Patriot Guardens is an integrated agriculture and economic diversification initiative of the West Virginia Military Authority that is aligning and mobilizing strategic efforts in order to provide new economic and employment opportunities. The initiative involves partnerships with West Virginia State University (WVSU) Extension Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Appalachian Small Fruit Research Station at Kearneysville, NRCS, West Virginia University, Marshall University, Shepherd University and landowners and coal operators across the state.
The statewide initiative pools resources and creates an agriculture-centric system to assist West Virginians, particularly but not limited to veterans and military personnel, in:
- Providing agricultural education and training opportunities to veterans, Guardsmen/women and all West Virginians
- Developing agriculture entrepreneurs, businesses and value-added companies
- Supporting veterans with PTSD and substance abuse, while transitioning West Virginians recovering from substance abuse back into workplace opportunities
- Collaborating with other private and nonprofit agriculture development groups
GOALS: Patriot Guardens is working to provide new training opportunities for veterans and men and women of the West Virginiaa National Guard, help grow local food production and enhance domestic food security. Patriot Guardens is focusing its efforts on four pillars:
Facilitate veteran and guardsmen agri-preneur development activities
Establishment of AGRIPARKS anchored by apple orchards
Reuse of WVNG armories for agriculture processing and training/transition
Develop more sustainable small farmers and specialty products farming
The West Virginia Military Authority Heritage Agriculture & Rural Veterans Entrepreneurship and Sustainability Transition (HARVEST) Project provides training in small farm management, production of specialty products and creation of agri-businesses and the development of self-sustaining small farms that produce high-quality, high-value agricultural products for the West Virginia market and beyond.
To date, Patriot Guardens and our partners have secured more than $10 million to help fund its projects -- develop large-scale apple orchard projects in key locations across the Mountain State, retrofit and convert armories into agriculture transition centers and provide agriculture training to veterans and military personnel.
To date, the Patriot Guardens program has secured $5.295 million in abandoned mine lands (AML) pilot grant funding to develop a large-scale apple orchard project.
- The Apple Project at the Muddlety site began in 2016 with soil sampling and land clearing. To date, a test orchard consisting o/f more than 64,000 apple trees of varying varieties have been planted at the site. Another round of planting is schedule to take place in spring 2019 with thousands more trees to be added to the test orchard.
- A Patriot Guardens Honey Bee program has been established to assist with pollination and includes more than 200 hives spread out at eight locations in the state, including the WVNG's Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy in Kingwood, W.Va. We expect to have an additional 2,000 hives by spring 2019.