By Wheeling Intelligencer
For many years, agriculture was something of an afterthought when the future of West Virginia’s economy was being discussed. No more.
Farming and related endeavors now show real promise as part of our economy. Careers in agriculture seem more realistic now.
Give state Agriculture Commissioner Kent Leonhardt much of the credit for that. His drive to make agriculture commercially viable — rather than merely a hobby for Mountain State residents — is paying off.
Leonhardt took office in 2017, after a stint in the state Senate. Prior to that, he had served in the Marine Corps, earning numerous decorations — including the Combat Action Ribbon — before retiring as a lieutenant colonel.
From there he and his wife Shirley went to Monongalia County, where they put a once-abandoned farm back into production.
In less than four years as agriculture commissioner, Leonhardt has led something of a revolution. He encouraged growers of industrial hemp, and acreage planted with that crop has more than quadrupled.
His focus on products overlooked by many has paid off. Maple syrup production in our state has more than doubled. Moving forward, Leonhardt is working to develop production and processing facilities for lavender.
Step by step, through initiatives such as ensuring state agencies purchase more products from West Virginia farmers, Leonhardt is growing our agriculture industry.
He is seeking another term in the Nov. 3 election — and his significant progress thus far gives voters every reason to keep him in place. We endorse Leonhardt for agriculture commissioner because of the changes his work has resulted in thus far — and the likelihood of an even better crop to come.