Community & Agricultural Resource Development

Ramping Up for Spring Foraging

By Nikki Honosky, Alternative Agriculture Extension Associate

As a cold and dreary April comes to a close, we are finally beginning to see spring arrive in full. The temperatures are starting to warm back up, and everything is starting to sprout new growth. Spring is also the time that wild forest plants begin to appear for future foraging. There are plenty of different plants that can be foraged, but they be can different ones by location. Another factor that affects what plants are available is how the weather fared throughout the year. For example, if the year was particularly dry, certain mushroom picking spots may not have grown.

In West Virginia, one of the most common wild plants we have is the ramp. Ramps are sometimes referred to as wild onions or leeks and they grow in the Eastern parts of Canada and the U.S. during the spring. Their appearance is similar to scallions but smaller with one or two broad leaves. Their taste is sort of a mix between garlic and onion. In some places, ramps are very popular, but the problem with ramps is that they are scarce. They take their time growing and can take up to four years to do so. They’re rare due to the fact that they are seasonal, so the only time that you can get them is for the few weeks in the spring when they are in season.

Harvesting ramps can be difficult to forage due to their popularity, which has affected their population levels and can make them difficult to find if you set out too late. When looking for ramps in the forest, look for the broad leaves and purple stems. You want to be careful when harvesting them as they closely resemble the lily of the valley, which is highly poisonous. The biggest differences between them are the smell and the flowers/blossoms. The lily of the valley is scentless with bell-shaped flowers along the stem, but ramps have a strong odor with blossoms clustered at the end.

Another popular wild plant to forage is the mushroom, like the popular morel mushrooms pictured above. Harvesting wild mushrooms can be dangerous due to the fact that a good amount of the different mushroom species can be poisonous if consumed. Some tips to avoid those types are to avoid mushrooms with white gills, a skirt or ring on the stem, those that have a sack-like base, and those that have red on the cap or stem. These tips will help you to avoid most of the poisonous types of mushrooms even though you may miss some of the more edible ones. To be on the safe side, unless you are completely sure that the mushroom you have is safe, it is better to not consume it. Before going looking for wild mushrooms, research some of the safer mushroom species in order to have an idea of what to look for. You may also need to consult experts on the subject in order to get a positive identification on your mushrooms you pick to further avoid the poisonous species.

You may want to search for groups that deal with fungi like mushrooms. There are plenty of them that you could ask for advice. Do some research on the area you live in by using regional field guides to learn about what mushroom species grow near you. Always seek to identify the mushrooms you find before trying to do anything with them. Something that could help you when foraging is to take two containers. One for those you are completely sure are safe and the other for those that you are unsure about. When first beginning to forage you may not have too many positively identified, but over time you will learn how to identify what’s safe as you grow more experienced. One last piece of advice is if you take any pets with you while foraging, be extremely careful that they don’t consume any of the mushrooms. Pets, especially dogs, have been victim to it more than even humans.

Ramps and mushrooms are just two of the plants that you can forage for in West Virginia, but there are plenty of other plants available as well. This article is just to get you started on how to proceed when foraging wild plants. Other types of forageable goods include berries, pokeweed, edible plants such as dandelions, nettles, starchy roots and tubers, and so much more. Do research on what can grow in your region and have fun foraging.

You can easily learn more about this by doing research on the Internet or by asking those that are experienced in foraging for advice. If you have any questions, you can contact me at the WVSU Extension Office at the Welch Armory. I am available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and by appointment. Feel free to give me a call at (304) 320-5446.

Coworking at the WVSU EDC

Work Independently, Not Alone.

That is our slogan at the West Virginia State University Economic Development Center (EDC). We are the region’s premiere co-working space for the creative economy and home to a variety of small business owners, creative professionals, freelancers, non-profit and community development organizations. We’ve created a state-of-the-art facility jam packed with resources and perks to help grow your business or idea! Choose from a selection of super affordable membership plans that meet your individual working style and needs. Here is what we have to offer in a nutshell.

