The Times West Virginian

Opinion

July 18, 2014

Relish the rich bounty of state’s diverse, unique food traditions

This week, a group of federal officials on a three-day culinary tour of the state visited the Greenbrier Valley to find out what most of us here already know — we have a rich food tradition in West Virginia.

The group was made up of officials from the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They were briefed on West Virginia’s food potential by the Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corp. and the West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition.

In addition to visiting the brewery and distillery in Maxwelton, the visitors planned to tour Perk Farm, an organic dairy in Frankford; downtown Lewisburg; and Swift Level Farm, located just outside Lewisburg and specializing in grass-fed beef production and horse breeding.

Also on the tour was breakfast at The Spring, a nonprofit farm-to-table restaurant in Lewisburg, where the officials were scheduled to meet with representatives from the Monroe Farm Market.

The trip to the state was intended to coincide with a new tourism promotion called “Bon Appetit Appalachia,” a food destination guide to West Virginia and other states within the Appalachian region. See it online at www.visitappalachia.com/bonappetitappalachia.

“Local food systems, including wineries and dairies as well as farms ... are capturing the culinary imagination of good food lovers throughout the country who want what they eat to be as healthy as it is flavorful. Bon Appetit Appalachia provides a thoughtful guide to the best of these farms, restaurants, and markets in the Appalachian Region that is sure to reward first-time natural food explorers as well as the most experienced food travelers,” wrote Louis S. Segesvary, public affairs director for the ARC in the online edition of Food Traveler magazine.

The new map guide features 286 locations showcasing the region’s “most distinctive food destinations.”

The ARC’s interest in West Virginia agriculture and its Bon Appetit Appalachia initiative mirror views long held by Walt Helmick, the state agriculture commissioner, who has been a vocal proponent of increasing production and sales of West Virginia ag products.

The commissioner has noted that West Virginia produces $663 million in farm products annually, but we consume around $7 billion worth of the same each year. We buy those products from out of state when we could be buying locally, creating and maintaining West Virginia jobs.

While Helmick’s department played no role in bringing the ARC delegation to the Greenbrier Valley, an aide says the commissioner is highly supportive of the Bon Appetit Appalachia initiative.

Make no mistake here. The future of agriculture and farm products from West Virginia is serious business.

 The possibilities are vast, and marketing and selling farm products produced here both locally and nationally has vibrant potential as we continue to seek ways to diversify our economy.

We thank the Appalachian Regional Commission, the GVEDC and the West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition for working to help make that happen.

Bon appetit, West Virginia.

— The (Beckley) Register-Herald

This editorial does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Times West Virginian editorial board.

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