West Virginia hatches new farms with ag incubator
To reduce poverty and unemployment by training new farmers, West Virginia State University developed the Creating an Agriculture Incubator for Education in Southern West Virginia Program. The agricultural training incubator for small, rural farmers offered classes in agricultural production methods such as aquaponics and hydroponics, assessment of local market needs, farm safety planning, postharvest handling and agricultural economic development.
The program trained 156 farmers in the region. In addition to workshops and trainings, the scientists provided technical assistance to help participants become successful in their new agricultural careers. For example, they showed them how to develop affordable aquaponics systems through the use of cost-effective materials.
After participating in the program, 58% to 83% of the farmers responding to a survey reported that they had at least moderate knowledge of agricultural practices compared to 33% to 67% before the program. Also, 50% of respondents indicated that they worked with local markets – up from 12% before the program – and 42% worked with local restaurants to sell their produce compared to 10% before participating in the program.
Equipped with the skills and resources needed to launch and sustain their agricultural careers, the new farmers will provide their community with fresh, locally grown produce.