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Survey to promote Morgan Co. farms

August 10, 2010|By TRISH RUDDER
  • Bill Clark
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BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Local farmers and local businesses that buy food from them will have an opportunity to support each other more through the results of a survey being conducted in Morgan County.

The Morgan County Economic Development Authority's Agricultural Task Force is sending out 400 surveys "which will provide a first-of-its-kind snapshot of supply and demand of agricultural products in Morgan County," according to a news release.

"There are two stories that need told -- area businesses, schools, hospitals and restaurants have tremendous buying power for local products, and area farmers have amazing products that are for sale," local restaurant owner and Agricultural Task Force chairwoman Betsy Heath said in the release. "The economic potential, if we can help make the connection, will be incredibly beneficial for our county and its residents."

By surveying producers and consumers, the Agricultural Task Force "hopes to bridge the gap currently felt with those growing local products and those wanting to purchase local products," the news release said.

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Farmers and producers will receive a county inventory survey that asks them to anonymously describe their farming operation, production and marketing, and what could be done to make it more successful, Heath said.

Businesses and licensed commercial kitchens such as restaurants, schools and hospitals will receive a consumer survey that asks them to anonymously describe their operation, current local farm products purchased and what could be done to make purchasing local products more convenient, Heath said Tuesday.

As a business owner, Heath said she is looking for more locally produced products, not those from a factory.

For example, it is not profitable for a small chicken farmer to take the chickens to an out-of-state processing plant.

"A major problem is that there is no processing facility convenient to Eastern Panhandle farmers," Health said.

She said small, mobile processing units that are sustainable and environmentally friendly are now available and can come directly to chicken farms.

The survey will help the task force learn what farmers "currently do and what they cannot do" because of state and local regulations or land size, she said.

"Our EDA Task Force recognizes the role that agriculture plays in our economy and wants to help that sector of business," Morgan County EDA Director Bill Clark said in the release. "Morgan County farms are a vital component here. Being located only 90 minutes from over 3 million consumers is playing a pivotal role in farm business plans in or area."

Clark said Tuesday that "any kind of matchmaking through this survey to support one another will benefit the county's market. We want to encourage people to take advantage of this survey to provide information that will help us."

Anyone who does not receive a survey but wants to participate or has questions regarding the survey can call Denis Scott, West Virginia University Extension agent for Morgan County, at 304-258-8400.

Heath said the survey results, which will be analyzed by a third party, should be known by late September, and recommendations by the Agriculture Task Force will be made to the EDA board soon after.

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