WVPA Sharing

Veterans vie for prize money at second business pitch competition

West Virginia Press Association

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia Department of Agriculture (WVDA) will host its second Veterans and Heroes to Agriculture Pitch Competition on Saturday, March 9, from 1-4 pm at the Cedar Lakes Conference Center in Ripley, WV. The competition aims to help Veterans and Heroes to Agriculture members by developing business plans and awarding funds for capital investments. There is $60,000 in total funding available.

The Pitch Competition is open to the public and will include networking time with WVDA staff and other business assistance organizations.

“With a steep learning curve and large initial investment, agriculture is a challenging field to break into for new and beginning farmers. The pitch competition is geared towards helping members overcome some of those obstacles and attain their goals,” said Veterans and Heroes to Agriculture Program Manager Sierra Cox.

The “Shark Tank”-style competition gives members just five minutes to explain to a panel of judges how the prize money could build or improve their agribusiness.

The first round of the competition involved the Vets and Heroes to Ag members completing an application describing their operation and the plans they have for the business. From there, the semifinalists were notified they had been selected to pitch their ideas in front of the judges on March 9. The semifinalists had access to a “pitch coach” through the WVU Launch Lab to help them put together their presentations.

Eight semifinalists will compete for funding to scale up their agribusinesses.

1.     Blue Sky Orchard

  •  Bruce McDuffe (Mercer County)
  • Project: Complete construction on the farmstand, purchase equipment, and run electric to building.

2.     JarHead Farm

  • Stan Loder and Natasha Zoe (Monroe County)
  • Project: Converting a semi-trailer to economical and flexible cold storage.

3.     Mill Creek Meadow Farm DBA Wright’s FARMacy

  • Heather Wright (Berkeley County)
  • Project: Building a tool shed, refining irrigation systems, and materials to expand produce production.

4.     Moonstruck Maple

  • Michael Segars (Summers County)
  • Project: On-site commercial kitchen project- expanding to maple sugar production and other value-added products.

5.     Riffle Farms

  • Elizabeth Riffle (Preston County)
  • Project: Adding restroom facilities to increase agritourism offerings.

6.     Sugar Bottom Farm

  • Eric Grandon (Clay County)
  • Project: WV creamed honey, WV honey powder, and expansion of current packaging and storage facility. 

7.     Tree Dragon Farm

  • Amanda Vincent (Hampshire County)
  • Project: Expanding Tree Dragon rabbitry (expanding infrastructure and meat production). 

8.     Turtle on a Post

  • Bryan Brown (Harrison County)
  • Project: Jellery on FRUITLESS slopes (orchard system on hillside and value-added expansion).

If you have questions or would like to sign up for the program, contact Sierra Cox at 304-558-2210 or [email protected].  

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