For the past two decades, our Sustainable Agriculture program has worked with local farmers and a network of partners to build the food and farming economy in the Mid-Ohio Valley of Ohio and West Virginia. Each year we engage with hundreds of small, diversified farmers and landowners in order to understand their needs and provide the tools they need to increase food production while reducing risk, enhancing profitability, and restoring local ecosystems. At the same time, we’ve expanded a regional network of shared use infrastructure that helps bring beginning farmers to market, including the Chesterhill Produce Auction in Morgan County.
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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 our longtime partner Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (ACEnet) and the Perry County Farmers Market Cooperative with the Village of Somerset.
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. We also work with schools and other institutions to source fresh, local products for service in cafeterias.
Sustainable Peer-to-Peer Education and 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 identify areas where they require assistance, and we work to 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.
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, whether they are livestock farmers, vegetable and fruit growers, homesteaders, or urban backyard garden producers.
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.
Appalachian Staple Foods Collaborative
The Appalachian Staple Foods Collaborative (ASFC) team is working to develop a robust food system among organic grain, bean, nut, and oil seed growers, processors, and researchers. Through collaborations with leaders in our region and across North America, the ASFC team is developing climate-smart and inclusive strategies for regional staple food systems.
National Service Members
Each year, Rural Action mobilizes more than 35 energetic and passionate people across the region to help small communities do big things through our Leadership Development and Service program. Our National Service members serve in communities through a yearlong commitment as part of our Appalachian Ohio Restore Corps, an AmeriCorps State/National program administered by Rural Action, or our through our AmeriCorps VISTA program, Rural Renewal. See members who are currently serving with Rural Action here or learn more about how we are growing local leaders here.