  • Office Space. Whether you are looking for a private, long-term office or you work from home and need a change of scenery for the day, the EDC has you covered. We offer private, fully furnished office spaces, a flexible shared office and free public workstations with Wi-Fi, phone, coffee and other business-related services. Membership plans allow our coworkers extended after-hours access to our facility and production spaces.
  • Meeting Space. Need to accommodate larger groups for trainings, presentations, board meetings or even catered social events? The EDC features three flexible meeting spaces with projectors, mobile monitors, wireless Internet, whiteboards, conference phones and more. We can even livestream your event!
  • Multimedia Production Facilities. Lights, camera, action! Create your own digital content such as commercials, voiceovers, product shoots, music and graphics in our fully equipped capture studio, voice studio and editing suite.
  • Networking Opportunities. Work within a community of like-minded individuals, spark new collaborations and meet potential clients on a daily basis. Here at the EDC, we’ve created the perfect communal setting for building relationships and extending your business network.
  • Programs and Services. Need help with your business plan, marketing or logo design? We offer a myriad of business development services with help from coworkers, mentors, community and state organizations and WVSU professors. Plus, our Creators Program delivers free community workshops, panels and talks focused on key skills and knowledge essential to “creating” for mass media and art. Topics include digital photography, 3D animation, independent publishing, Adobe Creative Cloud programs, music for media and much more.

To find out more about the EDC and how you can become a member, contact us at 304 720-1401 or via email at jrinehart@wvstateu.edu. Stop in for a tour anytime M-F 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. We are located at 1506 Kanawha Blvd. West in Charleston. Find us on the web at www.wvsuedc.org and like us on Facebook.

Holiday and Wintertime Safety

By Nikki Honosky, WVSU Extension Associate

The cold of winter has started settling in, and the holiday season is upon us. It’s the time of year where people rush into stores in order to find that perfect gift and all the fixings for the festivities to come. Something that many find little time to think about, however, is holiday safety. There are a variety of things that you can put into practice in order to keep yourself safe.

Decorating for the holidays is a serious business, often involving out-of-reach portions of your house or yard. When putting up lights or similar decorations, use the proper tools. If it requires a stepladder or ladder, use them. Don’t try to substitute with a chair or any other available furniture. Furniture wasn’t meant to be used as support, so they aren’t made to support much weight, which could make it collapse. When using any form of ladder, make sure that it is on an even surface and that it either won’t slide or make sure someone is there to hold it steady for you.

Another important holiday safety tip is to travel safely. Whether you’re traveling by car or just walking to your destination, be careful. Winter is here, so you may be dealing with either snow, ice or some combination. Either of those weather conditions can be dangerous if underestimated, so exercise caution when dealing with wintry conditions. Snow can also be dangerous for many reasons. One such reason is that ice can form underneath that wouldn’t be visible because of the top layer of snow. Another factor you will have to deal with is black ice, also known as glare ice. This type of ice can be transparent and can be difficult to detect. Black ice can make the road look wet, so be cautious when traveling. West Virginia doesn’t have the straightest roads on the planet, and negotiating curves can be difficult. Bridges or overpasses have a higher chance of being covered in ice as well, so be sure to remember that while driving this winter season.

If you happen to find yourself driving on any type of ice, remember: don’t panic or brake immediately. Remain calm and slowly take your foot off of the gas. Allow your vehicle to gradually slow down, while taking care to remain safe from the vehicle behind you. Search for a safe and/or secure place to park your vehicle, such as a parking lot. Just remember to make no sudden movements and that you remain cautious when dealing with ice in order to remain safe.

These are just a few tips in order to remain safe this holiday season. While everyone tends to focus on the festivities, don’t forget that the winter season can be dangerous. Always exercise caution throughout the season in order to have a safe holiday.

Beckley Rings in the Holidays with Pop-Up Shops

By Christine Kinder, WVSU Extension Agent

Downtown Beckley is ringing in the holiday season with a variety of special events relating to Shop Small Saturday, the annual event to encourage shopping at local small businesses.

The Downtown Beckley Business Association (DBBA) is thrilled to once again host the Small Business Saturday Pop-Up Shops Nov. 25 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for Shop Small Saturday.

The event will strengthen the economic base of our local community by supporting small, independent businesses and property owners by creating pop-up shops in The Grant building on Neville St. and promoting retail businesses along Main St. and Neville St. downtown. This event allows business owners the opportunity to be exposed to hundreds of new customers and is also an opportunity for pop-up vendors to explore the possibilities of a downtown location.

Small Business Saturday, an annual national event sponsored by American Express, provides communities an opportunity to advertise their local businesses through “swag” containing promotional materials such as balloons, banners, stickers and the very popular Shop Small tote bag to entice customers to come out and shop.

To help promote our event this year, we partnered with Beckley Rocks! to plan a painted rock scavenger hunt throughout downtown. Beckley Rocks! and DBBA recently held a rock painting party, which provided the community a fun space to create painted rocks to use for the hunt. The rocks will be hidden around downtown and inside of participating retail shops to encourage people to get out and explore downtown Beckley.

