On Monday, October 26, a $50,000 grant was presented to the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority for a Farm to Table Marketplace in Beckley to serve as a place for farmers to sell their produce and products directly to consumers as well as corporate buyers and distributors year-round.
The Farm to Table Marketplace will be a partnership among government entities as well as local businesses and nonprofits and will source food from within a 100-mile radius — at least 75 percent from within 50 miles — and benefit food producers in Raleigh, Fayette, Nicholas, Summers, Greenbrier, Monroe and Kanawha counties.
New River Gorge Regional Development Authority Executive Director Chad Wykle said, “We are really excited to get this off the ground in Beckley and assist the local food movement. Building a marketplace in southern West Virginia is one spoke in a much larger wheel. Agriculture plays a vital role in diversifying the area’s economy.”
Wykle said the marketplace will be located at Greenbrier Nurseries facility in Beckley, as a private partner for the project.
Commissioner of Agriculture Walt Helmick said he believes a facility to aggregate products will allow local producers to take a step past Farm to Table initiatives as they are now known.
“We want to be involved in the Farm to Table movement, but we also want commercial buyers,” he said. “We have the quality soil and quality climate necessary to make a commercial produce hub in southern West Virginia. Distributors and commercial buyers want West Virginia products to sell to stores throughout the state.”
The Farm to Table Marketplace in Beckley will be modeled on the Wild Ramp in Huntington, which is open year-round, six days per week, and has returned about $600,000 to the local economy over 30 months. The Beckley center will build on this model by creating a public-private partnership around a local food aggregator, not only for local residents, but for a broader market across the state.
Sam Rikkers, acting administrator for the USDA Rural Business Service, toured southern West Virginia Monday to help present the $50,000 grant for the Farm to Table Marketplace through the West Virginia Department of Agriculture.