17 Jun

The agricultural and resource economics program is seeking applicants for two faculty positions:

For more information on all job opportunities, application processes and employment policies at West Virginia University, please visit the WVU Jobs site.

10 Jun

Paraguayan scholars to visit WVU

David | June 10th, 2014

Connections a West Virginia University professor made while on a Fulbright-sponsored visit to Paraguay have laid the foundation for an upcoming visit from a delegation from one of the South American nation’s premiere universities to finalize an exchange agreement with the University.

Scholars from the Universidad Nacional de Asuncion in San Lorenzo will visit Morgantown June 10-13 to finalize an exchange agreement with the Mountain State’s land-grant university.

The idea for the partnership germinated during a Fulbright-sponsored visit to Paraguay by Gerard D’Souza, director and professor of WVU’s agricultural and resource economics program in WVU’s Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design.

D’Souza came back to WVU with a new appreciation for Paraguay – and even went so far to say that it could be considered the green energy capital of the world by 2020.

“It’s a well-kept secret. It’s a very young and economically vibrant country in the heart of South America. It is politically stable and without some of the security concerns that characterize other countries,” said D’Souza, who has been at WVU for nearly 30 years.

D’Souza cited WVU’s strategic goal to advance international activity and global engagement as an impetus for creating the relationship with Asuncion. The exchange agreement, coordinated with the Office of International programs (OIP), will allow faculty and students from each institution to study and pursue research at the other. D’Souza said that the program would be of interest across the university, but particularly to scholars in energy, environmental, economic and business disciplines.

Jose ‘Zito’ Sartarelli, WVU’s chief global officer and Milan Puskar dean of the College of Business and Economics, described Paraguay as “an important country located in the heart of Latin America.

“In our aim to extend and expand the global footprint of WVU, it’s imperative to build relationships all over the world,” Sartarelli added. “This visit from the Paraguayan delegation will allow for deeper opportunities for exchange of all kinds between our two institutions.”

During their visit, the Paraguayan delegation will visit with WVU’s Office of International Programs, Sartarelli, and WVU President E. Gordon Gee.

28 May

If you are a gardener or farmer, or have recipes that friends and family are always inquiring about, see how the results of hard work and delicious recipes can pay off with West Virginia University Extension Service’s Food for Profit educational workshop.

The workshop takes place June 6 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Belington Fire Department, located at 301 Watkins Street in Belington. The cost for the workshop is $30, which includes education materials and lunch.

Food for Profit is a program created by Penn State Extension and customized by the WVU Extension Service to teach West Virginians how to plan, create, finance and run a for-profit food business.

The registration deadline for the event is May 30. For additional information contact Joshua Peplowski at WVU Extension Service’s Barbour County office at 304-457-3254, or by e-mailing Joshua.Peplowski@mail.wvu.edu.

Food for Profit is a collaboration of the Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Families and Health Program units of WVU Extension Service.

– See more at: http://wvutoday.wvu.edu/n/2014/05/23/wvu-extension-food-for-profit-educational-session-helps-new-and-experienced-growers-cultivate-profits#sthash.wDdiPQDV.dpuf

16 May
image of Cheryl Brown The Appalachian Foodshed Project, an initiative with West Virginia University support, has awarded grants to three community projects that seek to enhance community food security in West Virginia.

The three funded projects in the Mountain State, along with six in Virginia and North Carolina, are building on the work that is already happening in the region, while increasing access to local fresh foods, creating new opportunities for collaboration, and building capacity for advocacy and action.

“These projects all address community food security in some capacity and are wonderful examples of the creative food systems work in our region. We are excited to support efforts that truly embody the innovative spirit of Appalachia,” said AFP director Susan Clark.