Participating shops include: Dragon’s Den Comics and Games, On Point Acupuncture, Roma’s Pizza, Tickety Boo Mercantile, Melody’s, Grand Food Bazaar, Kilted Barber, Matt’s Main Street Barber Shop and Shave, Brown Dog Bottom, and The Consignment Company on Main. We hope this will attract even more customers and that they will discover new shops and spend money locally to support our independent businesses.

The holiday spirit will be flowing through the streets, as businesses will have decorated windows thanks to the Holiday Window Decorating Contest sponsored by the DBBA. We are encouraging businesses downtown to decorate their windows before the Nov. 25 event by holding a contest where the community will vote for their favorite window. The winning window will be awarded a trophy, and all participants will earn appreciation for helping to brighten up our downtown.

Check out the Small Business Saturday Pop-Up Shops flier here.

To learn more, contact WVSU Extension Agent Christine Kinder.

Alternative Vegetable Growing System Helps Feed McDowell County Residents

An alternative growing method for fresh vegetables is helping feed the citizens of Welch, W.Va., thanks to an initiative led by West Virginia State University (WVSU) Extension Service. The University’s aquaponics system, installed at the Welch Armory, recently produced 150 pounds of fresh lettuce that was donated to residents of a local housing community.

Aquaponics refers to a system in which fish waste supplies nutrients for plant growth. The armory’s system, consisting of three 1,200-gallon tanks filled with tilapia inside a high tunnel structure, is connected to a recirculating hydroponic growing system, which allows plants to grow in the absence of soil in a raised-bed environment. Part of a research project led by WVSU Biology Professor Dr. Jonathan Eya, waste from the fish is used to feed the plants through the recirculating water system. Varying levels of nutrients are provided to the fish in each tank to study the effects of differing feed levels on both fish and plant growth, which, in the initial pilot phase, consisted of lettuce and kale varieties. The project’s first lettuce harvest was donated to residents at Elkhorn Terrace in Welch.

Such aquaponics systems could provide a more sustainable, environmentally friendly alternative growing method for West Virginia farmers on land that isn’t well suited to traditional agriculture.

“Systems such as this give us a way to move onto a piece of land that perhaps has been developed and abandoned, is formerly mined, or vacant lots with soils not suitable for vegetable production,” said WVSU Extension Agent John Bombardiere. “The raised-bed construction also helps in areas prone to high waters from flooding. These systems can be put just about anywhere.”

The Welch Armory is located at 600 Stewart St. in Welch.

What Do I Pack for an Off-Road Trail Ride?

By Chris Zeto, WVSU Extension Agent

In my last post, I talked a little about the many off-road trail options that exist in West Virginia. This time, we’ll discuss the items you’ll need to bring along on your next adventure. Before you venture out, even if you are an experienced rider, be sure you have the necessary equipment and gear you need to hit the trails.

For starters, remember to always wear an approved helmet and protective eyewear. Over-the-ankle footwear and gloves are also strongly encouraged for ATV riding. These basic items, along with a jersey and riding pants or water-resistant pants, not only offer greater protection than ‘everyday’ clothes, but also make riding much more comfortable. After all, what you wear on the trail is as important as what you wear off the trail!

Riding gear is encouraged because it protects you from the elements—including branches, bugs, mud and dust that may come your way. And should you crash your ATV, you’ll be glad your head, eyes and body are protected.

Below is a checklist of everything you need to make your next off-road trip a success.

On-The-Trail Checklist

  • Helmet
  • Protective eyewear – Goggles are preferred, but sunglasses or safety glasses are acceptable.
  • Over-the-ankle footwear – Boots are preferred, but high-top sneakers are acceptable.
  • Long, water-resistant pants are suggested – Shorts are accepted, but not encouraged.
  • Earplugs
  • Snacks
  • Water (and plenty of it)
  • Bug spray
  • Cell phone
  • Maps, because you cannot always count on GPS along the trails.

Off-the-Trail Checklist

  • Fresh T-shirt
  • Dry, clean pants
  • Change of shoes and socks
  • Toiletry bag to freshen up
  • Towel

Having these items along with you will ensure you’re ready to conquer any off-road trails that you encounter. Have fun but be safe!

Happy trails!

Chris Zeto is a WVSU Extension Agent for Community Resource and Economic Development in Logan County, working with Hatfield-McCoy Trails. Photo courtesy of Hatfield-McCoy Trails.

Off-Road Options for a West Virginia Summer Vacation

By Chris Zeto, WVSU Extension Agent

It’s summertime!

Are you still considering vacation destination options? Perhaps the beach? The zoo? An amusement park? Off-road trails?

Wait…off-road trails? What?

