Thursday, November 29, 2012

USDA, Partner Agencies Coordinate Long-term Drought Response in Northwest Ohio, Tri-State Area

Special from USDA Office of Communications

ARCHBOLD, OH - Nearly 100 agricultural producers, rural stakeholders and federal and state officials gathered earlier this week at Northwest State Community College in rural Henry County, Ohio, to discuss the impact of this summer's drought and sow the seeds for future collaboration.

Dan Bowers inspects his corn crops in Wayne and Ashland Counties this past July. Bowers was one of many Ohio farmers who felt the effects of the 2012 drought.

"The impact of drought can be felt in rural communities throughout the country and the Obama Administration is committed to doing everything it can to help farmers, ranchers, businesses, and local and county governments meet drought-related challenges," said Colleen Callahan, the USDA's disaster recovery coordinator for drought. "These meetings provide an opportunity for federal representatives to work with local and regional leaders to learn about drought-related impacts in the region and determine how to best use existing programs to help speed recovery efforts."

Recognizing that recovery from the drought that affected much of the farm belt will be a lengthy process, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack scheduled several regional meetings to outline available resources to assist local, regional and state recovery efforts. USDA coordinated with federal partners, working closely with the Department of Commerce, the Small Business Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to facilitate these meetings. Yesterday's meeting in Northwest Ohio also drew stakeholders from Michigan and Indiana. Similar meetings have taken place in Arkansas, Colorado and Nebraska.

The Archbold meeting was coordinated by The Ohio State University Extension, the Ohio Department of Agriculture, Northwest State Community College, the Center for Innovative Food Technology and Ruralogic. There are more than 76,000 identified farms in Ohio alone. Agriculture is the biggest business in the state.

The Secretary also announced the implementation of the National Disaster Recovery Framework (NDRF). The NDRF links local, State, Tribal and Federal governments, the private sector and nongovernmental and community organizations that play vital roles in recovery. It is a scalable, adaptable coordinating structure that helps align key roles and responsibilities in response to disaster recovery.

According to the USDA, the Obama Administration with Agriculture Secretary Vilsack's leadership has worked tirelessly to strengthen rural America, maintain a strong farm safety net and create opportunities for America's farmers and ranchers. A strong farm safety net is important to sustain the success of American agriculture.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Congress Urged to Pass Equitable, Sustainable Farm Bill This Year

Special from Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association

COLUMBUS, OH - Congress’ lame duck session starts today. An array of important issues are demanding their attention, including the expired Farm Bill, our nation’s most comprehensive food and farming legislation.

Ed Perkins of Sassafras Farm in New Marshfield, Ohio. Photo by Julia Marino.

Every five years, Congress is responsible for reauthorizing the Farm Bill, which funds federal nutrition, agricultural commodities, land conservation, rural development and organics programs. This year Congress failed to reauthorize the Farm Bill before it expired on October 1.

While the largest programs, including those for nutrition and commodities, have some continued funding, the expiration effectively halts new enrollment for programs that help drive innovation, support the next generation of farmers, conserve our natural resources and invest in local economic development.

“Congress failed to do its job when it allowed the Farm Bill to expire,” said MacKenzie Bailey, Policy Program Coordinator for the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA). “It’s time they get down to business and pass an equitable and sustainable Farm Bill - one that addresses rural job creation, training opportunities for beginning farmers, natural resource conservation and access to healthy, organic food,” said Bailey.

One of the Farm Bill programs at stake is the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), which invests in beginning farmers by helping them access land, credit and crop insurance; launch and expand new farms and businesses; and receive training, mentoring and education. Although this important program helps to address the problems associated with America’s aging farm population and encourages a new generation of farmers to take the tractor wheel, the U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Committee proposed cutting this program in half.

“Starting a new business is difficult, particularly in agriculture where the owner is subject to so many unpredictable variables that may impact their annual yield, such as a drought or early frost,” said Bailey. “The BFRDP provides meaningful and cost-effective support to these individuals, helping them to jumpstart their businesses by equipping them with knowledge and skills they need to succeed.”

In 2010, the Ohio State University received a three year BFRDP grant that launched the Beginning Entrepreneurs in Agriculture Networks (B.E.A.N.) project, which provides resources and information to young farmers in northeast Ohio. Annually, this project trains and assists approximately 125 aspiring farmers.

"Without the educational resources and opportunities provided by my local Ohio State extension office, I would not have been as successful in the start-up of my small, urban farm," said Linde Collingwood of Collingwood Farm in Solon, Ohio. "Cuts to BRFDP would be a huge loss for northeast Ohio's new and beginning farmers."

