Chinese garden and plant nursery delegates Lifang Li (center) and Zhou Zhihong (right) inspect the flower options at Capitol Market Monday evening with West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture Gus Douglass (left).
West Virginia Agriculture Commissioner Gus Douglass addresses Chinese plant nursery and gardening company delegates Monday at Capitol Market. Zhen Yu, a forestry major at West Virginia University, translates.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia's agricultural industry has much to gain from investments in China, where landscaping and plant nurseries are billion-dollar industries, state Agriculture Commissioner Gus R. Douglass said Monday.
At Capitol Market, Douglass welcomed six Chinese agriculture company delegates who've been touring West Virginia on a trade mission since Sunday.
Their visit is the first step in building a relationship with the approximately 23,000 farmers living and working in the state, Douglass said.
"West Virginia has been making a name for itself with marketing and promotion of our farmers that have developed from local activities to full-blown industries," he said. "Some you see here [at Capitol Market] started out in the back of a pickup truck and now they have commercial greenhouses."
The delegates showed an interest in learning more about greenhouse technology when they visited Bob's Market and Greenhouses, a business in Mason, on Monday, Douglass said. He said Bob's Market is one of the top 10 greenhouses in the country.
Chinese agriculture companies haven't fully embraced commercial greenhouses and are now looking into extending their seasons, Douglass said.
Douglass said he hopes that in return, the Chinese delegates will teach West Virginia horticulturists how to genetically alter plants and flowers. Chinese horticulture companies are good at changing flowers' colors to make them more vibrant, he said.
Jianguo Deng, vice president of Orient Landscape, wants his tour to be the first of many to West Virginia, he said through an interpreter.
His company, which provided landscaping services for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, is worth about 3 billion Chinese yuan, about $455 million, he said.
"I believe we have found some products that would do well in the Chinese market," Deng said of his visit.
Upon his return to Beijing, Deng wants to take home and grow West Virginia's own sycamore and red oak trees.
Douglass looks forward to talking with the delegates some more before they return home.
"I want to see what they think of our industry and how it compares with China," he said.
On Tuesday, the delegates will tour Cole Nurseries in Pipestem, Sunshine Farm and Gardens in Renick and The Greenbrier.
The state Department of Agriculture has joined with the West Virginia Nursery and Landscape Association to host the delegates. The Southern United States Trade Association sponsors the trade mission.
Reach Travis Crum at email@example.com or 304-348-5163.