W.Va. Farmers Aim At Growing Muslim Market

January 23, 2009

Author: Tom Breen

Source: The Associated Press


In a room where farmers in camouflage baseball caps and John Deere jackets mix with women in head scarves, Larry Gardner is scolding himself for forgetting Ramadan last year.

After 30 years raising lambs, the Waverly farmer is learning something new about the business. There's a growing demand in West Virginia for sheep and goats from Muslim residents tired of traveling hundreds of miles for meats prepared in accordance with their faith's dietary requirements.

At the same time, West Virginia's farmers are eager for new customers.

Putting these two constituencies in the same room at South Charleston's Islamic Center was largely the work of Almeshia Brown, an agriculture and natural resources specialist at West Virginia State University Extension Service, who is also a Muslim.

Tired of using the Internet to buy groceries, Brown saw the seminar as a chance to supply a growing ethnic market and bring new customers to state farmers.

About 60 people , farmers, grocery store owners, an imam and a rabbi , met recently for a seminar on getting West Virginia meat onto the tables of Muslims, which included a crash course on halal.