W.Va. organizations form Veterans-to-Agriculture advisory council

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Bee-keeping has become a growing agricultural endeavor in West Virginia. (Photo courtesy W.Va Dept. of Agriculture)

During the 2019 State Fair of West Virginia, a Veterans-and-Warriors-to-Agriculture Advisory Council was formed to establish a cooperative body to tackle veteran issues through agriculture in West Virginia.

The council will help streamline and coordinate efforts between many groups, according to Commissioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt.

“We found there are a lot of organizations focused on helping veterans through agriculture,” Leonhardt said.

“To accomplish our individual goals and maximize resources to interested veterans, we need to be working together. This is too important to worry about who gets credit.”

Participants discussed current programs as well as services offered to veterans and servicemen and women.

The council held a round-table discussion to examine ways members could work together to better serve their constituent groups, and feedback was also taken on the current activities of the WVDA program.

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Program coordinator Dane Gaiser said he hopes the new council will ensure that veterans are provided all possible help regardless of which organization they contact.

“Our hope is to establish avenues of communications for veterans who want to pursue agriculture,” Gaiser said. “That way, no matter the organization they first contact, they will obtain the proper information or aid they are seeking. We want to make this as easy as possible for the veteran community.”

The meeting ended as members established possible next steps for the council, which would include creating specific goals, as well as strategies for implementation.

Members in attendance were the Farm Credit of the Virginians, the Herschel “Woody” Williams Huntington Veterans Medical Center, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, W.Va. Department of Veterans Affairs, W.Va. National Guard, W.Va. State Extension Service, and the West Virginia University Center for Veteran, Military, and Family Programs.

Council members not in attendance included West Virginia Veteran producer Sky Edwards, Marshall University Office of Military and Veteran Affairs, and Joshua Thaxton of Walmart.

For questions or more information, contact Dane Gaiser at vetstoag@wvda.us or 304-558-2210.

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