Social Enterprise

Rural Action Social Enterprise: Building Up Communities Through Market-Based Ventures

Rural Action has 25 years of experience working directly in Appalachian Ohio communities, growing value chains that lead to new business opportunities and great community development projects. By connecting people to markets and supporting business ventures (for-profit or not-for-profit) in sectors where we work—sustainable agriculture, forestry, zero waste, environmental education, watershed restoration, tourism, and energy—we will grow our impact in communities. One way we do this is by building social enterprises—business ventures that generate profit while also creating positive environmental and social impacts in communities.

We own and operate two social enterprises: Zero Waste Event Productions and the Chesterhill Produce Auction. As these enterprises grow, we are able to green our regional tourism economy, provide more local produce to the people of Southeast Ohio, and create new business opportunities around sustainable agriculture and waste reduction.

Are you a social entrepreneur—or would you like to become one? Please contact Rural Action’s Social Enterprise Coordinator to talk about how we can work with you.

Our Current Social Enterprises and Activities


Chesterhill Produce Auction

The Chesterhill Produce Auction is a rural food hub in Appalachian Ohio operated by Rural Action with support from community members. Started in 2005, the auction is a marketplace for dozens of local growers reaching hundreds of buyers. Every Monday and Thursday from May through October the auction is both an economic and social center in Morgan County, bringing together business owners as well as friends and neighbors enjoying camaraderie around local food. Learn More


Zero Waste Event Productions

Zero Waste Event Productions provides waste reduction and disposal services to festivals, indoor and outdoor concerts, large events, and conferences. Our goal is to help more events get to zero waste status—meaning 90% or more of all waste generated is diverted from the landfill through composting or recycling. We also strive to educate event attendees on the merits of recycling and composting to help move us toward a zero waste economy. Learn More


ACOSE 2017

Rural Action is co-producing the second Appalachian Conference on Social Enterprise on May 19-20, 2017 in Morgantown, WV! The conference will feature regional and national social entrepreneurs, a pre-conference tour of social enterprises in Morgantown, WV, and an Idea Challenge where social entrepreneurs can pitch new ideas to conference attendees and receive feedback and prizes! Get more information and register here for ACOSE 2017. Register Now

Social Enterprise Resources:


The Mountain Association for Community Economic Development has a Social Enterprise Support Initiative to support social enterprises in the Central Appalachian region with technical assistance and innovative capital products. Learn More

The Wells Foundation

The Tony Wells Foundation offers a three-day impact investing course, as well as other trainings, designed to “enable nonprofit and social enterprise leaders to leverage the power of social enterprise and social impact investing together to increase their impact, improve their stability, and grow the sustainability of their organizations.” Learn More

Mapping the Journey to Impact Investing

The Surdna Foundation is a private foundation that seeks to foster sustainable communities in the United States. In February 2017 they published a report detailing their path to impact investing. This resource could be useful for foundations considering impact investing in addition to their traditional grantmaking activities. Read the Report

Social Enterprise Staff


Brain-VadakinBrian Vadakin is the Social Enterprise Coordinator at Rural Action. Brian is responsible for providing business development assistance to Rural Action’s two social enterprises, evaluating and developing new ventures, and connecting Southeast Ohio’s social entrepreneurs with technical assistance and investment to grow the social enterprise ecosystem.

Brian first worked with Rural Action as a Development Intern in 2015. He then completed a 10-month U.S. Fulbright research grant in economic development in Costa Rica, studying rural tourism and agricultural cooperatives. Brian holds a B.A. in Spanish Language from the Ohio University Honors Tutorial College, with minors in economics and environmental studies.

Contact Brian at for more information about Rural Action’s work with social enterprise development in Appalachian Ohio and to learn how we can work with you.