With extra time on their hands, many West Virginians are looking for ways to keep busy. And, West Virginia University Extension Service and the West Virginia Department of Agriculture believe they have the perfect solution – family gardening.
Much like during World War I and World War II when victory gardens were planted to stretch food rations and boost morale, West Virginians are showing a renewed interest in growing their own food. To assist in those efforts, WVU Extension Service and the West Virginia Department of Agriculture are working together to encourage family gardening and remind residents of the wide variety of resources available to them.
“For centuries families have grown and harvested their own food. During this challenging time, WVU Extension Service is pleased to serve as a resource for those interested in gardening. Our faculty and staff have a wealth of expertise and resources available for gardeners at all levels, including our popular garden calendar, web resources and other educational materials,” Sue Day-Perroots, interim dean, WVU Extension Service, said. “Gardening provides so many benefits, including the satisfaction of growing your own food and time to connect with family.”
In addition to the calendar and website, WVU Extension Service’s Family Nutrition Program is taking a lead in helping families learn about growing their own food. Earlier this spring, the group rolled out the “Grow This!: West Virginia” garden challenge and, to date, has distributed more than 10,000 seed packets to families throughout the state.
The West Virginia Department of Agriculture continues to assist local farmers by adapting policies to ensure food safety, including working with the state’s farmers’ and livestock markets; identifying opportunities to connect local growers to potential buyers; providing assistance with issues related to agriculture and the coronavirus; distributing food in cooperation with food banks and local boards of education and offering educational opportunities for farmers, agribusiness and West Virginia communities.
West Virginia Department of Agriculture Commissioner Kent Leonhardt is encouraged by the increased interest in gardening around the state.
“Our food system has been stressed with the closure of schools and restaurants, as well as people buying excess food in response to the virus. Just as our nation and local communities did during war time, we are encouraging folks to get outside and grow some of their own food or for a local pantry. Not only will they be less reliant on imported food, those who choose to garden might sharpen a new skill, as well as enjoy much needed sunshine.”
Together, WVU Extension Service and West Virginia Department of Agriculture are able to provide West Virginia families with virtual garden learning opportunities; seeds and other materials; step-by-step planting and care guides; simple recipes that use the produce families grow; and much more.
To learn more, contact your local county Extension agent, visit the WVU Extension Service gardening site and/or visit the West Virginia Department of Agriculture website.