In recent years, farmers’ markets in Ohio and across the nation have grown in popularity, benefiting communities by bolstering the local economy, creating jobs and providing increased access to fresh, nutritious food. In 2011, Ohio had more than 260 farmers’ markets, which provide low-cost entry points for small-scale and beginning farmers to direct market their products.

The Farmers’ Market Promotion Program (FMPP) provides grants to community supported agriculture programs (CSAs), farmers’ markets and farm markets to develop marketing information and business plans, support innovative market ideas and educate consumers. In 2012, six Ohio markets received FMPP funding.

One such market is the Toledo Farmers’ Market, which used FMPP funding to recruit new vendors, help establish and promote an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) system for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) recipients and build relationships with community partners to leverage additional funding and support. As a result, SNAP sales increased from $500 in 2008 to $50,000 in 2011, the market added 1,000 new EBT customers, overall market sales increased by 20 percent and the number of vendors at the market grew by 38 percent.

“Thanks to the FMPP funding, we’ve attracted thousands of new customers, increased sales and built more economically-sustainable businesses,” said Liz Bergman, a Toledo Farmers’ Market Manager. “This year has been the best year yet for the EBT program. Word has spread in the community and we now feed more Lucas County residents in need of healthy food.”

Another example is the Lake-To-River Food Cooperative (L2R), a member-owned cooperative of food producers, processors and institutional and commercial buyers who grow, add value to, market and prepare agricultural products in the Mahoning Valley and throughout northeast Ohio. The FMPP funding they received supports their efforts to sell produce to ten local school districts and bring regular farmers’ markets to neighborhoods in Youngstown and Warren.

“With this support, L2R has been able to serve nearly 14,000 school children with fruit and vegetables sourced from farms oftentimes less than 30 minutes from their school,” said Melissa Miller, Marketing Manager for Lake-to-River Food Cooperative. “Additionally we’ve begun the difficult process of providing quality food by working with retailers in low-income neighborhoods, whose patrons would otherwise have little access to wholesome food.”

The National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program, another Farm Bill program vital to Ohio’s growing sustainable agriculture sector, reimburses participating organic producers and handlers for 75 percent (up to $750) of their certification fees, making organic certification affordable and enabling farmers and processors to meet the growing demand for organic food. In 2011, 251 Ohioans utilized cost-share funds, or about 40 percent of the state’s organic operations.

"As a farmer currently enrolled in this program, I have found it quite valuable," said Ron Meyer of Strawberry Hill Farm in Coshocton County. "Organic certification fees are high. The cost-share program helps me continue to provide fresh and safe food, building the health of humans and the environment. Allowing programs like this to wither on the vine defies common sense."

“These examples demonstrate how low cost, effective Farm Bill programs can support Ohio’s family farmers,” said Bailey. “It’s time for Congress to stop kicking the can down the road and pass a Farm Bill this year that makes real reforms, protects conservation programs and invests in a sustainable future for food and farms in America.”

In addition to funding successful programs, OEFFA is calling on Congress to level the playing field for working farmers in Ohio by eliminating wasteful direct payments, closing loopholes that benefit the wealthiest agribusinesses and putting a cap on farm and crop insurance subsidies.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Chesterhill Produce Auction Winds Down for the Winter with Community Celebration

CHESTERHILL, OH - As autumn colors paint Appalachian Ohio’s hills shades of dusty red and shimmering yellow once more, farmers in southern Morgan County are preparing for the end of the growing season with a community celebration before the winter close of the largest wholesale marketplace in their region: the Chesterhill Produce Auction.

Some of the gorgeous autumn baskets at the auction this year.

 Located southwest of Chesterhill, Ohio in Morgan County, the Chesterhill Produce Auction began on a summer day seven years ago with a handful of helpers and growers working together to create a sustainable, aggregated destination for restaurants and institutional purchasers to get fresh, local produce for their businesses. In turn, these buyers would help bolster the growing potential of the rural community in Morgan County as demand increased, and local communities would see healthier, fresher produce on local menus, in local schools and on the kitchen table.

What began those seven years ago has now grown into an economic food destination for buyers and sellers in southeastern Ohio. From increased livelihood of area farmers to fresh, local produce making its way into regional schools, the effectiveness of the Chesterhill Produce Auction can be seen in many places.

