CHARLESTON, West Virginia — West Virginia State University is focusing its agricultural efforts on growing "creepy" vegetables.
The Institute-based school said Thursday that through a $25,000 grant, children in four counties will learn to grow, maintain and harvest vegetables including black radishes, purple carrots and golden beets.
"We've had great success in teaching youth about gardening but wanted to try something a little different, a little more fun, with this project," said West Virginia State extension agent Jenny Totten. "We're broadening our scope with kids by focusing on unusual crops that they may not have been exposed to before."
Under the project, school garden sites will be established or expanded in Cabell, Kanawha, Pocahontas and Putnam counties.
The project is among 11 statewide to receive a total of $240,000 in grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"We want children to be able to grow and eat their own food, and also be able to recognize more varieties of vegetables at farmers markets and in grocery stores," Totten said. "The more educated our young people become about healthy food options, the more likely they'll be to include them in their diet."
The state Department of Agriculture said it will use some of the grant funding to spread the message about food safety laws, examine the impact of strawberries and peaches on agriculture tourism, and establish a conference to assist maple syrup producers.
Another local project will plant golden delicious apple trees on reclaimed mine land in Clay County, the birthplace of the apple variety.
Other projects will help start a community garden program in Pocahontas County and attempt to establish a part-time farmers market in Nicholas County.