Sustainable Agriculture

Rural Action Sustainable Agriculture: Building Healthy Local Food Economies in Appalachian Ohio

We work with local, regional and statewide partners to build and strengthen local food systems in Southeast Ohio. We define sustainable agriculture as agriculture that’s good for the community, the economy and the environment. We work across a broad spectrum of farmer to consumer programming to increase local food production. We give farmers and partners the tools they tell us they need in order to increase food production in a way that reduces their risk and enhances their profitability.  We work to build a value chain where stakeholders in a local food system work together to build the local economy.

Let us know how we can work with you!

Our Current Value Chain Projects:


Rural Food Hub Development

We work with regional partners to develop food hubs with community support throughout Appalachian Ohio. Food hubs are centralized economic locations that support multiple food producers in a region. Our current projects include the Chesterhill Produce Auction in Morgan County, as well as work on the Nelsonville Food Hub with longtime partner ACEnet and the Perry County Farmers Market Cooperative with the Village of Somerset. Learn More

Appalachian Staple Foods Collaborative

The Appalachian Staple Foods Collaborative (ASFC) is working to build a network of organic grain, bean, nut, and oil seed growers, processors and distributors. Through a partnership with our Sustainable Agriculture program, ASFC is striving to expand its efforts into a nationwide network. Learn more.


Online Branding and Marketing for All Regional Food Partners

We manage an online resource for local partners to increase their market presence and community impact. Launched in spring of 2009 and redesigned in 2013, Ohio Foodshed is a free online resource that provides comprehensive directories of regional food producers and the local businesses that support them so that consumers can make an informed decision about where they buy their food. Learn More

Accelerating the Distribution of Local Foods

The Appalachia Accessible Food Network is a collaborative project to accelerate the distribution of local foods into Appalachian Ohio communities by strengthening access, production, and consumption components of a local food value chain. Learn More


Healthy Food Access + Farm to Institution

We work with local food entrepreneurs to source and deliver healthy, locally grown fruits and vegetables to areas with little or no access to fresh foods. Partner locations set aside space in corner stores or create pop-up markets to sell fresh products. We call these Country Fresh Stops: locations that support the sale of fresh, local produce in areas designated as Food Deserts by the USDA or other at-risk communities.  Learn More

Women Grow Ohio

We work with Ohio women in agriculture to develop opportunities for connection, support, and promotion of their work.  Women Grow Ohio demonstrates the important work of Ohio women in feeding their families and others in our great state. Learn More


Sustainable Peer-to-Peer Education + Technical Assistance

We bring together value chain partners and help establish regional educators in order to pass along their knowledge on sustainable food system practices. Our focus is on peer-to-peer education, in which producers self-identify areas where they require assistance, then help them fill those needs. Newly trained food system members pass along this information to others in the region. One of our most successful current projects  is the Season Creation educational curriculum with Green Edge Organic Gardens. Learn More

Sustainable Agriculture Staff

tom websiteTom Redfern is the Director of Rural Action Sustainable Agriculture. Tom leads multiple Sustainable Agriculture team members including a Program Manager, VISTAs (Volunteers in Service to America), a COMcorps member, college interns and an array of community volunteers. Tom develops, implements, and oversees all Sustainable Agriculture programs, develops funding and marketing strategies, and directs team resources to best serve increased agricultural production throughout Appalachian Ohio.

Tom’s background in for-profit agriculture and resource management allows him to work closely with farmers to identify and implement the tools that they need to increase local food production.

He currently serves as the licensed Auction Firm Manager for the Chesterhill Produce Auction, ultimately responsible for its day to day operation and compliance with regulations.

Prior to his start at Rural Action in 2004 he spent 20 years working in commercial and public horticulture in Ohio and served as an Extension educator in the U.S. Peace Corps.

Tom is currently on the Board of Directors for Community Food Initiatives and is a Board member of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association. His work has been featured in the Appalachian Regional Commission Magazine, Our Ohio magazine and television, Yes! Magazine, WOUB Public Media, and in the Central Appalachian Network Case History of the Chesterhill Produce Auction.

Contact Tom at for more information about Rural Action’s work with agriculture in Appalachian Ohio and to learn how we can work with you.


Joe Barbaree rejoined Rural Action in 2018 as the Sustainable Agriculture and Forestry Program Manager. In this role, Joe works to increase economic opportunities for local farm and forestry producers in a multi-county service area of Appalachian Ohio. Core programming areas focus on production, aggregation, and distribution of local specialty crop and non-timber forest products to a diverse network of markets throughout the Central Appalachian region.

An Appalachian native of the Ohio Valley, Joe has lived all around the state over the past decade. After attending graduate school at Ohio University, Joe worked with the Rural Action Sustainable Agriculture team as an AmeriCorps VISTA from 2012 to 2014, building up regional food processing and distribution infrastructure, as well as increasing peer-to-peer educational networks for farmers, agriculture educators, and peer service organizations.

After leaving to work in the urban community development field in Cleveland, Ohio for several years, Joe felt called (literally and figuratively) to return to the Appalachian region once again.

Contact Joe at for more information about Rural Action’s work with agriculture and forestry.

Funders + Sponsors

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