It is hard to believe that 2018 is coming to an end. And what a year it has been! The weather has taken what was to be a year of phenomenal farmer success at ASD’s Appalachian Harvest food hub and made it a struggle. Truck drivers quitting in record numbers with the advent of mandatory electronic logbooks made distribution a greater challenge than ever. Funding agriculture and food access projects in our region continued to be a struggle.
And yet, I feel more optimistic than ever.
Mostly because I see so much collaboration among partners in the agriculture sector – between food hubs, private industry and nonprofits, farmers and buyers, etc. I believe that collaboration is the secret to making our food system viable and more accessible to those of all income levels and to ensuring that we do not lose our family farmers – and make no mistake, family farms are in peril these days. It is our mission to support them by building a healthy agricultural ecosystem in Central Appalachia. That ecosystem includes building markets for Central Appalachian agricultural products while also providing the support and services that enable farmers to participate in wholesale markets of various sizes.
There are many organizations in our region who play a role in making our food system function. Our goal is to bring those organizations together with private industry, farmers and communities, to ensure that the entire system is financially viable and can stand on its own. We seek to increase market access for small and medium sized farmers, build agricultural economic development, and increase the community, health, and environmental benefits that can be achieved from a localized food system. We are working in a broad region that includes SWVA, NETN, EKY and EWV, bringing together a group of actors to identify the strategies that will make investing in Appalachia attractive and possible and which will have lasting impacts. We believe that the health of the food system can be foundational to the success of our communities and that by working together we can raise the tide to the benefit of all of our communities.
Ultimately, we believe that we can design a regional food system that will make the whole greater than the sum of its parts and which will attract more investment into our region, resulting in healthier farms and communities. No small task, I know, but how transformational it will be when we succeed!
Kathlyn Terry, Executive Director