Parkersburg, W.Va. 1/27/12 – West Virginia University at Parkersburg is the recipient of two grants totaling $440,000 from the Community and Technical College System of West Virginia (CTCS). With funding approved, the college will introduce associate of applied science degree programs in Diversified Agriculture and Culinary Arts. The two programs will work in conjunction with and support one another.
To prepare for the rapidly changing agricultural industry in West Virginia, WVU Parkersburg’s Diversified Agriculture program will provide students with technical knowledge in such areas as plant sciences, landscaping, field crop rotation, and agricultural economics and business strategies. With the grant money, the college will hire a full-time instructor to coordinate the program. Additionally, equipment will be purchased to establish the program’s 5-acre outdoor learning lab, which will be located at the main campus.
According to the grant, 90 percent of food consumed in West Virginia is raised outside of the state. A 10 percent increase in raising and selling local foods with no preservatives within WVU Parkersburg’s seven-county service area would have an economic impact of $5,497,188. West Virginia has the highest number of family-owned farms in the nation (95.2 percent).
“Our region needs more food producers to meet the increasing demand for locally grown foods,” said Dr. Rhonda Tracy, WVU Parkersburg Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs. “We researched job trends and potential industry wages and realized the tremendous impact this program would have on area residents.”
“Graduates from the program will likely already work on a family farm,” she added. “The skills gained through our program will enable them to increase farm incomes by offering diverse agricultural products.”
The CTCS also approved grant funding for WVU Parkersburg’s Culinary Arts program, which will launch at its new downtown center. The program will be blend traditional classroom and online courses, and foods grown by the Diversified Agriculture students will be used to prepare foods.
“It is a huge advantage to be able to link Diversified Agriculture and Culinary Arts together on the front end. Many colleges end up doing this on back end because the programs are introduced at different times. This will add to the success and efficiency of the programs,” said Tracy.
Curriculum will include all phases of cooking and provide students a local and more affordable option for culinary arts education. The downtown center will have a complete commercial kitchen for student training purposes and a small bistro area where second-year students will prepare and serve gourmet meals on a limited basis. The kitchen will also be available for rent to local culinary entrepreneurs.
According to the National Restaurant Association, 13 million people, 9 percent of the U.S. workforce, work in the food service industry. The industry is the second largest source of U.S. non-government jobs, and it continues to grow. Employment of chefs and head cooks is expected to increase by 6 percent through 2018.
“Area chefs and businesses expressed the need for a culinary arts program to provide students with the necessary skills to contribute to the growing restaurant industry,” said Tracy. “We are pleased to now have the opportunity to fulfill that need.”