversity of the institution. Its mission is to meet the higher education and economic development needs of the state and region through innovative teaching and applied research.
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