WVU-Parkersburg approves $1 million in funds for upgrades to agriculture program

WTAP News @ 5- WVUP approves $1 million in funds for agriculture program
Published: Jan. 12, 2022 at 7:48 PM EST
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PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (WTAP) - For a long time, the farm next to West Virginia University at Parkersburg went unused. But that changed two years ago when college president, Dr. Chris Gilmer, found a way to create a program around it.

“I grew up on a small farm in Mississippi and have always loved and honored agriculture,” says Gilmer. “And I’ve never been one that liked to have resources underused.”

And so, the Riverhawk farm is giving students an opportunity to learn more about farming and other industries.

“So, we’re hoping to combine traditional agricultural education with business in what’s called ‘agro-business.’ So that our business students have an opportunity to do business plans. Our marketing students have an opportunity to do marketing plans. Our science students have opportunity to run scientific experiments on the farm,” says Gilmer. “And we hope to create a new generation of farmer who is a businessperson and an entrepreneur at the same time.”

The program is already getting the attention of students, including the veterans that go to WVU-Parkersburg.

One official says it’s an especially good program for those students, as it’s a great way to help them re-adjust after combat, and to have a career after service.

“As they’re getting back to civilian life. Their civilian life is focusing on life. Focusing on actually seeing things grow; seeing things nurtured; seeing projects grow from seed to plant to crop to market,” says veteran advocate, Darren Shearlock. “So, it’s just a great fit for veterans after their military service.”

Because of the appeal of this program, Gilmer is looking to expand it further.

And the school will be able to do that now that it has $1 million in federal grants and the help of area partners.

One such partner is Mr. Bee potato chips, who receive potatoes from the program.

“We listen to our employers, like Mister Bee and others. And we try to create for them the educational pathways that they want their future employees to have,” says Gilmer.

Gilmer says that school officials are looking to use their partnerships and funding to upgrade equipment and facilities at the farm. As well as a full renovation to the business office.

“I think universities must either grow and innovate and change with the times or we run the risk of becoming irrelevant. Because our students are changing, the needs of our employers are changing, the world in which we live is changing. So, we can’t stand still,” says Gilmer.

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