Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Working with Northeast SARE

Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) is a regional program of the National SARE program, which is part of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). NE SARE offers many categories of competitive grants including: Farmer, Partnership, Sustainable Community, Professional Development, and Research and Education grants. If you have a new idea for farming or agri-business, want to explore new or expanded marketing opportunities, improve profits, enhance environmental stewardship, or undertake similar projects, then you may want to consider applying for a SARE grant. To learn more about NE SARE grant opportunities visit the website at or contact your new Northeast SARE PDP Outreach Leader, Nola Wilson (information below).

Nola Wilson, newly on-board with NE SARE and WVU Extension Service, the SARE Professional Development Program (PDP) Outreach Leader for West Virginia and Western Maryland. Wilson served as a Small Farms Extension Agent for the past 10 years in Ocala, Florida. Her programs with Extension focused on agri-preneurship, beginning farmers, and local food system development. She has also worked in statewide educational efforts to intiate the Florida Small Farms Conference and Regional Extension Agent Working Groups. Wilson also served as the State Coordinator for Annie’s Project.

What can the SARE PDP Outreach Leader do for you? Over the next three years, NE SARE programming will focus on providing professional development opportunities in sustainable agriculture to agriculture service providers in WV and Western Maryland. The agriculture service providers will use their training to educate farmers on methods of making their farming operations more sustainable. The focus of the training will be on identifying and reaching new markets, building networks and partnerships and providing technical assistance on key topics, including food safety, sustainable production practices, direct marketing, value-adding and farm financial management.
The program is a collaborative effort among West Virginia University’s Extension Service, University of Maryland (Jeff Semler) and West Virginia State University (Barbara Liedl).

Have questions or would like more information about NE SARE? Contact Nola Wilson at 304-293-7312 or at

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Reaching out to WV FFA

The Small Farm Center works daily to reach experienced and beginning West Virginia farmers with information to make them more profitable. However, the Center also works to reach high school students with the encouraging message about farming's profitability. Recently, Carrie See, SFC program coordinator, and Bonnie Thomas, graduate research assistant, ventured to WV's State FFA Convention in Ripley. The pair exhibited at the career fair with a number of other agricultural institutions like WV Department of Agriculture and Farm Credit. This past spring, the Center also visited FFA chapters throughout the state with information on risk management practices in farming. The Center's exhibit also displayed information about careers with the USDA's risk management agency.

The message that the Center hopes to encourage in and communicate to these young people is the concept that they no longer must leave the farm to support their families and themselves. West Virginia farmers can be sustainable and successful. Farming can be a career again.

Of course, we like to have fun, too. For the second year, we took our "Wheel of WV Agricultural Knowledge." Students spin the wheel and answer questions about different aspects of agriculture in the state-- anything from our most abundant ag commodity (broiler chickens) to the average farm acreage (157 acres). We've found that the wheel opens a door for dialogue about the students' farms and FFA experiences.

Fundamental to all the work we do, is education of our youth.  We believe in the importance of supporting WV agricultural departments and FFA chapters throughout the state, so they can remain steadfast in their educational efforts.

As always, we're grateful for the invitation from WV FFA, and we look forward to future partnerships. We'd also like to congratulate one of our favorite past conference speakers, Wes Davis, for his new position as state FFA president.

Small Farm Center Team

Friday, May 20, 2011

'Risk on the Farm' Educational Series

      Each year, the Small Farm Center conducts a Risk Management educational series presented to high school agricultural students/FFA chapters across the state. This spring the roster of schools includes East Hardy High School, Lincoln High School, Lincoln County High, and Hundred High School. In the fall, the Center’s staff will visit additional schools with the ‘Risk on the Farm’ lesson plan and game. The Center estimates that we will speak to approximately 250 ag students within the two-week series.
The Risk Management lesson covers the very essentials of what ‘risk on the farm’ can mean for a small farm operation. We also discuss various methods and tools of combating risk. The series drives student participation through class activities, teamwork, and discussion. During the activities, students are asked to identify different examples of risks by placing them in categories such as production, human, financial, market, legal, and technological risks. Students work together to decide which type of risk the examples are based on the lesson. Students also learn about the different methods of handling risk (retain, shift, reduce, self-insure, and avoid). Additional information is discussed on methods of shifting risk (insurance) and reducing risk.