Yes, off-road trails can be one of the best family vacations you’ll find, especially right here in the Mountain State. Take time to explore the options in southern West Virginia by visiting the Hatfield-McCoy Trails. This off-road park offers more than 600 miles of thrill-seeking ATV, UTV, dirt bike and Jeep trails that will keep you coming back for more.

While traveling along these exciting trails, you will learn about West Virginia’s history by visiting the different ATV-friendly towns. Visit the town of Matewan to learn about the Hatfield-McCoy Feud and the infamous Matewan Massacre. Visit the town of Gilbert to learn how moonshine is made. Visit the town of Bramwell to tour some magnificent mansions. Visit the city of Logan and take a trip down the river in a kayak or canoe. While you are in town, don’t forget to stop by one or two of the wonderful local restaurants for some down-home southern cooking. With over 600 miles of trails, you won’t see the same spot twice and will fill your day with some lovely, scenic views. After a day full of exploring the trails and history, relax by the campfire while nibbling on a hot “s’more” and listening to some local bluegrass music.

Exciting vacation destinations are available all over West Virginia, even closer to home than you might think. It’s time to make your reservations and make memories that will last a lifetime. Next week on the blog, look for my checklist of items to ensure you’ve got everything you’ll need on your next trail adventure!

Happy trails!

Chris Zeto is a WVSU Extension Agent for Community Resource and Economic Development in Logan County, working with Hatfield-McCoy Trails. Photo courtesy of Hatfield-McCoy Trails.

Nov. 17: Annual Take a Hike Day

By Ray Moeller, CARD Extension Agent

This Thursday, Nov. 17, marks national “Take a Hike” Day. Below are two not-so-well-known hikes that I often enjoy in southern West Virginia.

Long Point on Summersville Lake
This trail meanders through mature forest growth, leading to a rock outcropping that is 40 feet high at a sharp bend in the Gauley River, which becomes part of Summersville Lake during the summer months. The hike is between one and one-half miles and two miles one-way and there are several off trail options. There is little chance of becoming turned around as the hike traverses a point which is defined on both sides by Summersville Lake itself. To find the trail, drive on U.S. Route 19 south of Summersville and turn west onto Airport Road, which leads to the marina and Mountain Lake Campground. Drive on Airport Road past the marina road, the campground store and the airport. When you come to a gate, park along the roadway and follow the two tracks to the trail signs. The view from the point is terrific, just be aware that children will require careful oversight as there are no hand rails or fencing.

The Falls of Hills Creek
This trail is a hidden gem in the Gauley District of the Monongahela National Forest. Travel east out of Richwood on Highway 55/39 for approximately 20 miles to the marked parking area at the Falls of Hills Creek. The trail leads alongside three falls that are increasing in height. Be warned that the trail is downhill to the last of the falls with many stairs to negotiate. Thus the hiker will be required to return uphill along the same stairs and incline. The falls are particularly beautiful in times of more significant rainfall, especially in the spring of the year, when flowers brighten the landscape and the new growth allows for enhanced sight lines. The total distance is approximately three-quarters of a mile one way, of which the first 1,700 feet paved, with the remainder of the trail more strenuous.

 

WVSU Yellow Jackets Swarm National Small Farm Conference

By Matt Browning, Director of Communications

patriotguardensWest Virginia State University Yellow Jackets swarmed Virginia Beach as a group of WVSU Extension Service personnel ascended on the 7th National Small Farm Conference Sept. 20-22. Nine staff members hosted eight oral presentations, two poster presentations and an informational exhibit at the event, themed “Creating and Sustaining Small Farmers and Ranchers.”

Staff members presented on a variety of projects, including incorporating technology into agriculture, bolstering youth interest in gardening, urban farming initiatives and others.

“Especially for a school the size of West Virginia State, to have so many of our team presenting their work really speaks to the innovation and scope of our projects,” said Melissa Stewart, assistant program director for Community and Agricultural Resource Development (CARD). “It’s a good reflection of the innovation that is coming out of WVSU.”

West Virginia AgrAbility, a joint WVSU and West Virginia University Extension Service project that seeks to enhance quality of life for farmers with disabilities, was exhibited, as were poster presentations on accessible gardening and providing agriculture education in nontraditional 4-H settings.

jennytabithaOral presentations included the following:

