It was a hot day in West Virginia’s panhandle where more than 35 farmers, restaurateurs, grocery operators and food and beverage service providers gathered at the Poor House Farm Park in Martinsburg, WV for a Regional Buyer-Producer Mixer, an event made possible with support from the Natural Capital Investment Fund (NCIF)’s local food program, the Value Chain Cluster Initiative (VC2), West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition (WVFFC), and Heart and Hand, Inc.
As part of a larger effort to support sustainable regional food supply chain development along the I-68, I-70 and 1-81 interstates, organizers had one goal in mind for this event: to build market connections between buyers looking for more opportunities to source local products and regional mid-sized food & farm businesses.
Over a dozen businesses participated in the producer showcase portion of the day. Pennsylvania-based Faerie Spring Farm boasted heritage breed meats and cheeses, while Maryland-based Fox Meadow Farm’s goal was to connect with buyers looking for Long European Cucumbers, and Lars Prillaman & Leslie Randall, owners of a 100% draft-powered Green Gates Farm in Shepherdstown, WV attended in hopes of making connections to enter wholesale market channels for the first time.
ACEnet’s Special Projects Coordinator, Rosemary Roe, also attended the event bringing along a variety of value-added samples from 15 regional food businesses participating in the Central Appalachia Corridor Project, a 2 year, multi-state project to increase economic opportunities across coal impacted counties throughout Appalachia, made possible with generous investment from the Appalachian Regional Commission‘s POWER initiative.
Salsa from long-time foodie favorite Casa Nueva, paired perfectly with Shagbark Seed and Mill’s much loved tortilla chips, cold brew coffee from Glouster, Ohio-based Dirty Girl Coffee, and Kombucha from Zanesville, Ohio-based Lapp it Up were instant hits with folks asking, “How do I get this into my inventory?” Nationally renowned Custard Stand Chili, generously ladled over Heiner’s Hot Dog buns were gobbled up, and Aroma of the Andes Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans were a welcome treat for those needing a mid-day pick me up. Malta, WV-based JQ Dickenson Salt-Works, a 7th generation salt making business, was well-known to many folks in the room, with glowing comments on both their excellent quality and gorgeous packaging.
As the afternoon progressed, attendees mingled and helped each other identify sales opportunities across the state, and, for the 15 small businesses ACEnet represented, a first of many sales across product lines! Kimmy Clements, Team Leader for Potomac Highland Food and Farm Market in Davis, WV attended the event and followed-up immediately to begin the order process from businesses participating in the Central Appalachia Corridor Project.
To better serve prospective customers like the Highland Food and Farm Market, ACEnet created The Central Appalachia Food Product Catalog. Inside its pages are hundreds of high-quality products produced by regionally-based businesses. We are working hard on the final touches and will have a digital edition of the catalog posted on the ACEnet website in the coming weeks. In the meantime, if you are in the wholesale food buying business and looking to stock your shelves with items proudly produced in Appalachia, drop us a line and we’ll send you a copy of the catalog. Likewise, if you are a small food business interested in expanding into new markets and want to be part of the catalog, contact us and we’ll work together to see if you are a good fit for our target audiences.
Stay tuned for more exciting project updates, and check out the links below if you would like to learn more about our regional project partners and their impacts across the region.