Following the class activity, students are broken into groups of 4 and 5 students. There they play the ‘Risk on the Farm’ game. This game reinforces the basic concepts of risk assessment and planning. Students really enjoy the game and become more aware of business planning for a small farm operation. So far, teachers’ and students’ reactions are extremely positive both during the lesson and throughout the game-play.

For information on this year’s ‘Risk on the Farm’ Series and other risk management events by the West Virginia Extension Service Small Farm Center, please visit

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

WV Food Charter Regional Roundtables

Last night, thirty-seven people gathered in Wheeling, WV to take part in the first WV Food Charter Regional Roundtable. The series continues tonight with the second session at 6:30 pm in Hico, WV. The third roundtable will be in Parkersburg tomorrow at 6:30 pm. Spearheaded by the WV Food and Farm Coalition, the meetings serve as an opportunity for all stakeholders of the local food system to join together to mold a WV food charter. The Small Farm Center, along with many other organizations, is a partner in this initiative. Community members and all those interested are encouraged to attend, as all meetings are open to the public.
The central message and general consensus at last night's meeting in Wheeling was that an organized local food system could potentially mean a healthier population. Other key points included a shortage of farmers, concern for improved school lunches, food for lower income and disadvantaged, and the community strengthening aspects of a strong local food system.
Specifics on the food charter & roundtables
The charter would outline a vision for how the local food system should function, and how statewide and local policies and programs could contribute to the strength of that food system. Modeled loosely off of the Michigan Good Food Charter released last year, the charter will be developed over the course of 2011 and early 2012. The roundtable series is the first step in gaining public input to the food charter. Many organizations and agencies from throughout the state have contributed to the design of the West Virginia Food Charter process. Six regional roundtables will occur throughout the state, promoted through a partnership between the West Virginia Food & Farm Coalition, West Virginia University Extension Service Small Farm Center, the WV Department of Education, WV Community Development Hub, and other local partners.

For details or contacts for the regional roundtable in your area, please call Savanna Lyons at 304.673.0053 or email Please visit West Virginia Food Charter for more information on the programs.

Schedule of upcoming Regional Roundtables:
April 11: Northern Panhandle region
6:30-8:30pm, Ohio Co. WVU Extension Office 4th Floor
51 16th St., Wheeling, WV

April 12: Mountain region
6:30-8:30pm, Sunday Road Baptist Church
216 Sunday Rd., Hico, WV (at the intersection of Rt. 19 and Rt. 60)

April 13: Little Kanawha region
6:30-8:30pm, Fort Boreman Room in the Judge Black Annex Building
317 Market St., Parkersburg, WV

May 2: Potomac Headwaters region
6:30-8:30pm, Panorama at the Peak restaurant
3299 Cacapon Rd., Berkeley Springs, WV

May 3: WesMonty region
6:30-8:30pm, Phillip Barbour High School, Commons Area
99 Horseshoe Dr., Phillipi, WV

May 4: Greater Kanawha region
6:30pm-8:30pm, City Center East
4700 MacCorkle Ave., Charleston, WV

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

West Virginia Wool Sells

For the first time since the early 1980s wool prices are back up for WV farmers. Yesterday, the wool clip from West Virginia was sold to Chargeurs Wool-USA, a French company and last major wool processor in the U.S. The WV wool pools (pick up) will be held in June. The pools support approximately 430 shepherds across the state.  
Eighty-five thousands pounds were sold and will be shipped to Jamestown, South Carolina at the higher-than-average price of $1.60 cleaned, per pound. Taking into account that the wool yields approximately 58 percent grease, the price is then $0.93 cents. The farmer will receive an estimated $0.73 per pound, after subtracting shipping/trucking costs and local and state pool expenses (depending on their actual local expenses).  
The last time wool prices were that high in WV was 1983 at the price of $0.998. However, in the 1930’s and 40’s wool frequently brought more than a dollar a pound, leaving the farmer with a significant return.
West Virginia is the only state-wide, value based wool pool in the United States. If you’re interested in entering an area wool pool, contact your local county Extension Agent or call the WV Small Farm Center at 304-293-2642.

