Farming roots motivate Eastern’s Carissa Beard to grow agriculture

It’s been a busy couple of months for Carissa Wilson Beard, Eastern’s new director of agriculture innovation, but managing life on her farm in Burlington with her husband Steven, caring for her two children, her entrepreneurial turn as a business partner of the relaunched Arthur Mart Liberty in Grant County, and her varied educational and work experiences have already prepared her for the quick pace of the job.

Carissa Beard talks with a group of students at a recent event.

Beard started working at Eastern in late April, and she immediately dove into preparations for some of Eastern’s Ag Innovation trainings, such as the recent Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) certification and Stockmanship and Stewardship sessions, as well as supporting the Potomac Highlands Producers and the college Foundation’s Farm to Table dinner.

She’s now turning her attention to the expanded Ag Innovation Showcase event on Oct. 14-15, which is growing into a two-day session this year, with one day devoted to youth agriculture activities, and the other day welcoming adult farmers and producers. New day, new challenges, new opportunities.

Ag innovation and the rural economy

Eastern created the director of agriculture innovation position in 2019 to work with local, state, and national partners to support ideas and practices in agriculture that will benefit the Potomac Highland’s rural economy.

Beard says she is excited about her job because of her strong farming roots in the area and because she enjoys sharing information and teaching. “I was very interested in the educational aspects of this position,” she said.  “I was a teacher in the past, and I really want to engage with others and share what Eastern has to offer.”

Beard’s formal studies have been varied, covering pre-veterinary medicine, along with a master’s degree in agriculture. She also is trained as an equine dental technician and practices routine equine dentistry.

Deep roots in farming

Beard grew up on her family’s farm in Moorefield, working with cattle, sheep, and horses. She remains deeply involved with horses, is offering riding lessons at her Burlington farm, and said she is proud to have coached the 2009 state 4-H Horse Judging Team at that year’s national competition. She is a member of the American Quarter Horse Association, American Paint Horse Association, the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association, the Palomino Horse Breeders Association, and she is a National Open Horse Show judge.

Because of the breadth of her farming history and activities, she also holds memberships in the Continental Dorset Club, the West Virginia State Purebred Sheep Committee, the West Virginia Cattleman’s Association, and the American Hereford Association.

Beard spent a sizeable portion of her career working at state Agriculture Department offices in Moorefield and Lewisburg, first as a microbiologist and later as a regulatory officer. She also taught science at Moorefield Middle School.

Carissa is also trained as an equine dental technician. In the photo at left, she is conducting an examination of a horse’s mouth. In the photo at right, she holds two horses after completing some dental care for them.

‘Ag programs are good for young people…’

Given the variety of her interests, her experiences, and her relationships, Beard says she wants to continue building strong ties within the farming communities of the Potomac Highlands and grow Eastern’s presence in those communities. “I think Eastern is an overlooked resource,” she said, “and I want to share what the college can offer.” She also is focused on the educational mission of the college and her position. “Ag programs are good for young people to get their feet wet and see if they are really going to like farming. Plus, there is so much you can do with agriculture education.”

Beard’s office is located in Moorefield at Eastern’s Agriculture Innovation and Advancement Office, located at 108 South Fork Road, Suite 201, in Moorefield. She can be reached at 304-434-8000 ext. *9608 or at