Nikki Dotson Merritt: Agriculture crucial for the future of Wayne County
Agriculture has been on the rise in Wayne County for a few years now, but the practice has always been around.
For over 90 years, members of the West Virginia Farm Bureau have been successfully growing together. The bureau is an organization of productive, conscientious citizens dedicated to improving the quality of their lives and the lives of those who depend on them.
Members care about feeding their families, helping the environment, educating children and speaking out on issues of concern.
It is the organization’s goal to provide leadership, education, information, training and economic services to enhance the quality of life of members.
Wayne County’s branch has a large membership and meets monthly to discuss such things. The group also has guest speakers who help to educate local farmers on developing practices and other useful topics.
The bureau has farmers who sell produce such as corn, tomatoes, cucumbers and other favorites at local markets across the county.
With the implementation of the Wayne County Farmers Co-Op in 2016, local farmers joined together in an effort to not only grow local produce, but find a way to make money doing it.
Since the implementation, the co-op has expanded into both local markets and other widespread areas using aide from organizations such as Refresh Appalachia. The organization also meets monthly and has a membership of nearly 90.
The Cornerstone Project in Fort Gay has a vision for the Wayne County Economic Authority to not only bring agriculture to life, but to build a hub - already partially in working use - for farmers to produce, package and sell their goods.
Of course, then there are the farmers of Wayne County who are not a part of any group. These farmers are grandpas, grandmas, aunts, uncles and family members who grow food for their families and have done so for generations and generations since the beginning of time.
Many of these farmers pass those skills to younger generations so they, too, can provide fresh food for their families.
Educationally, schools throughout the county have implemented horticulture, agriculture and other farming practice courses as Career Technical Education courses.
This allows high school students to learn the basics and even some advanced practices, behind agriculture. Mentors and farmers are also becoming more and more involved in schools, teaching children how to plant, grow and even cultivate shiitake mushrooms. All the while, the students are learning healthy eating habits.
The interest and the capabilities behind farming are only growing here in Wayne County. With all of these organizations working, and hopefully someday working together, agriculture is a crucial part of our future.
We don’t have many coal jobs anymore, we don’t have many jobs in general, so I believe expanding agriculture practices and knowledge could be the hidden golden ticket here in southern West Virginia to not just surviving, but also prospering.