The 2012 auction season in Chesterhill was marked with boosts in both revenue and attendance - including growers and buyers - of significant degrees. While Morgan County faces challenges as one of the poorest in the state, the Chesterhill Produce Auction continues to provide an economic stronghold for regional growers, which includes a large farming community in the Chesterhill area. The current year-to-date revenue for this year is up 34% from 2011 and continues to increase each year.

But sellers alone don’t benefit from the auction. A dedicated network of community members continues to utilize the rural hotspot for food purchasing that is the Chesterhill Produce Auction. The total number of registered buyers for this year has shot up 33% from last year to include approximately 1,600 buyers, which includes restaurants, retail sellers, food pantries and schools in the area.

As in years past, the auction will cap off this season with a community potluck and craft expo – showcasing handmade brooms from Peter Snellman of the Vintage Broom Shop, as well as many other vendors - during the final produce auction on Thursday, October 25 at 3:00 p.m. This final celebration of the fruitful growing season will be followed by a day-long consignment auction on Saturday, November 3 beginning at 10:00 a.m. featuring farm equipment, house wares, leather making supplies and more. Traditional dishes will be available from community members for both events featuring seasonal autumn recipes and locally grown produce.

As community members celebrate the end of another successful, eventful and memorable season in southeastern Ohio, area growers continue to prepare for the winter months and the beginning of the spring growing season next year. Increased purchasing from institutions like Camden Clark Medical Center and West Virginia University in Parkersburg, West Virginia will continue into the new growing season, and new purchasers partnering with the auction will only increase demand for fresh, local produce and enable further growth for regional farmers.

The Chesterhill Produce Auction is a project of Rural Action’s Sustainable Agriculture program. Rural Action is a membership-based nonprofit organization promoting social, economic and environmental justice and working for sustainable communities, economies and environments in Appalachian Ohio. For more information, go to

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Community Food Initiatives to Host Indian Feast Fundraiser

ATHENS, OH - Community Food Initiatives (CFI), a local non-profit known for expanding access to fresh and nutritious foods for all people in our region, is gearing up for its annual Harvest Dinner on Saturday, October 13th at 5:30pm. The dinner will be held at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Athens. This year’s event, organized by CFI’s board of directors, will feature an Indian vegetarian meal using local ingredients, prepared by board member Barbara Fisher, a local food blogger and chef.

Dinner will be accompanied by piano music performed by Lynn Sullivan, who has served as musical director for a number of local performances and also plays in jazz groups. Guests will also see a preview from "Hand to Mouth," a locally produced feature length film by Daniel Trout and Barbara Fisher, about the food producing community in and around Athens.

Thanks to the generosity of the Nelsonville Quilt Company, there will be a raffle drawing for an Appalachian quilt, donated by Susan Holmes. The quilt is a pieced, original design by Cathy Janes and quilted in a vines and leaves pattern by Susan. The retail value is $500. Raffle tickets can be purchased during the dinner or by contacting CFI. You do not need to be present to win.

Board President Tom Redfern notes, “CFI’s community food programs have provided literally tons of fresh food for people who often have no other way of accessing healthy local foods. We hope that people will join us in celebrating and supporting this vital community asset.”

For more event details and to purchase dinner tickets, visit Tickets may also be reserved by sending a check by October 10 to CFI at 94 Columbus Road, Athens, Ohio 45701. Dinner tickets are $20 per person and raffle tickets are $5.

For more information, contact Mary Nally by phone at 740-593-5971 or by email at

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Community Food Initiatives Named a Finalist in Tom’s of Maine “50 States for Good” Program

ATHENS, OH - Community Food Initiatives (CFI) represents Ohio as one of 51 finalists in the running to earn $50,000 for a community project that will increase access to healthy fresh foods for food pantries, and offer cooking and nutrition classes to food pantry patrons. Through a public vote at now through October 9, local residents can help bring the funding to Athens County with the simple click of a mouse.

The “50 States for Good” program seeks to uncover local nonprofit groups that address urgent community needs and engage volunteers to get the work done. Community Food Initiatives’ project “Fresh Eats: Discovery Kitchen” plans to increase access to fresh foods and teach cooking and nutrition skills among food pantry patrons. If CFI wins, the Donation Station, an existing CFI program that distributes fresh local food from the Athens Farmers Market and area gardeners to food pantries and social service agencies, will expand to offer more support services to increase the ability of food pantries and agencies to offer more fresh food to their patrons. Additionally, cooking and nutrition classes will be offered for their patrons using the USDA My Plate model to increase consumption of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

“It is our firm belief at Community Food Initiatives, that everyone deserves access to fresh and healthy food,” says Mary Nally, CFI Executive Director. “The Tom’s of Maine funding will help advance the Donation Station and new Discovery Kitchen program. We now look to our community to help build the support needed to bring this funding to Athens County, Ohio. “

Non-profits from each state were selected by an independent panel of judges for the “50 States for Good” program. The public vote will determine six winning organizations to share $150,000 in funding from Tom’s of Maine. The organization with the most public support will receive $50,000, while the five additional organizations will each receive $20,000. Members of the public vote by going to Each person can vote once per day until October 9.

