CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — If there's a new recipe on a twentysomething's dining table tonight, chances are it came from Pinterest.
The social network has become a favorite for food enthusiasts, allowing users to share photos of their favorite dishes and cull recipes from their friends' virtual cookbooks.
Even the West Virginia Department of Agriculture is taking part.
Department media specialist Rudi Raynes decided to create a Pinterest account after attending a national agriculture communications conference, where representatives from big farm states like Texas and Oklahoma spoke about the different ways their agriculture departments used social media websites to connect with the public.
Pinterest, a social media website that launched in 2010, allows users to collect photos by "pinning" them onto "boards," like a virtual scrapbook. Those photos serve as links to other sites and, while Pinterest features pictures of everything from fine art to classic cars, many use the site to collect home decor ideas, style tips and recipes.
Raynes realized a Pinterest account would be a natural fit for the agriculture department, since it already had a wealth of recipes from its monthly newsletter "The Market Bulletin."
It also would serve as a way for younger people to interact with the Department of Agriculture.
"I'm no great gourmet person. When I discovered Pinterest, that saved me. I've fooled quite a few people," Raynes laughed. "Believe me, if I can do it absolutely anyone can."
She presented her idea to Agriculture Commissioner Walt Helmick, who gave the project a thumbs-up.
The account currently has 129 recipes, including some Christmas- and Valentine's Day-themed creations, as well as board devoted solely to West Virginia honey recipes to celebrate National Honey Day.
Raynes uploads new Market Bulletin recipes each month, and is digging through old agriculture department cookbooks for more. Other recipes are submitted by home cooks.
Mel's Pumpkin Trifle came from the Pratt kitchen of Melvina Liptock. Sandra and Jason Perry of Ronceverte submitted their recipe for coconut bars, which won first place in the parent-child cookie contest at last year's West Virginia State Fair.
Those recipes are now being picked up by other Pinterest users, and spread across the Internet.
"You can tell the ones that have been submitted by people like your grandmother, because they have 29 ingredients," Raynes said.
Most people don't have time to make those kinds of dishes on an average weeknight, however, so she also tries to feature simpler recipes featuring seven or eight ingredients.
Raynes said the account is growing in popularity and currently has about 120 followers. She's received favorable responses from state officials and lawmakers. Helmick also is a fan.
This isn't Raynes' first time making waves with social media. Last summer, she provided live updates — with photos — from a cow birth at the West Virginia State Fair. It caused a sensation on Twitter and, while some were grossed out, others thought it was a great way to educate the public about agriculture.
"The commissioner's mantra right now is, we've got to grow. If we're going to be like other states, we've got to figure out what they're doing," she said.
To share your recipes with the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, email email@example.com. Pinterest users also can use the hash tag "wvag."
Information from: Charleston Daily Mail, http://www.charlestondailymail.com