Agriculture is a $510 million a year industry in West Virginia. Add the $200 million a year in products coming from our state's forests, and the total is even more impressive.
The potential for much more income - and jobs -lies in agriculture and forestry. West Virginia University, already a leader in promoting growth in both fields, has taken a giant step forward.
A new greenhouse - one that required $8.8 million in "green" itself - has been opened by WVU's Davis College of Agriculture. It is part of a $160 million improvement project at the university's Evansdale Campus. The facility replaces an old greenhouse built during the 1960s.
WVU's roots as an agricultural education and research institution go back to the university's founding as a land-grant institution in 1867. Initially, it was the Agricultural College of West Virginia.
Through both research and education on its main campus and the statewide Extension Service, WVU has been a key aid to West Virginia farmers for many years. The new greenhouse should be an important contributor to that mission.
Again, agriculture and forestry hold enormous potential for West Virginia.
In some respects the state already is a leader. We rank 16th in the number of broiler chickens produced, 13th in turkeys. Only nine other states market more apples.
And in relatively new areas, such as fish farming, the state also is a leader. We rank 10th in trout production, for example.
Farming remains a foundation for many families in our state. More than 23,000 farms can be found here, though most fall into the "hobby farm" category with less than $10,000 in sales each year. Still, that number of farms provides a foundation for growth.
New opportunities lie ahead. WVU is to be commended for investing, through the new greenhouse and other initiatives, in the leadership needed to make agriculture and forestry even more important to the diversified economy West Virginia will need in the future.