For Immediate Release

August 31, 2019

The Plains, OH — For more than 25 years, building a robust secure local food system has been an integral part of Rural Action’s work. In that time, improving food security in our region has meant working with a network of farmers to diversify crop production in the region and to help build local supply chains with partners who would be able to process, distribute, and market the crops grown in Appalachian Ohio.

An important partner over the last decade in developing regional supply chains has been the Appalachian Staple Foods Collaborative (ASFC). ASFC began as informal network in 2008 when Brandon Jaeger of Shagbark Seed and Mill, received a grant to test high-nutrient crops from the USDA. After receiving the grant and assessing the supply chain, it became clear that a mill was needed in our region. ASFC helped launch Shagbark Seed & Mill in Athens, Ohio as part of that initial work.

Fast forward 11 years, and we now have an innovative and successful business and mill in our region with Shagbark Seed and Mill. Michelle Ajamian, one of the owners of Shagbark, has continued to work diligently on building and supporting a network of organic grain, bean, nut, and oil seed growers, processors, and distributors in our region through the Appalachian Staple Foods Collaborative.

This summer, Rural Action and Michelle Ajamian began discussing ways that we could continue to expand support and resources for the ASFC. We are happy to share that Michelle joined Rural Action in an official capacity as the Appalachian Staple Foods Collaborative Network Manager in August of 2019. Working through Rural Action’s Sustainable Agriculture Program, Michelle will help connect and support people working within the staple foods realm in Central Appalachia and will assess ways to scale the work nationally.

One of the ways we are hoping to build and strengthen the staple foods network is through a new website currently under development.

“Rural Action was an early supporter of our work when we started, which enabled the receipt of a grant to conduct a network study assessing stakeholders and necessary resources to build a regional staple food system in Appalachia,” Ajamian said. “We now have the opportunity to build a North American network and a website connecting the many farms, bakeries, mills, breweries, tortillerias, and others who are doing this work. Our aim is to build a model for regional staple foods by building a web platform for an open-source network.”

If you would like to learn more about the ASFC or be part of this important body of work, contact Michelle (

Rural Action is a regional community development organization with a 21-county footprint working with members and community leaders on a range of quality of life, environmental, and economic projects across rural Appalachian Ohio. Its mission is to build a more just economy by developing the region’s assets in environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable ways. Learn more about Rural Action at


Michelle Ajamian
Appalachian Staple Foods Collaborative Network Manager