Supporting Market Access, One Farmer at a Time
In late February, partners throughout the Central Appalachian Food Corridor project celebrated a project milestone of supporting market access, one farmer at a time, with generous support from the Central Appalachian Network (CAN) and the Appalachian Regional Commission’s (ARC) POWER Initiative.
This past December, Rhonda Dortch, owner of Bluestone Mountain Farm in Summers County, WV contacted Rosemary, ACEnet’s (The Appalachian Center for Economic Networks) Special Projects Coordinator, looking for delivery options to ship 5,000 pounds of heirloom shelled corn she’d grown and was selling to a new distillery in Davis, WV. “Working with partners across the state of WV, I thought this would be a prime opportunity to connect KISRA’s (Kanawha Institute for Social Research and Action) new delivery service with a farmer in need – a win-win for both the service provider and customer,” Rosemary said.
ACEnet’s partners across Central Appalachia provided different services to make the delivery a success. Bill Woodrum at Marshall University’s Robert C. Byrd Institute connected Farmer Rhonda with the owner of the new distillery. Rosemary coordinated with Joey Aloi, KISRA’s Food Hub Manager and Farmer Rhonda to make sure everyone was on the same page with day-of delivery logistics. A driver working for Huntington-based social enterprise Refresh Appalachia agreed to drive the truck that would ship the high-quality Bloody Butcher heirloom corn from Rhonda’s farm to the distillery. Financial viability and DOT compliance are also important, and partners Appalachian Sustainable Development based out of Abingdon, Virginia helped KISRA identify associated expenses and provided guidance on proper insurance and registration for their truck, which will also allow KISRA to provide delivery services across state lines in the future.
“It was an unreal feeling when the corn left my farm,” Rhonda said. With all her corn sold and delivered in the same day, Farmer Rhonda is now able to shift her focus on marketing other value-added products she creates, like her high-quality goats-milk soap.
This story is just one of many illustrating the importance of partnerships across the region, supporting market access, one farmer at a time, and how businesses and support service organizations come together to increase market access in a region transitioning from a coal-based economy.
Stay tuned for more success stories from the food and farming economy in Central Appalachia!
This work is made possible with generous investment from the Appalachian Regional Commission’s (ARC) POWER initiative and the Central Appalachian Network (CAN). The POWER initiative is an integrated, multi-agency effort to invest federal economic and workforce development resources in communities and regions negatively impacted by changes in the coal economy. CAN’s mission is to work with individuals, community leaders, businesses, policy makers, nonprofit organizations, and others to develop and deploy new economic strategies that create wealth and reduce poverty while conserving and restoring the environment.
Written by ACEnet Special Projects Coordinator, Rosemary Roe