Community Food Initiatives (CFI) is a membership based grassroots organization in Appalachian Ohio. The mission of CFI is to support a local food movement that expands fair access to fresh and nutritious foods for all people in the region. CFI’s initiatives assist individuals and families to grow food, develop cooking skills, and reduce their health risks by eating whole foods. CFI manages six community gardens, offers garden and food preservation workshops, supports school gardens in the Trimble School District, and manages the Donation Station program, providing fresh food to food pantries and social service agencies serving the low-income. Visit the website at or on Facebook.

Tom’s of Maine is a natural products company focused on oral and personal care. The company has a long-standing commitment to supporting people, communities and the living planet. For over 40 years, Tom’s of Maine has sponsored hundreds of non-profit efforts by giving 10% of its profits back to the community.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Farm-to-Hospital at Camden Clark Medical Center

PARKERSBURG, WV - Today the Rural Action Sustainable Agriculture (RASA) team took fresh, local produce from the farmers of the Chesterhill Produce Auction to Camden Clark Medical Center in Parkersburg, West Virginia to set up an in-hospital farmer's market. This was the inaugural event of RASA's Farm-to-Hospital program, the latest off-shoot of RASA's Country Fresh Stops produce branding work.

Fresh, juicy watermelons are carted in for the mini-farmer's market inside the hospital. 

Setting out fresh produce at the market table inside. 

The market open in the morning and quickly sold out as hospital employees and visitors gathered around the bustling lobby market. Nurses, doctors, and hospital personnel went home with fresh, local cabbage, peppers, squash, tomatoes, melons, and much more. RASA plans to continue encouraging fresh, local produce purchases and farm markets at hospitals in the Athens and Parkersburg areas in the future, as well as other local institutions.

The crowd gathers around the tables of farm fresh produce.

Tomatoes, peppers, melons, and much more line the table.

First conceived of and implemented by Dr. Preston Marling of Kaiser Permanente in California, farm-to hospital models bring fresh, local produce right to employees and patients of medical centers through collaborative work with farmers, distributors, and medical center staff. These models have moved conversations in the health care industry toward focusing on healthy food for patients, as well as employees. To date, 399 North American hospitals have signed the Healthy Food in Health Care Pledge from Health Care Without Harm, a commitment to "treat food and its production and distribution as preventive medicine." 

The hospital staff grabs some fresh produce amidst a growing crowd.

Sustainable Agriculture Coordinator at Rural Action Tom Redfern with the first customer at Camden Clark.

The RASA Farm-to-Hospital program is made possible by the Sister's of Saint Joseph Charitable Fund, the Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation, and Rural Action's many partners in the Parkersburg area food system. If your hospital would like to have fresh, local produce, please contact Rural Action Sustainable Agriculture at 740-767-4938 for more information.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Rural Action Leads Partnership to Bring Fresh, Local Produce to Rural Seniors

KILVERT, OH - In Kilvert, Ohio – a town too small to even call a village – locals are receiving fresh, local produce delivered right to their doorsteps thanks to the efforts of a dedicated group of regional partners in Athens County, Ohio.

Susie Parsons, the head volunteer at the Kilvert Community Center, lit up with a smile as Rural Action Sustainable Agriculture team members brought in local fruits and vegetables fresh from the Chesterhill Produce Auction last week. Tom Redfern, Sustainable Agriculture Coordinator, and Joe Barbaree, the Sustainable Agriculture AmeriCorps VISTA, hauled two car-loads full of produce over winding country roads to the small, historically significant Appalachian community for a delivery loaded with everything from sweet corn straight out of the field to tomatoes grown along the Ohio River.

While this certainly isn’t the first donation to make it to the Kilvert Community Center, it’s some of the best produce they’ve seen. “This produce is always in good condition because it comes from the Chesterhill Produce Auction,” mentioned Parsons. Upon arriving, all of the food was divided equally to be sent out to elderly citizens in the community and those in the surrounding areas. In all, 100 senior community members in food deserts – areas without easily accessible fresh foods – would soon have quality meals for the next week delivered to them by folks from the community center.

