GSC in the CommunityBy Tara Grieco | February 27th, 2014 | Category: Et Cetera | No Comments »
About 85 people attended the Farm Opportunities Day Conference held at Glenville State College on January 24 and 25 of this year.
GAP training, Good Agricultural Practice or good handling practices, was one of the most successful portions of the program. Forty participants completed the training conducted by the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, making it the largest single training of individuals in the state to date. There were eight hours of classroom training during the conference to be followed by farm audits and inspections for those desiring certification.
While no requirements are currently in place for GAP, WVU Extension service is offering the training in advance of future opportunities for local farmers to become food vendors in the local public school systems. The goal is to replicate the farm to school programs operating successfully in several states, particularly California. Currently purchases from local farmers are limited to a small percentage of food sold to our schools, however in the future larger amounts may be purchased if the exposure to risk from possible poor handling practices on small, local farms is addressed. GSC partnered with WVU Extension and the West Virginia Department of Agriculture to provide the opportunity for farmers to become certified in advance of the Department of Education opening up purchases with mandated handling requirements for all vendors. The GAP training is available for those who wish to become school vendors or sell their products commercially, the training is not required to become a vendor at your local farmer’s market.
Other presentations covered topics in agriculture ranging from creation of farms, to school to farm pilot programs, to resources (technical and financial) available in the region and throughout the state. To date almost 8 million dollars in grant funding has been awarded to West Virginia entities and agencies for expanding local food initiatives.
According to Larry Porter in the External Relations Office at GSC, WVU Extension officers were so impressed by the success of the second year of the conference that they are planning to use the GSC collaborative conference as a model for conferences in other regions in the state. They concluded that it is much more effective to bring information and training to people in their communities, rather than having everyone statewide travel to Morgantown. Furthermore, the fact that the surveys were positive with participants commenting about the convenience, excitement, overall enjoyment, and plans to come back next year were no small influence.
The purpose of bringing the conference to Glenville is to provide local farmers with access to various speakers and topics regarding agriculture trends, initiatives, techniques and networking opportunities. The facilitation and distribution of material and resources to people in the region is a responsibility that GSC feels it has to the community. The conference was designed in such a way that it addressed the needs of farmers in multiple areas and stages of the farming process. The format allowed the conference experience for those just starting out to be different from those investigating expansion opportunities, and one where protein producers found the information specific to their needs while information specific to produce producers was provided. Each conference participant was able to make the experience a unique one to address their specific needs or inquiries.
GSC operates under the philosophy that it has a symbiotic relationship with the community. Everything GSC does will affect the community, for better or worse, and vice versa everything that occurs in the community will affect GSC. One constant question for the External Relations Department is, “What can we do to help the community and the region from an economic and resource area?” Porter’s background is in venture capital and corporate management and in additional economic outreach activities of GSC. He facilitates the grant-writing process for both GSC and other entities within the community.
Dr. Vavrek and Mr. Porter worked together in the Spring of 2013 to apply for a recently awarded $300,000 grant from the USDA aimed at building a pilot of collaborative work between GSC’s and Calhoun-Gilmer Career Center’s Natural Resource Management programs. The aim of the grant will be to build a replicable model that utilizes mentoring and collaboration to help guide secondary students into educational pathways leading to careers in Natural Resource Management in the region. The Student Veterans of America Chapter and the Pioneer Shooting Club are just two campus organizations that have recently taken part in the grant writing process. Porter is currently helping our local volunteer fire department in their application for a Firefighter’s Assistance grant, funding for volunteer fire departments to purchase personal protection equipment, invest in training, and purchase of vehicles, to help them in their effort to maintain a high level of service in our county. These are just a few good examples of GSC bringing opportunity to Glenville.
If you see a problem or can identify something you would like funding to accomplish, and are willing to spearhead the project, contact Larry Porter at Larry.Porter@glenville.edu to make an initial inquiry.