According to AFP stakeholders, community food security involves:

  • Ensuring that healthy food is accessible and available to all community members
  • Empowering communities to determine where/how to focus work for food system change
  • Cultivating ecologically and financially sustainable agriculture
  • Balancing food security and farm security
  • Engaging youth and young people
  • Fostering a healthier community
  • Working for justice and equity

The West Virginia grants went to:

  • Alderson Community “Food Access for All” —Lead Organization: Alderson Community Food HUB; Counties Represented: Greenbrier, Monroe, Summers; $6,300
  • SAGE, or Sustainable Agriculture Entrepreneurs—Lead organization: CADCO Foundation and the Charleston Area Alliance; Counties Represented: Kanawha; $3,700
  • Farm to Pantry Matching Program—Lead Organization: Monongalia County Family Resource Center; Counties Represented: Monongalia, Preston, Marion; $10,000

Cheryl Brown, an associate professor of agricultural and resource economics in WVU’s Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, has been working with peers at Virginia Tech and North Carolina State on the $2.041 million project, which is being funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture through 2016.

“A thriving local food system can improve children’s health, reconnect us to the land, allow farmers to prosper, and attract new farmers to agriculture,” Brown said. “Yet the current food system still presents barriers to those with limited financial resources regarding access to sufficient food, much less high quality locally grown food.

“We need to connect impoverished communities to healthier, locally grown food,” she added.

The long-term goal of the grant project is to strengthen, sustain, and expand the South-Atlantic Appalachian Region foodshed of Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina with the dual aim of increasing food security and economic viability within historically disadvantaged communities of cultural Appalachia.

For more information on the project, please visit its home page at http://www.appalachianfoodshedproject.org/.

30 Apr
The Neffs

(Editor’s Note: As Commencement nears, WVUToday is featuring some of the University’s most dedicated graduates. Here is the story of two of those students.)

Siblings Steve and Maddi Neff grew up in an Ohio farm town where they say the cows outnumber the people.

Suffice it to say, West Virginia University has more people than cows.

But when Steve got his first taste of WVU as a high school student experiencing a Mountaineer football weekend, he called his mother that Sunday to tell her of this whole new world.

“I was dead-set on going to a private college,” Steve said. “A friend had a ticket to catch a football game at WVU and I went with him. The next day, I took a tour of the campus. I called my mom and said, ‘Hey mom. I’m going to school here.’ And it was the best decision of my life.”

For more information about Commencement, click here.

In May, that decision will lead Steve and his sister Maddi across the stage at the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design commencement ceremony. They will join about 4,300 other graduates receiving their degrees May 9-11.

Steve, 24, will receive his master’s degree in agriculture, natural resources and design. Two days later, he’ll go to Montana to fight wildfires with the U.S. Forest Service.

Maddi, 22, will gain her bachelor’s degree in agribusiness management and rural development. She, too, is heading to the Rocky Mountains – to Colorado, where she will work at horse ranches.

– See more at: http://wvutoday.wvu.edu/n/2014/04/30/meet-the-grads-like-brother-like-sister-country-roads-to-take-ohio-siblings-to-the-rocky-mountains#sthash.PxnEtgmJ.dpuf

25 Apr

West Virginia University researchers are seeking participants for an online questionnaire exploring environmentally and economically sustainable energy development and utilization in West Virginia.

Faculty in WVU’s Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design and Regional Research Institute received a grant from the National Science Foundation to examine two important energy rich regions of the world –West Virginia and the province of Shanxi in China. This survey is a component of that ongoing project.

“The objective of the survey is to elicit expert opinion to inform policy that encourages optimal energy development to meet the region’s energy demands today and in the future,” said Davina Bird, a doctoral candidate in agricultural and resource economics who is coordinating the survey.

The team already completed a similar survey in Shanxi, which has many similar characteristics to West Virginia, including a rich supply of coal.

The survey data will be used for research purposes. It can be taken online. Participation in the survey is strictly voluntary, and all collected data will kept anonymous.

People interested in sustainable energy in West Virginia, particularly those engaged in industry, regulation or education, can participate by clicking on the following link to access the online survey: http://wvu.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_7362YVSVuAQixal. Participants are also invited to forward this survey to colleagues or other individuals who are engaged with these issues.