This recent round of fresh, local produce from the Chesterhill Produce Auction was only possible through the collaborative work of local businesses and organizations. Bob Fedyski, Local and Institutional Foods Specialist at Rural Action, partnered with Donkey Coffee and Espresso in Athens to make the donation a reality. As the small coffeehouse in the college town of Athens approached its ten-year anniversary, Fedyski worked with the business to set up a raffle with proceeds going to purchase food from the produce auction to be donated to local groups. Raffle participants could win free coffee for one month from Donkey, and citizens with limited access to fresh, healthy foods would see farm-fresh produce on their plates.

Participation in the raffle brought in $150 for the produce purchase and left the winner, Lisa Mieskowski of Athens fully satisfied helping the community. “When I saw that Donkey was taking donations for Rural Action during their anniversary week, I was more than happy to donate to help another movement working to bolster rural areas,” said Mieskowski. “Now that I’ve been named the raffle winner, I get a reminder with each free cup of coffee how businesses in Athens take an active role in giving back to the community.”

If all goes accordingly, deliveries will happen regularly as other businesses and groups partner with Rural Action and the Chesterhill Produce Auction to make donations to Kilvert and other areas in which fresh food is scarce and transportation to reach grocery stores or farmer’s markets just isn’t possible. For many of the residents in Kilvert and similar areas, food choices often amount to mainly processed foods. For an isolated community such as Kilvert, transportation miles away to Athens and other food hubs isn’t always an option.

The Kilvert community has a deep history of coal exploitation and exclusion from other towns and government attention due to extensive mixed race ancestries. All of this created and sustained deeply imbedded poverty that exists to this day, but alongside a strong sense of self-sufficiency and resilience. The Kilvert Community Center itself is a simple building that has seen a harsh, complex past. It has survived natural as well as man-made disaster. Fires and government cuts have made an already difficult undertaking every bit harder. And it’s a theme common for the majority of the Kilvert community and those surrounding.

So when Susie Parsons sees beautiful produce flood the floor of the community center, she’s grateful and proud of the fresh produce she knows is grown in the surrounding communities. What she sees isn’t free food – it’s food intentionally sourced from quality, local producers in order to build upon a complex chain of producers, buyers and community supporters. It isn’t charity she sees – it’s a beckoning for all to join and build a stronger community. It isn’t a bandage she sees – it’s a chance for the entire community of Kilvert to see lasting change as the result of a strengthened, proud local economy.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Produce in Parkersburg: A Regional Success Story

PARKERSBURG, WV - As the assets of Rural Action’s Sustainable Agriculture program continue to flourish – including sales to-date up 57% at the Chesterhill Produce Auction (CPA), and the continued expansion of Country Fresh Stops – one community in West Virginia is now beginning to see the signs of a blossoming local food economy.

Local and Institutional Foods Specialist Bob Fedyski is working to increase access to fresh, local foods in nearby Parkersburg, West Virginia through the creation of a local food distribution system. The Parkersburg market has been a target of Rural Action Sustainable Agriculture and we are now successfully developing partnerships, with the most visible being at the West Virginia University-Parkersburg (WVU-P) campus where a start-up farmer’s market is sparking a new wave of local foods in the area.

The first link in the West Virginia chain formed while Fedyski was connecting with others passionate about local food systems in the Parkersburg area. He met Megan Kahoa, the Health and Wellness Community Coordinator at the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department in December at an Athens Food Policy Council meeting. And it was Kahoa who connected Fedyski to Pamela Santer, Wellness Coordinator at WVU-P. Santer, “a dynamo in the community” according to Fedyski, approaches student wellness as “whole body health.” In her determination to increase healthy food access for the campus community, she knew there was a better way to get healthy, local foods to students: expose them to a farmer’s market right on campus. 

Kahoa knew that Rural Action was delivering food from the Chesterhill Produce Auction all over the region, and had also heard that Marietta schools began purchasing from the CPA, so she introduced Fedyski to Santer, who didn’t just want healthy food sold at the market – she wanted to support a local food economy. Purchasing produce from the global food system would be one thing, getting just-picked fruit and vegetables from 40 miles away would be another. Santer wanted students to have access to healthy eating and living options while positively impacting the regional food system.