  • The Making of Agriculture: The Intersection of the Maker Movement and Modern Small-Scale Agriculture and How Extension Professionals Can Encourage Both (Extension Agent Jenny Totten with David Francis, Utah State University Extension)
  • Get Off Your Bum and Grow: Encouraging Engagement in Youth Gardening Programs (Extension Agents Jenny Totten and Tabitha Surface)
  • Production and Space Design for the Smallest Farmer: Engaging Children in Agriculture at Any Age (Extension Agent Jenny Totten)
  • Post-Harvest Education for the Small Farmer (Extension Agent Robin Turner)
  • Patriot Guardens (CARD Assistant Program Director Melissa Stewart)
  • Using Smart Phone and Tablet Apps on the Farm (Inetta Fluharty, West Virginia AgrAbility)
  • Growing Small Fruits in Urban West Virginia (Extension Agent Brad Cochran)

agrabilitydisplayHeld every three to four years, the National Small Farm Conference brings together farmers, extension educators and other agricultural enthusiasts to address the needs, challenges and successes of small farmers across the nation and world. The 2016 conference focused on strategies for enhanced farm income and improved quality of life; success stories from small farm activities; and innovative ideas in research, extension and outreach.

“The conference was a great success, both in what we’ve learned and what we’ve been able to share with others by presenting our work,” Stewart said. “The overlap with other extension educators and farmers, especially those here on the East Coast, has been very eye-opening in terms of learning how we can collaborate and expand our efforts.”

The 7th National Small Farm Conference was hosted by Virginia State University’s College of Agriculture, Virginia Cooperative Extension and the U.S. Department of Agriculture with support from Virginia Tech.

To learn more about WVSU Extension Service’s presentations and projects from the National Small Farm Conference, contact the presenters above.

Celebrate National Farmers Market Week August 7-13

By Jenny Totten, CARD Extension Agent

August 7-13, 2016, is National Farmers Market Week, where farmers markets all over the country are engaging customers in special events. By the beginning of this year, there were more than 8,500 farmers markets in the U.S. – that is 50% more than just five years ago!

If you aren’t already shopping at your local farmers market, what are you waiting for? A trip to the market is a great way to not only support local farmers and get fresher, healthier foods. It’s also a fun family activity for you and your kids. Here are some fun ways to engage the children in your community and your entire family in being a part of the local food system.

The first one is simple: Find your local farmers market. Research where your community’s markets are and what time they are open. The West Virginia Farmers Market Association maintains a list of member markets for the state. Children love seeing all of the fresh products, and farmers love talking to potential new, young customers. A word of caution: famers do not appreciate having their produce handled constantly. Remember that, in most cases, this is their livelihood, so handle with care only the items you intend to purchase, as best you can.

farmersmarketweek2Educate yourself on where your food is coming from. Produce bought at the local supermarket and big box stores is most likely not West Virginia grown. For example, most tomatoes come from Florida, grapes from California, apples from Washington, potatoes from Idaho, and onions from as far away as Peru! When you buy from the local farmers market, you can be guaranteed that your foods are coming fresh from the farm down the street, down the road or in a nearby town. By knowing how far your food has traveled, you’ll better understand the benefits of buying local – the food is fresher for you and you’re helping your community farmers! Share this information with your children, even showing them the distances of common food travel on a map or globe. It’s a great visual for the youngsters to learn the importance of buying local and supporting small farmers.

Play the “local food hula hoop game” with your children. This is a fun way to show how far food actually has to travel, work on food recognition for the younger crew and get some exercise in, too! Here’s how you do it.

Local Food Hula Hoop Game

Materials: 10-12 hula hoops or sidewalk chalk; fake plastic fruits and vegetables or laminated pictures, some for West Virginia (apples, lettuce, tomato, pepper, peas, beans grapes) and some for Mexico (pepper, tomato, beans, mango, banana, grapes)

Optional, but fun: pictures of the maps of countries and states that you travel through to get from Mexico to West Virginia (Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky); picture of a grocery store; pictures of two farms

Layout:

  • Draw one giant circle or lay down one hula hoop for the grocery store
  • Pick the “Local Food” side of the playing area and draw a circle or lay down a hula hoop for the WV Farm
  • On the other side, draw or lay down one hula hoop for each state/country that the food must travel through, then add one more circle for the Mexico farm
  • Place WV foods in the WV farm, place Mexico foods in the Mexico farm

Playing the Game:

  • One person is the grocery store manager and must make food orders. The other players each pick West Virginia or Mexico to represent.
  • The grocery store manager calls out fruits and vegetables and one farmer from each side must choose their vegetable or fruit and hop from circle to circle to get the order to the store.
  • SOME foods will not be available at all farm locations.

Questions to ask:

  • Which food do you think is fresher?
  • What happens when there is a food recall out of a Mexican farm?
  • What about if there is bad weather along the truck route?

These are just a couple ideas – and a fun game – to introduce farmers markets into your family life. To learn more about farmers markets and National Farmers Market Week, visit the Farmers Market Coalition website!