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West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture Encourages Local Agriculture During Weirton Visit

As West Virginia’s commissioner of agriculture, Kent Leonhardt understands the importance farming and related industries have on the state’s future.

“I’m always interested in what’s going on in agriculture in West Virginia,” Leonhardt explained during a visit to Weirton Thursday.

Leonhardt, who operates a farm in Monongalia County, was in the area to learn about some of the latest local agricultural efforts, including a growing hydroponics and aquaponics operation which provides educational opportunities for youth across the Tri-State Area, and an anticipated agricultural marketplace set to open in the city later this year.

“Agriculture is a great way to diversify the economy,” Leonhardt said, noting a focus on local farming helps to save energy and secure the nation’s supply chains, as well as providing more nutritious food. “West Virginia agriculture is good for health, good for our citizens, good for the environment and good for the economy.”

The commissioner spent the first portion of his visit touring Blue Stream Farms and its David and Linda Payne Educational Center at 3236 Main St., meeting with CEO Dan Spickard, COO Joe Edmiston and Executive Director Doug Velegol.

Blue Stream Farms operates a series of grow beds which produce microgreens and various other herbs and vegetables through both hydroponics and aquaponics.

Pointing to one bed, Spickard noted they are able to program the lights overheard to simulate the daily solar cycle, providing a different level of light depending on the time.

“That changes throughout the day,” Spickard said.

Some of the beds also are used as part of educational outreach programs with several area schools, assisting with lessons in science, technology, writing, engineering, arts and mathematics.

Blue Stream Farms currently is in the process of developing a commercial-grade kitchen area to assist chefs and restaurants who are just beginning their endeavors.

Leonhardt recommended they consider offering the kitchen to those in the cottage foods industries, as well, such as those who produce their own jams, jellies, breads and other home-grown products.

The group also took time to have lunch, using meats and produce provided by Birch Creek Farmery of Burgettstown, before Leonhardt joined owner Teddi Maslowski at a former post office in the city’s north end to learn about plans to convert it into an agricultural marketplace.

Maslowski, a fourth-generation farmer, announced the plans in March, saying everything featured at the marketplace would be grown and produced locally.

Source: https://www.weirtondailytimes.com/news/local-news/2022/04/leonhardt-encourages-local-agriculture-during-weirton-visit/

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