Create/find a distribution system to sell locally-grown foods.
In 2010, three Marshall University students decided they would create a food hub in Huntington for their Senior Capstone project. Two years later, The Wild Ramp opened as an open-air market that would take local products and market them to the public. By January 2014, they had returned more than $350,000 to food producers.
Then in 2014-15, they returned more than a million dollars to the producers and growers who sell through them
That’s success in anybody’s book! It proves that you can create a successful local foods business in West Virginia
“Most West Virginia farmers don’t produce in large volume, so to make it work, we have to combine forces and get fresh, healthy food to people,” said Kelly Crane, former director of the WV Farmers Market Association. “Different models work better in different places. People have to decide what will work best for their situation.”
With help from the federal Farm to School program, the Office of Child Nutrition has been promoting distribution systems that allow WV foods to compete with packaged out-of-state foods in sales to the schools and other state institutions. And the West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition has an active working group that helps local people develop models that can work in their area.
Here are distribution models already working for West Virginia communities:
- The Wild Ramp (Huntington). This is a volunteer-run store consignment model. Each vendor has their area, and customers buy food retail. Hear this West Virginia Public Radio story on their success: http://wvpublic.org/post/wild-ramp-continues-succeed-Huntington. Here are their Web pages: https://www.facebook.com/HuntingtonLocalFoodMarket and http://wildramp.org.Video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KVhnuwXZ3eg
- Barbour County Community Garden Market. Farmers drop off their produce and goods, and do not have to stay with it. A staff person sells it for a relatively small fee. https://www.facebook.com/bccgardenmarket
- Mid-Ohio Growers Cooperative Inc. Mid-Ohio Valley Edibles (MOVE) is the brand of this coop, headquartered in Spencer, with more than 20 growers. They offer online ordering of raw vegetables, grains and honey to institutions such as senior centers and schools. Marketing online, they post what the growers have and deliver what member buyers order. http://www.localfoodmarketplace.com/move/Content.aspx?content=about
- Kanawha Valley Consumer-Supported Agriculture. In this model, customers pay an up-front fee and, each month, receive their share of produce in season. Customers receive whatever vegetables, herbs and fruits are currently available. http://www.wvgazette.com/News/201306060231 and https://www.facebook.com/groups/479103195470770/.
- Monroe Farm Market (Union). In this farmer-driven model, about 25 family farms belong to a collaborative organization that pools vegetables, eggs, meat, etc. Customers order online from all over southern West Virginia, and the collaborative delivers the orders to a central place. http://www.localfoodmarketplace.com/monroe/
- Morgans Grove Market, Shepherdstown. Now a Saturday-morning farmers’ market, its development plans include include an all-week farmers market in which farmers will drop off their produce, health care services housed in the same building and a regional food distribution system. https://www.facebook.com/morgansgrovemarket.
- The West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition put together several videos of successful West Virginia food distribution businesses: The Wild Ramp, Kilmer Farm Market & Orchard, Working H Farms, and Hudson Farms.
Here are West Virginia resources:
- West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition offers many great resources and reports:
- West Virginia Local Food Resources: lists of aggregators, co-packers, community kitchens, distributors, meat packers, etc. (WV Farm and Food Coalition) http://www.wvhub.org/sites/default/files/WVFFC%20Local%20Food%20Resource%20Directory%202012.pdf
- West Virginia Food System: Seasonal Production Expansion and Its Impacts: http://www.downstreamstrategies.com/documents/reports_publication/ds_food_system_report_final.pdf
- West Virginia Food System: Opportunities and constraints in local food supply chains. http://www.downstreamstrategies.com/documents/reports_publication/DS_wv_food_system_opportuities_and_constraints_in_local_food_supply_chains.pdf
- Hard copies of all reports available from West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition: www.wvhub.org/foodandfarmcoalition.
- West Virginia Farmers Market Association: http://wvfarmers.org/
- West Virginia Department of Agriculture: www.wvagriculture.org
Here are national resources:
- Rural Futures Lab:http://www.rupri.org/Forms/RUPRI_Rural-Futures-Lab_2010_Food_Systems_for_Rural_Futures.pdf
- Local Distribution: http://www.kcfoodpolicy.org/issues/local-distribution
- The Role of Food Hubs in Local Food Marketing (USDA): http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/SupportDocuments/USDAReportFoodhub2013.pdf
- ChangeLab Solutions: a variety of relevant reports. www.changelabsolutions.org
Also see these Try This pages: Healthy food = economic development, Farm to School, Farmers markets, local food in convenience stores
Would you happen to have any available information on food safety regulations for West Virginia? I am a graduate student working to help develop a business model for a group out of Calhoun County, and I have had no luck finding the regulations they would need to follow for fresh vegetable production, harvest, packing, storage, and sales. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
I would contact your county Extension office, they can offer advice. https://extension.wvu.edu/offices