Chargeurs Wool specializes in topmaking, which consists in designing wool blends that successfully meet the needs of the spinning mills. It is a world leader in combed wool sales. Chargeurs is a global, diversified group with leadership positions in niche markets, both in manufacturing and in services.  It is currently active in surface protection, through Chargeurs Protective Films, technical textiles, through Chargeurs Interlining, and raw material processing, through Chargeurs Wool. In 2010, consolidated sales totaled € 512 million, of which approximately 94% is generated outside France. Chargeurs is active on 34 different countries with 2,243 employees.
Chargeurs Wool USA Inc, 178 Wool Rd, Jamestown, SC. Tel: 843-257-2212.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Seven Year Old Northern WVa Tradition Continues to Grow

It's that time of year, friends!...when farmers and community members from across the state will gather at Lakeview Resort and Conference Center in Morgantown for the 7th Annual WV Small Farm Conference,  on February 17-19, 2011. Hosted by the WVU Extension Small Farm Center (that's us!), the conference covers a variety of topics such as agri-tourism, alternative energy, fruit and vegetable production, value adding, poultry production, cheese making, beekeeping, homesteading, food security, proper labeling and preparation of foods, and so much more. We'd love to see new faces, as well as, the annual attendees'. So bring your husbands, wives, friends, children, neighbors, and students (students have a 50% discount!)We invite potential attendees to visit our schedule of classes to see what might interest them or their family: Visit the Small Farm Conference Schedule 2011

Class Information
The conference kicks-off on Thursday with seven day-long in-depth workshops. The list of topics was chosen from past attendees’ feedback and the topic’s overall relevance and importance to WV small farmers. A good example is the first topic of ‘Beginning Cheese making’. 1.) Cheese making for beginners and ‘want to be cheese makers’. This workshop will kick-off the cheese making educational program, which includes a field trip into cheese country to learn from those already producing. Other popular topics include: 2) Energy management and alternative energy for the farm and home (Be sure to check out the energy exhibit including a human powered generator). 3.) Agri-tourism and learning how to increase farm income by entertaining the public on your farm. 4.) Labeling products from the farm to the store shelf, as a sequel to the Better Process Control School including Food Safety Practices. 5.) The 2nd WV Food Security Summit. 6.) Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) for producers. and 7.) High Tunnel Management and Opportunities workshop.
The conference then moves into “high gear” on Friday and Saturday as experts, including farmers, Extension agents and specialists, professors, agency personnel, and industry representatives from across the US will be leading and teaching 60 different sessions throughout the two days. New on the program this year are many forest-based topics including ramp cultivation, shiitake mushrooms, ginseng, medicinal products, Christmas tree production and timber-stand management.

The 2011 WV Small Farm Conference is serving as host to the first ever West Virginia Small Scale Poultry Forum. Attendees can participate in classes on small scale poultry production including feeding, management, and marketing for layer operations and meat birds. In-depth classes and discussions of mobile processing operations, challenges, and possible opportunities will serve as areas of great interest to many WV small scale producers. In fact, after the mid-afternoon classes on Saturday the small scale producers and their advisors are invited to participate in a meeting to discuss the farmers’ available options to solve the problem of declining and disappearing commercial processing services available for WV farmers.

Fruit and vegetable production and management classes for beginners and experienced growers will be offered throughout the remaining two days of the conference. Those attending the low-cost high tunnel class will learn how to build a 20ft. by 40 ft. tunnel for less than $800.00. They will also be able to learn how to landscape with fruit bearing plants or develop a tree-fruit enterprise. The WV Farmers Market Association has developed a special series of classes for managers and vendors to help them further develop, lead and support their local markets. Other notable conference presentations include the details of the most successful and famous farm-to-cafeteria project in West Virginia, as the successful ‘Farm-to-School pioneers’ in Jefferson County share their experience and journey. Many attendees will appreciate the discussions of tax management and SARE and Specialty Crop Grants.

Better Process Control SchoolThe three-day event is preceded by the two-day Better Process Control School (Feb 15, 16), conducted by the West Virginia Dept. Agriculture. Registration for the School is separate from the conference. Interested in attending? Call 304-558-2210 for information and to register.

