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Farmers market is only W.Va. outlet for hot-selling biodiesel

June 28, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

INWOOD, W.VA.

A pilot project by West Virginia Department of Agriculture officials to sell a domestically produced alternative to crude oil-based diesel fuel at Inwood Farmers Market in Berkeley County, W.Va., is attracting customers from neighboring Maryland and Virginia.

"Without any advertising, it's been selling well," said Buddy Davidson, the West Virginia Department of Agriculture's communication officer.

Since April, Davidson said the state-operated market at 178 Pilgrim St. has sold more than 1,000 gallons of biodiesel, a renewable fuel made from vegetable oils, animal fats or recycled restaurant grease.

"We've been really pleased so far with the response," he said. "At some point, if it really takes off, I would expect a commercial entity to come in and start selling it."

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The market in south Berkeley County is the only location in West Virginia that sells the fuel alternative, according to Davidson.

The agency has since fielded inquiries as to whether the state will offer biodiesel in other areas, where school districts have used the fuel for their bus fleets.

The state's decision to sell biodiesel by the 55-gallon barrel or by a single gallon in a plastic jug allowed Jefferson County agri-businessman Lyle C. "Cam" Tabb III to stock less at his Leetown farm. And three people he previously "pooled" with on past purchases now can conveniently buy their own, he said.

Since first using the fuel in October 2004, Tabb said he has noticed "real savings" in costly, preventative maintenance.

"It's hard to put a number on that type of savings," Tabb said.

The fuel sold is pure biodiesel, meaning it must be blended with petroleum by the buyer, according to state officials. It is being sold at-cost for $3.89 per gallon.

Tabb said he was aware of a group of Harpers Ferry, W.Va.-area residents who are using the alternative in place of traditional heating oil for furnaces and suggested that anyone in the area with a diesel-powered lawn mower might want to consider buying biodiesel, too.

"You can't imagine how pleasant the odor is off that little engine," Tabb said. "It kind of smells like french fries as you're mowing the grass."

More information is available at the National Biodiesel Board's Web site at www.biodiesel.org.

For more information on West Virginia agriculture, visit the WVDA's Web site at www.wvagriculture.org.

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