For additional information, please contact J. Wesley Burnett, assistant professor of natural resource economics, at 304-293-5639 or at jwburnett@mail.wvu.edu.

22 Apr

WVU to host oil and gas workshop

David | April 22nd, 2014

West Virginia University will team with the Northeast Agricultural and Resource Economics Association (NAREA) and the National Agricultural and Rural Development Policy (NARDeP) to host a workshop on Non-Conventional Oil and Gas Energy.

The workshop will be held at the Waterfront Place Hotel in Morgantown June 3-4, after the NAREA annual meeting June 1-2.

The workshop will include addresses from recognized experts in the field, paper presentations chosen on the basis of submitted abstracts and in-depth working sessions, according to Wesley Burnett, assistant professor of resource economics in WVU’s Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design.

“Top scholars from around the world have submitted papers explaining the economic and environmental impacts of non-conventional oil and gas energy,” Burnett said.

Tim Carr, Marshall Miller Professor of Geology in WVU’s Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, will deliver the opening address at 1 p.m. on June 3. That evening’s keynote address will be presented by Alan J. Krupnick, senior fellow and director of the Center for Energy Economics and Policy of Resources for the Future. A panel of experts from a wide cross-section of WVU disciplines will open the workshop’s June 4 schedule, and workshop participants will be able to participate in a well pad tour on June 5.

A special issue of the Agricultural and Resource Economics Review (ARER) will be published from workshop papers accepted after an expedited version of the journal’s peer-review process. In addition, the NARDeP will host 1,400-word policy briefs by the workshop paper authors.

The workshop registration fee is $50 for NAREA and NARDeP members, $75 for non-members, $50 for member students and $60 for non-member students prior to May 1; after this date the registration fee is $75 for members, $100 for non-members, $75 for member students and $85 for non-member students.

Registration for the NAREA conference in Morgantown can be paid by check through the mail or online with a credit card until May 16, 2014. Credit card registrations will be assessed a transaction and handling fee of 5.5 percent plus 99 cents. When paying by check, please download and complete the registration form available here. When paying by credit card, please use the secure online registration available here.

21 Apr
WVU Soils Team

The West Virginia University Soils Team recently traveled to Quakerstown, Pa., for the 2014 National Collegiate Soils Contest.

Becca Swope, an agricultural and extension education major from Columbiana, Ohio, placed 13th in the field of 76 competitors and was the team’s top individual finisher. Overall, WVU placed 10th as a team – its sixth top 10 finish in the past nine years.

Hosted by Delaware Valley College, the competition featured 19 teams representing colleges and universities from across the country.
The nine-member team includes Swope, Nicholas Beaver, a Dec. 2013 graduate with a bachelor’s degree in agronomy from Sistersville, W.Va.; Elenaor Bell, a soil science major from Snowshoe, W.Va.; Riley Biddle, an agronomy major from Carmichaels, Pa.; Caleb Griffing, an agroecology major from McHenry, Md.; James Lenoard, an agroecology major from Middletown, Md.; Emily Lessman, a soil science major from Sistersville, W.Va.; Adrienne Nottingham, a soil science major from Green Bank, W.Va.; and Emily Wells, an agribusiness management and rural development major from Morgantown.

“As always, I am extremely proud of the accomplishments of all of these students,” said James Thompson, associate professor of soils and land use and the team’s advisor. “These students continue to build upon the past success of the WVU Soils Team. I believe this speaks to the quality of the training that these students receive from the Division of Plant & Soil Sciences. It also reflects the overall strength of the academic programs across the Davis College. Thank you for your support of these students, particularly when they are away from campus for extended periods at critical times during the semester.”

14 Apr

Senior spotlight 2014: Maddi Neff

David | April 14th, 2014
ContinentalDivideBackground Maddi Neff

Maddi Neff, Johnstown, Ohio, will graduate in May 2014 with a degree in agribusiness management and rural development and a minor in equine management. She’s used her time in WVU’s Davis College to study subjects she loves while focusing on her specific career objectives.