WVFMA's Winter Blues Farmers Market & Slow Food Regional Chapter's Dine-Around
Additionally, the Conference is kicked off on Thursday, February 17 by the 3rd Annual Winter Blues Farmers Market hosted and organized by the WV Farmers Market Association. Open to the public, the Market features farmers from all over the state and a huge variety of products, accompanied by live entertainment. The indoor market will run from 4-7 pm. EBT (SNAP Benefits), credit cards and bank cards will be accepted. Following the Farmers Market, for the first time ever, the Conference will host a number of area restaurants featuring their local food items during the Slow Food Revolution Dine-Around. Both events are open to the public.
Local Menu
As in the past, the Conference menu will be sourced entirely from local producers from across region and prepared by Lakeview Conference Center. As we are still securing menu items, please feel free to contact us with any product you may have. We love to diversify our producer list! Please note, we expect 300+ guests. Interested? Please contact Carrie See at 304-293-2715.
The conference is being hosted by the WVU Extension Service Small Farm Center in co-operation with the West Virginia Department of Agriculture. The Conference also will also receive assistance from faculty at West Virginia State University with a number of classes.

For program details, registration forms or any additional information, please visit the WV Small Farm Center web site at Additional questions may be directed to Carrie See at 304-293-2715 or or by calling 304-293-2743.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Mission Accomplished at the Tri-state Farm & Food Conference!

It was important to start a community discussion about food in the Huntington foodshed. The market is huge and the community is firmly behind a local food system adjustment. Gail Patton, Executive Director of Unlimited Future, Inc. and “conference planning partner” summed it up best when she said, “Of course we are solidly behind our local food system and this conference; it is an economic development issue.”
Our goal for the Tri-State Farm and Food Conference was to teach farmers and community food businesses new ways of producing, adding value to, and marketing what we grow on our farms. Another goal was to promote the vision that both family farms and their communities must build together to take advantage of this unprecedented opportunity. We wanted to discuss and teach ways to tap into the opportunity within this $1.2 billion food market and share examples where some are already doing it. And last, we wanted to promote the local food industry in the community now and seek out new alliances for production, processing, and marketing.

Few disagree that farmers learn best from other farmers. Here, many farmers were able to network and share their experiences and advice. Like Larry Gardener, from Waverly, who produces and markets lamb and other meat products to restaurants across the state. Gardner encouraged farmers to commit to a market and never “let it down” by falling short on quantity and quality. This advice was directed to farmers just entering the market who na├»vely underestimate the sheer volume required to satisfy a market and the challenges that must be overcome to offer a supply all year long. He warned about the danger of losing a market and never getting it back, because a restaurant was reluctant to give the farmer another chance. Other classes were taught by university and agency professionals like Dr. Barbara Liedl from WV State University. Liedl showed her class of 30, how to build a low cost high tunnel. She and her volunteers built an 8ft. by 20 ft. model on-site at the Douglass Center, so that farmers could actually walk in it, get a feel for it, and see how simple and inexpensive they are to build. She challenged the group to build their own 20 ft. by 48 ft. low cost high tunnel and surprised them when she told them the price tag would be approximately $800!

The food is always a very important part of a conference, as it instills much confidence in a beginning farmer or one contemplating a change to eat delicious food grown by his or her neighbors and prepared in the local community. The menu was sourced in the local foodshed with a few items traveling from other areas of the state. The Mountwest Community and Technical College-Culinary Arts Program under the direction of Chef Lawrence Perry prepared the lunch and the breaks. The food was delicious, and it was remarkable to see the young students of that program learn to use and appreciate our locally grown food. The lessons they learned with the conference will last them throughout their career and also help many small farmers along the way.

Gathering food for the conference allowed us to work with Andie Leffingwell of the Ebenezer Medical Outreach Program. She has been sourcing (finding, buying, and delivering food) a “fresh market” for her “at risk” families for years. She was invaluable to us as she knew where to find many products we needed for our menu. As we worked together to find food and, in some cases, people to prepare it, it became clear that an entire food system could be built around such a person with the leadership skills and dedication she possesses. Farmers are risk adverse. Having a person like Leffingwell who is capable of buying large quantities of food and who would raise farmers’ confidence to grow, could be the very foundation for a local food system.

The bread prepared for and served at this conference marked the most significant milestone in my 5 year long pursuit of integrating WV grown wheat flour into our state’s food system.

