We’re proud to be a part of this story from CNN’s “Champions for Change,” a one-hour special hosted by Dr. Sanjay Gupta. CNN’s Kate Bolduan highlighted Farm Aid’s work and dug in to learn more about family farm agriculture. It was a pleasure to spend a couple days with Kate and her team on Robbins Family Farms in Southwest Virginia.
We were pleased to learn that Farm Aid would be profiled, and even more happy when the producer asked us for suggestions of farms that anchor Kate Bolduan could visit to spend time with a farm family. We immediately thought of the Robbins Family in Southwest Virginia. We arranged a phone call and once the CNN folks talked with Robin Robbins, the “matriarch” of the farm, as CNN called her, they were smitten!
Farm Aid had the chance to meet the Robbins family last year, when we brought our concert to Virginia. That’s the benefit of moving the Farm Aid concert around the country: meeting new farmers and shining a spotlight on the work of food and farm organizations across the country. With our concert in Virginia, we were highlighting Appalachian Sustainable Development, one of our awesome partners, which among many other programs operates Appalachian Harvest, a rural food hub that helps local farmers get their products to market. Appalachian Harvest provides GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) training, helps farmer obtain organic certification, secures retail orders from large wholesale markets, and aggregates and distribute locally grown produce from Maryland to Georgia. Appalachian Harvest has helped farmers earn more than $12 million dollars selling produce to grocers and brokers. We met Robin because in addition to being a full time farmer, she’s also the food hub’s manager!
The amazing story about Appalachian Harvest and Robin is that they are bringing economic development and jobs to a region of the country that needs sustainable investment and attention. Appalachia is an incredibly beautiful place, and the people who grow up there tend to want to stay there. But with the economy that was once based around coal in major decline, new industries are needed. Appalachian Harvest and Robin, personally through her own work on her farm, are inspiring new farmers to get started growing good food for their communities and for retail markets up and down the Appalachian corridor. They’re growing hope, and you can’t do much better than that.
We were honored to spotlight Robin and Appalachian Harvest on the Farm Aid stage as part of our 2016 concert, and we are so grateful to CNN for the opportunity to visit Robin on her farm again, and continue to spread the word about the good work she and Appalachian Harvest are doing!
And we have to give a shout-out to Kate Bolduan and the documentary team that recorded and edited this beautiful story. Kate, having grown up in farm country, was ready to roll her sleeves up and get dirty. She watered in the greenhouse, drove the tractor, laid irrigation line and plastic mulching, planted zucchini plants and much more, all the while smiling and making us all laugh with her wonderful sense of humor. She joked about her “black thumb,” but Robin sent us this photo of Kate’s zucchinis this morning, demonstrating her promise as a farmer. But we think she does a great job in her current career, and we’re grateful she’s spreading the word about Farm Aid’s mission and the Farmer Heroes like Robin and the Robbins Family, with whom we are so lucky to work!