How did you choose your major?

I was finishing my sophomore year as a fashion merchandising major when I decided to change routes and pursue Agribusiness Management. I loved the fashion industry and still do, but I was looking for something a little less urban and a little more rural. I enjoy working with fabrics, designs and displays, especially western apparel. The design, construction and details of cowboy boots is what intrigues me the most, so switching to a major a little more focused on agriculture definitely felt more “me.” I wanted to pursue a degree that could take me in whatever direction I decided to go, whether it was fashion, agriculture, or business- so choosing to combine the three was the smartest decision I have made regarding my degree.

What have been some of your most memorable experiences at WVU?

There are way too many awesome experiences I have had at WVU to narrow it down to one or two. I accepted a job offer to work in Colorado on the largest horse ranch in North America after reading about the opportunity on equine management teaching assistant professor Crystal Smith’s Facebook page and worked my tail off learning all I could about the equine industry. My brother, Steve, and I threw an incredible Halloween party last semester where everyone rocked awesome costumes and line-danced in our yard. Regarding classes, I have made the Dean’s List, and have enrolled in very thought-provoking courses that taught me so much about history, psychology sociology, as well as classes in my agribusiness major and equine minor. My experiences at WVU have taught me so much about myself and about the world around me and my only regret is that I could not have done more.

What kinds of extracurricular and out-of-the-classroom activities did you pursue while you were a student?

While at WVU, I enjoyed working a full-time job at Cowboys and Angels Western Boots and Apparel, so my time for other activities was slightly limited. I did, however, enjoy attending a couple of Collegiate Horseman’s Association meetings, as well as speaking to the CHA in regards to my internships at two ranches in Colorado. I also enjoyed volunteering at On Eagle’s Wings Therapeutic Riding Center in Fairmont and attending Fashion Business Association meetings regularly to keep my foot in the fashion industry.

What advice would you give for a student who wanted to pursue your major at WVU?

If you love two different industries, don’t let anyone tell you that you have to pick one or the other. Find a way to combine them. Do you love fashion and agriculture? Design cowboy boots. Construct show apparel for riders and their horses. Look into working for a company like Ariat, Tony Lama, or Panhandle Slim. I have gotten many strange looks over the years when I tell people that I switched from a fashion career to an agriculture career, but when it comes down to it I am completely happy living and working in both worlds.

What are your plans for after graduation?

After graduation, I will be moving to Fort Collins, Colo., to pursue my dreams in agricultural retail sales. This industry is booming in Colorado and I intend to be a part of a company that has made a name for itself in agricultural-related outdoor gear, all the while building a cabin in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains with my incredible boyfriend, Kyle. Once the home is finished, I am sure there will be some horse-adopting and barn-building in my future as well!

In the long term, what’s your dream job? If you could look at your resume in, say, 10 years, what will it say you’re doing?

My dream job would be to own and operate a retail store that caters to the men and women who, like me, enjoy a great pair of cowboy boots and well-tailored jeans. It really cannot get any better than that.

My resume will indicate plenty of agricultural and equine retail sales experience and possibly a graduate degree in equine science from Colorado State University. I also look forward to taking classes in American Sign Language and continue my certifications in CPR/AEP as well as American Red Cross First Aid.

14 Apr

BPC profiles: Weld Safe Technologies

David | April 14th, 2014
Weld Safe

Harold Vass, a graduate student in agricultural and resource economics, and Alan Davis, an environmental and natural resource economics major, won the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) category in the 2014 West Virginia Statewide Collegiate Business Plan Competition (BPC) for Weld Safe Technologies.

Vass and Davis, both students in the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, are patenting a device to increase welder safety in the workplace. By coupling gas sensing devices with hot work machines, the technology has the ability to shut down equipment that could otherwise lead to an explosion when volatile gasses are present in the environment. The team sees their device as one of the next big things in the safety instrumentation industry.

