If you have ever been to the Chesterhill Produce Auction or live in Glouster, Nelsonville or Coolville, you may have seen a large van emblazoned with gorgeous photos of vegetables. It’s the Veggie Van, a project of Community Food Initiatives, the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (ACEnet) and Rural Action.

The Veggie Van is a mobile farm stand: stocked with fresh, local produce that is transported to rural communities with extremely limited access to grocery stores or farmers markets. The produce is then offered in exchange for a voluntary donation. The donation-based model, combined with the van’s mobility, ensures that healthy food is accessible both geographically and economically.

“We are a donation based market, so we have suggested donations for our produce, but people are welcome to donate more, less, or take … Read More

ACEnet is committed to helping to shape and guide the future workforce of the region and is partnering with Hocking College to make new resources available to ACEnet clients. Hocking College students come from our community and are working to develop new skills and abilities to help enrich the region, contributing new ideas and energy. They are eager to learn about the small businesses that shape their communities, and this fall a pilot program is being offered to help connect these students with ACEnet client businesses.

Hocking College’s Business Planning students and Marketing students have been linked with ACEnet to provide business consulting services and marketing advising over the second half of Hocking College’s fall term, beginning in October. The Business Planning students will work with an entrepreneur to learn about … Read More

Communities across the US are being impacted by the substance use disorder epidemic. Appalachia is being hit particularly hard by this epidemic. With so many families and businesses personally impacted by substance use disorder in our region, ACEnet wanted to find a way to support individuals who are investing in their future through recovery-focused initiatives. A collaboration with the STAR Community Justice Center is providing us with a great opportunity to make this happen.

ACEnet has a proven track record of working to support small businesses, with a specialization in the food sector. STAR Community Justice Center is an accredited male and female community-based correctional facility located in Nelsonville, Ohio with residents from Adams, Athens, Brown, Clinton, Fairfield, Gallia, Highland, Hocking, Jackson, Lawrence, Meigs, Morgan, Perry, Pickaway, Pike, Ross, Scioto, Vinton, … Read More

ACEnet is excited to announce a newly installed spray booth in the Wood Manufacturing Center located in our Nelsonville Business Campus, funded through an Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) POWER grant.

The 10’x10’x12’ spray booth will allow woodworkers to apply finishes to their products in a controlled, dust-free environment, thus enabling them to use less product. Priority sign-up will be given to Nelsonville anchor tenants, “but any community member who wants to do woodworking is welcomed to become an ACEnet client and operate from our facility,” said Chris Quolke, ACEnet’s Small Business Support Specialist and Trainer who oversees the wood manufacturing shared-use space.


Quolke said that for many woodworkers the biggest barrier to getting started is the prohibitive cost of the equipment. “From doing an inventory of the existing wood shops in the region, the spray … Read More

ACEnet is delighted to be working as a consultant with Grow Ohio Valley to strengthen their regional food economy in the northern panhandle of West Virginia. Grow Ohio Valley is a Wheeling-based nonprofit with a mission to achieve regional food security. Partners in Central Appalachia might be familiar with Grow Ohio Valley’s recent enterprise development which has included establishing several urban farms and the Public Market grocery store on Main Street in downtown Wheeling. Recently Grow OV has secured a number of USDA and ARC funded grants to support their work for market expansion, food production, aggregation and distribution.

Ohio Valley farmers are already growing high quality food, and chefs, bakers and restaurateurs are producing wonderful products too. For the GrowOV team, with close support from WVDA, investment in a regional … Read More

At Blue Rock Station, Annie Warmke views agritourism in a unique way. “Agritourism” is an umbrella term used to describe the practice of tourism in rural areas. Usually it takes the form of urban residents driving out to the countryside for a day of farm tours, food, and sometimes educational workshops. It can be a great way for farmers to diversify their income by repurposing resources they already have to earn money from people who feel a sense of “farm nostalgia” or a desire to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

On the one hand, Blue Rock Station is a perfect site for this kind of agritourism. A small, scenic farm with goats, dogs, and unique buildings like the earthship (built from discarded tires and bottles and … Read More

Athens Photo Project is a community of artists dedicated to using photography as a tool for self-expression, personal growth and social change. APP programs are provided in partnership with mental-health and social-service organizations to ensure all community members have the opportunity to experience the transformative power of the arts when they need it most.

Each year, more than 50 artists, photography instructors, and volunteers join together to participate in APP’s 30-week adult photography program, which is offered as a component of regional mental-health support and advocacy. Programs include Expressive Photography, photography classes, training workshops, and the Photo Co-Op, APP’s social enterprise.

More than 20 artists serve as members of APP’s Photo Co-Op. The Photo Co-Op members share their skills and creativity with the community as working photographers by providing photographic services and … Read More

ACEnet recently hosted Hocking College’s Culinary Program for a production run in ACEnet’s Food Ventures Center Thermal Processing room. They created 1 batch of “Bloody Butcher BBQ Sauce” and 1 batch of “Moonshine Mary Mix.” The processing was completed by an instructor and students from the culinary program in collaboration with their distillation program.

Purchased in December 2017, the Black Diamond Distillery is part of the Fermentation Science program at Hocking College, a two-year degree program focused on brewing, distilling, viticulture, and fermented foods. The program is currently the first of its kind in Southeast Ohio and is the first in the nation to offer students the opportunity to learn how to make beer, wine and spirits.

The products that were made & bottled at ACEnet this day were to help promote … Read More

ACEnet client, Kelly Kalfs Lawrence has taken the plunge and opened a new store in the city of Athens! You may know Kelly of Green Mantle Studio fame. She has been an active artisan in the region exhibiting and vending at many shows, festivals and pop-up markets. Her new enterprise, Chosen Pathways Spiritual Emporium recently had a soft opening on May 1st and is open regularly from 10am – 6pm Thursday – Saturday and 12 – 5pm on Sunday at 400 East State Street in Suite A.

The retail store is a new age shop with all sorts of spiritual items that cater to many different religions including Pagan, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, and Native American. Kelly shares, “my intention is to create a safe space for the people of our community. … Read More

ACEnet would like to mark a major milestone for entrepreneur Nick Penzone of Florentine Legacy. In March, Nick shared with his loyal customers that the Florentine Legacy pasta sauces and house dressing are now at available in almost 50 Kroger locations in Ohio on the Discover Local shelves of each store! For Athenians, this includes the Athens Kroger store on East State Street. As Nick would say the, “legacy continues.”

Nick’s grandfather opened Florentine Restaurant in Columbus in 1945. The restuarant was well known for its classic Italian food, dedicated staff and family-friendly setting. When Florentine Restaurant closed in 2006 after their amazing 71 years in business, Nick Penzone, part of the third generation in his family, couldn’t let the legacy die. He worked with ACEnet’s Food Enterprise Coordinator, Adam Kody, … Read More