Grow Appalachia to Leverage Nearly $1 million for Southeastern Kentucky Local Foods Economy

BEREA, KY, September 30, 2016 – Grow Appalachia is excited to announce that they will be leveraging private and federal funds totaling nearly $1 million to impact Southeastern Kentucky Promise Zone and Strike Force counties. As a program of Berea College, Grow Appalachia will work with partners throughout the Southeastern Kentucky region to strengthen year-round growing efforts, agricultural economic development, and local food networks.

Now that farmers markets and markets for local produce are expanding across the region and Kentuckians are looking to grow, buy, and sell fresh fruits and vegetables year-round, these initiatives, valued at $990,569.04, are right on time.

Community Foods Project

Berea College’s Grow Appalachia was awarded $375,000 by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) for the Community Foods Project (CFP) grant. Grow Appalachia and CFP partners will match that amount dollar for dollar to support the creation of gardens and commercial processing space at five community nonprofits—Pine Mountain Settlement School, Red Bird Mission, Cowan Community Center, Lend-A-Hand Center, and Hindman Settlement School. These nonprofits serve seven of the Kentucky Promise Zone counties: Clay, Harlan, Knott, Knox, Leslie, Letcher, and Perry.

Community-based nonprofits will recruit families in their service regions to grow gardens, attend classes, and harvest produce for use at home and to sell at market. Families will develop and test value-added goods to sell at market locally and regionally as well as attend networking meetings with local buyers co-hosted by Grow Appalachia and Community Farm Alliance. Families who sell at market will also have the opportunity to attend business and loan credit counseling workshops with Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation.

These opportunities will be instrumental in revitalizing the economy and reinvigorating the local foods movement in Kentucky by bringing USDA funding into rural communities throughout Southeastern Kentucky.

Grow Appalachia/NRCS Seasonal High Tunnel StrikeForce Initiative

In keeping with their commitment to help as many Appalachian families grow as much of their own food as possible, Berea College’s Grow Appalachia has partnered with the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Resources Conservation Service (USDA NRCS) to support year-round growing in the Kentucky StrikeForce region.

Grow Appalachia will match the USDA NRCS’ funds of $120,329.52 to develop conservation plans for seasonal high tunnel producers in Southeastern Kentucky StrikeForce designated counties. Grow Appalachia will work with producers to develop production and disease management plans and increase conservation practices region wide.

This initiative, deemed the “Seasonal High Tunnel StrikeForce Initiative” will help Grow Appalachia and the USDA NRCS gain a better understanding of how high tunnels are utilized in Kentucky. This follows the work of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) which has funded a significant number of high tunnels in Kentucky. In addition, producers will be connected with business and market planning support as well as additional support through NRCS agents in their communities.

About Grow Appalachia: Grow Appalachia is a community garden-based food security program, headquartered at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky.  Grow Appalachia is currently in its seventh year of operation, working with 31 partner sites in six central Appalachian states for 2016. To date, approximately 2,384,167 pounds of organically-grown fruits and vegetables have been harvested by 4,375 participating families.

Our sites have also leveraged $2,243,783 in community resources. This summer, Grow Appalachia and Berea College also sponsored the first open and mobile USDA-funded Summer Food Service Program in the city of Berea and in the state of Kentucky. A total of 13,880 meals were served, equating in savings of $44,519.14 to Berea families for meal costs this summer.