We asked them some questions about their experience in the competition and about their next entrepreneurial steps.

How did you decide to participate in the Business Plan Competition?

Harold Vass: I’ve always had a passion for entrepreneurship. Early in my senior year of undergrad in mechanical and aerospace engineering in the Statler College, Fonda Holehouse [teaching associate professor of agricultural and resource economics in the Davis College] inspired me to reach for my dreams. This BPC is actually the second one in which I’ve placed. (I was a second-place winner in the Davis College-sponsored West Virginia Technology Entrepreneurship Challenge last year). Winning the BPC has been a dream of mine since I saw the first flyers for it my freshman year. It really is one of the most prestigious awards a young West Virginia entrepreneur can achieve as a student, and the sense of community shared by the winners is something found rarely elsewhere. In addition to the prize money and recognition, the contacts my team has made because of the competition will surely benefit us as we move towards creating a West Virginia business.

Alan Davis: I participated at the suggestion of one of my professors, Fonda Holehouse, who was very supportive throughout.

Can you talk a little about the process of how you arrived at your idea? Did you have it in mind before you decided to compete?

AD: I have had the idea in my head for a while. I worked in related fields and from my experience, I saw an opportunity for a product that fills a void in industries such as oil and gas, mining, manufacturing, etc.

HV: Alan approached me with a problem (that welders in unsafe environments generally operate without necessary equipment required to react to a hazard) and a loose idea of the solution he had in mind about two months before the competition deadline. My interest in the problem peaked immediately and I realized (I think more than he did for a while) that not only was this a great idea but that this could be the next big idea for an industry that hasn’t seen new technology in a long time. We spent the next two months formulating the feasibility study and creating industry contacts. The BPC was on our minds from day one.

By all accounts, the competition is a lot of hard work. How were you able to build it into your regular life as a student?

HV: As a graduate student, my time (prior to the competition) was reasonably allocated between school work, assistantship work, sleep, and a couple hours each week for a social life. Once the gears were turning with Weld Safe, fitting in the additional work was just something that had to happen. I found myself staying up later than usual to work through ideas, waking up earlier to get a head start on the day, turning the television off more often, and generally allocating my time more efficiently. My girlfriend was incredibly supportive throughout the process; often times trading dinner dates and dancing for carry-out pizza and an evening of pouring through supporting documents online. At times, managing everything was difficult, I think it is for anyone, but starting this business was one of the most fun things I’ve done over the past six months.

AD: The competition was very time consuming. Thankfully, I had a lot of time between stages of the competition and a strong support team to help meet goals.

What advice would you give for a student who wanted to pursue the Business Plan Competition, or just try and turn an idea into a business of their own?

AD: I would say that a lot of people are going to try to put your idea down or pick holes in it. Learn from these people and take their advice but at the same time, be positive and persistent.

HV: Believe in your idea. Eat, sleep, and live knowing the idea will work. There will be plenty of people that doubt you and will try to convince you otherwise; it is now your job to prove them otherwise. There is help everywhere, from Small Business Administration organizations to dedicated students and faculty; there are countless opportunities to make your business better than it was the day before. Don’t underestimate the power of market research. Get a whiteboard and keep a journal as well as a schedule and fill your day. Most importantly, just start doing something and don’t start until the job is done. Lastly, the job is never done.

What are your next steps for your business? How would you like to see it develop?

HV: Over the summer we plan to work closely with our patent attorney out of Princeton, W.Va., to file full patents for each device we plan to bring to market. We’re also working with the Robert C. Byrd Institute, CART Inc., and other manufacturers across the state to redesign our initial prototype into a market-ready design. As the design finalizes, we will meet with safety and operations managers as well as industrial supply stores for our initial customer base as we prepare to pitch license agreements in the summer of 2015. If you would like to know more about our product line or investment opportunities you can reach me at Harold.vass@gmail.com.

AD: I would like to continue to explore avenues of funding for this business while working on further development of the business and intellectual property.