Appalachian Sustainable Development (ASD) connects farmers with wholesale markets and provides them with the training and technical assistance they need to compete successfully in these markets. In particular, ASD has been building and strengthening the Central Appalachian Food Corridor.
Farmers in remote rural areas, especially in Appalachia, face unique barriers such as accessing lucrative markets. The logistics are extremely difficult because of the area’s topography. Additionally, the low population density makes selling high volumes of product challenging. For ASD, using pre-existing or light infrastructure to create new ways for farmers to get their product to buyers is key.
Farm Aid’s 2021 Grant supported ASD’s efforts to expand buying markets for farmers in Kentucky, through their Appalachian Harvest food hub in Southwestern VA. A key partner is God’s Pantry, a food bank in London, KY, that acts as a nearby aggregation site and provides some infrastructure (such as a forklift to unload produce) for the farmers. Once farmers drop off their product at God’s Pantry, most is moved onto an ASD truck, while the remaining “seconds” are distributed by the pantry to the local community in need. ASD’s truck transports the Kentucky produce to the Appalachian Harvest food hub in VA, and by that evening 80% is on its way to wholesale buyers from WV to MD. Farmers receive 80% of ASD’s delivered price.
This collaborative work has significant impacts. For example, because the buyers found Appalachian Harvest to be a reliable, consistent provider of high quality and high volume winter squash, Appalachian Harvest was able to increase prices by $5-$7 per case, benefiting farmers; about $15,976 additional dollars have gone to KY squash growers by September 2022.
Prior to accessing Appalachian Harvest, many of these farmers were forced to sell their product at below-market prices at auctions or through a limited customer base via CSA’s (community supported agriculture). From January to September 2022, Kentucky growers sold $131,460 worth of product through ASD’s Appalachian Harvest food hub, up from $91,959 (a 43% increase) for that time period in 2021.