To offer an all local menu for the conference we had to find someone willing and able to bake with our local flour. Earlier conferences led us to artisan bakers who very patiently experimented with our white winter wheat flour to make a product we could use for local sourcing—all the time believing it would never compare to what they could do with their staple hard red winter wheat flour. Upon visiting Huntington, I contacted John Brunetti of Brunetti’s Italian Bakery in Kenova for help. I was amazed and gratified when John took one look at the WV flour, rolled some around in his hand, quizzed me about the content of protein and bran, and said, “bring me 100lbs next Thursday”. Baking day came and I got to help Josh Brunetti mix, proof, shape, proof again, and bake 100 lbs. of our flour into pizza crusts, dinner rolls, hoagie buns, and 100 loaves of WV whole wheat bread, which was used at the Tri State conference and days later at the WVU Extension Annual Conference as well. The grain was grown in Preston County, Milled at WVU Jackson’s Mill, and baked in Kenova; that is the beginning of a bread pathway.

At this conference and others previously, we have treated our attendees to WV grown popcorn. The local popcorn is so much better than the national brands—people always want more and ask to take some home. The Tri State Farm and Food conference was special as the farmer who grew this treat was also our lunch keynote speaker. WV Department of Agriculture, Deputy Commissioner Bob Tabb shared his philosophy on value-added agriculture. Then he referenced the farmer’s share of the US food dollar. He explained that small farmers must learn to add value to their commodities so they can compete in this world of slim margins and huge acreages. To make his point he poured a handful of un-popped corn into a popper and compared it to the same volume popped. The analogy is un-mistakable.

Our conferences are much more than a program full of production information; they are also about farmers and food-interested and food-educated people, each with slightly different agendas, networking and developing friendships. Those attending this first conference also learned that there is so much help out there for farmers. The conference attendees learned that the West Virginia Department of Agriculture and the Extension Services from the 15 counties in three states is equally interested and professionally prepared to help develop a successful local food industry. The agents as a group were excited about the conference and offered help at every step of the process. In fact, extension agents from WVSU, Ohio State University, University of Kentucky, and of course, WVU helped promote, present classes and locate food. The process of developing a vital, locally driven agricultural infrastructure will rely on these key people and resources. At this conference, it became obvious that our collective staffs are more than ready and willing to help.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Tri-State Farm & Food Conference

Over the last few weeks, the Small Farm Center has been busy trying to put together all the final details of the November 6th Tri-State Farm & Food Conference in Huntington. We have some great presenters on board, including professors, Extension Specialists, business leaders, and even the WV Deputy Commissioner of Agriculture, Bob Tabb. We are so excited about bringing some of the lessons we share annually at the Small Farm Conference in Morgantown to the city of Huntington.

Organizations helping to put this on include West Virginia University, West Virginia State University, Ohio State, and Kentucky State University Extension Services. Also, Unlimited Future, Ebenezer Medical Outreach, SCORE, and the Mountwest Technical & Community College Culinary Institute are included in our lists of active and much appreciated partners.

The schedule of classes and registration can be found on the Small Farm Center’s web site ( Along with that information, interested individuals may register for the conference online or by downloading and sending in the hard-copy brochure.

The registration is only $20 and covers attendees’ costs for the entire day of classes. In addition, break-time snacks and lunch will be provided. But the best part of the snacks and lunch is that the menu, as with all Small Farm Center conferences, will be comprised of completely local food. As the conference celebrates the wonderful changes Huntington is making in its food system, the Center wants farmers in the area to know how much we appreciate them and how bright the future of this tri-state region really is.

The brochure on the event page offers readers a little background about the conference and Center. In addition, some lodging options and class topics can be found. We’d love for anyone interested to be able to come, so please don’t hesitate to contact us with any and all questions or concerns.

We look forward to seeing you in November!

For program details, registration forms or any additional information, please visit the WV Small Farm Center web site at Any other questions may be directed to Tom McConnell or Carrie See at 304-293-2642 or

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

New Look!!

We're changing our blog so that it may cover more of the programs and initiatives we work with on a daily basis. We thank you all for bearing with us as we make this transition. Again, keep checking back to see all the great things going on with West Virginia agriculture here at WVU Extension.