The three talked over the course of several weeks, including a WVU-P field trip to the CPA, and opened the Tuesday afternoon market in front of the campus’s student center in late June. Using funds generated by the WVU-P Health and Wellness Club, Santer’s team, which includes students and staff, has purchased hundreds of dollars in local produce from the CPA since opening. It generally sells out, and what isn’t sold is sold at-cost to group homes for the disabled. Whether they’re selling potatoes, cabbage, or fresh melons, those on campus have been unable to resist stopping by the stand. “The food catches their attention really quickly,” said Fedyski about the customers who stop by.

The diverse student population at WVU-P has presented a challenge for healthy food access in the past. “It’s a wide variety – some fresh out of high school, some middle of the road and going back to school, lots of parents, and a lot of older people – those who have lost their jobs and even retirees,” said Kahoa. The farmers market in downtown Parkersburg is miles away from the campus, and many of the students either rely on others for rides or work full-time and can’t make the mid-week market. But lack of interest in healthy, local food isn’t to blame – it’s lack of access, which is the market’s most important function. “We’re not just selling things to sell them, but helping students realize cooking doesn’t have to be expensive or complex,” explained Santer. A major milestone at the market will be the upcoming acceptance of SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits. The non-traditional student body has many food assistance recipients; this is one of the consumer groups who Santer and Fedyski hope to reach.

On a larger scale, the market is also a gateway – a starting point – for producers in the Parkersburg area to reach new markets. Once it’s evident that there is a demand for healthy, local food, farmers and producers in the area will be able to expand accordingly and further strengthen a growing system. Food from Ohio is only part of the plan – getting local demand to increase local production is the other part of this undertaking.

Santer already sees possibilities with expanding the offerings at the market just from Ohio-based producers. Baked goods from Crumb’s Bakery in Athens and fresh artisan cheeses from Laurel Valley Creamery in Gallipolis are making their way to the students and faculty at the campus market. With Rural Action Sustainable Agriculture’s new refrigerated delivery truck up and running, even larger quantities can be brought to the campus, and additional customers can be served. And it’s just in time. Faculty will return to the campus the week of August 12 and Fedyski expects purchases for the market from the produce auction to double. When students return soon after, demand will likely continue to skyrocket, according to Santer.

In the end, money isn’t the only goal for Santer, Fedyski, or any of the partners in Rural Action’s local food economy work. What they care about is the triple bottom line: creating a system – a value chain – that sustains itself and benefits the economy, the community and the environment equally. It’s this value-based approach that drives Rural Action’s Sustainable Agriculture program and its ultimate goal: to support local food systems so that they can grow and continue to benefit our economy. Soon fruits and vegetables from the Chesterhill Produce Auction won’t be the only ones at the WVU-P campus market. The aim is for producers in the Parkersburg area to be able to fill the needs of consumers and increase the portion of the market held by local foods. With Rural Action’s help, Parkersburg is one step closer to meeting that end.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Athens food activists "Feeding the Planet" in Italy

ATHENS, OH - International food conferences weren’t on the minds of Michelle Ajamian and Brandon Jaeger when they established the Appalachian Staple Foods Collaborative in 2008: they just wanted to build a regional system for food staples in Appalachian Ohio.

Now four years later, the two will travel as United States delegates to the bi-annual Terra Madre international conference in Torino, Italy from October 25 to 29.

Terra Madre has been coordinated by Slow Food International since 2004 with the goal of fostering discussions and introducing innovative concepts in the field of regional, sustainable food. The theme for Terra Madre 2012 is “Feeding the Planet,” referring to the right for all to access quality, regional food that is produced in a fair and just manner.

Ajamian and Jaeger – leaders in building regional prototypes for growing, processing and marketing high nutrition staple foods with a focus on healthy food access and sustainable growing methods – will be surrounded by an international community of food innovators at the conference. There they will share their experiences in Appalachian Ohio with those from other countries working toward creating a network of food communities that are committed to producing quality food in a responsible, sustainable way.

Their work and determination in the local community led to the launch of Shagbark Seed & Mill in 2012, just two years after forming the ASFC. Shagbark Seed & Mill began by growing small crops of high nutrition grains such as amaranth and now processes a variety of staple dry beans, grains, seeds and flour for distribution across the region. Ajamian even hopes to swap some of her pre-industrial beans for ancient grain seed while at the conference, if she’s allowed.

But the soon-to-be delegates need help raising funds to make the trip a reality. They are currently asking for donations to help them make the trip to Italy in order to represent our community. A strong regional support network has already helped them meet part of their goal, but they’re still not at the total trip cost.

To help them reach their goal, contact Michelle Ajamian and Brandon Jaeger at 740-590-1501 for more details on how to donate.

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