Before a recent trip to the grocery store, Agriculture Commissioner Walt Helmick asked his wife, Rita, to pick up some West Virginia-grown beans.
She scoffed because they both knew it wasn't possible. Not because she didn't want to buy locally grown pinto or navy beans but because she couldn't. There aren't any on the shelves.
There are many "No farm, no food" magnets and stickers scattered around Helmick's office at the Agriculture Department's mountaintop compound in Guthrie.
The slogan is catchy and fundamentally accurate, but it does not really apply to West Virginia.
State residents consume about $7.1 billion of food each year. Only about $575 million of that food was produced in the Mountain State, however.
"We're not even on the charts," Helmick said.
Although researchers at state universities have determined West Virginia's soil is perfect for raising crops, most of the potatoes consumed in the state come from Idaho. Most of the sweet potatoes found in state grocery stores were grown in North Carolina.
While farmers markets and specialty shops abound with West Virginia-made products, they are much less visible in big stores like Walmart or Kroger where most people do their shopping. State schools serve millions of meals each year, but most of the food on lunch trays comes from national providers.
Helmick, who was elected commissioner last year, hopes to change that before the end of his first term.
"We're not saying we're going to do $7 billion," he said. "We want to go to $1 billion. We think that's realistic.
"We'd like to see West Virginians growing a bigger part of the product in West Virginia."
He's confident major retailers will want to carry West Virginia products, especially if they are high quality and competitively priced, and believes the Agriculture Department can begin working with the state Department of Education to put homegrown food on children's plates.
Boosting the state's agriculture industry will require more than contracts with big box stores and school systems, however. Somebody has to grow the stuff.