The New River Gorge Regional Development Authority (NRGRDA) in partnership with the Robert C. Byrd Institute (RCBI) and Downstream Strategies were awarded a $1.5 million federal grant from Appalachia Regional Commission in October of 2016. This grant was fund efforts creating jobs in coal-impacted communities through the expansion of local food production in West Virginia. This initiative took on the Sprouting Farms name and began efforts to expand local food production in Fayette, Greenbrier, Mercer, Monroe, Nicholas, Pocahontas, Raleigh and Summers counties.
Under development since 2014, Sprouting Farms is an innovative approach to enhancing local food systems in Appalachia. The goal is to grow more food locally, process it more effectively and get it to market more efficiently. The $2.3 million project will accelerate the project by providing support for its different efforts:
- A resource sharing program that provides access to machinery, tools and other resources;
- A farm business accelerator offering new farmers access to land, production training, business development support and mentorship;
- An education program that develops curriculum and partnerships with area educators;
- A program that provides land access through an ownership model called crofting or leasing arrangements, manage wholesale farms, and provide learning opportunities for participants;
- A sales and planning program that develops wholesale markets channels for the participants.
As of March, 2018, the 80 acres of property on which this initiative will begin, was purchased. The property is nestled in Summers County, West Virginia and made possible by through the partnership of the Summers County Farmland Protection Board who dedicated their easement to this project.
While the program aims to guide two cohorts of around 10 start-ups, a year through training at some point, the first cohort of 7-8 will begin training on May 15, 2017. Currently, Alex Ogrinz (Production Manager) and Alivia Sturgill (Education Director) are working diligently to prepare curriculums, skin greenhouses, and get the campus student-ready.
The public can look forward to an open-farm event being planned for June, 2017 to preview program components and tour campus facilities. For more information visit www.sproutingfarms.org.