WILLIAMSON – Representatives from Refresh Appalachia, Ben Gilmer and Savanna Lyons, made a presentation to the board of directors of the Mingo County Redevelopment Authority (MCRA) at their regular meeting held last Thursday.
Refresh Appalachia is a social enterprise of the Coalfield Development Corporation. The initiative is a regional economic and workforce development initiative to establish a sustainable training and development program to increase the success of beginning farmers and ranchers in southern West Virginia and Central Appalachia.
Refresh Appalachia is partners with not only the Coalfield Development Corporation, but the MCRD, Wayne County Development Authority, Williamson Health and Wellness Center (WHWC) and other groups.
Gilmer and Lyons told the MCRA board, and their Executive Director Leasha Johnson, about some of the projects they have going at the Harless Industrial Park location near Holden.
They recently received a grant from AEP to construct an office building and storage facility at the site.
They are also experimenting with pig farming, and also have chickens and goats at the mountaintop location. They will be experimenting with growing several crops this spring on the post mine land. They have already been working on the soil to fertilize and stabilize it to ready it for more farming projects in 2017.
The group is also partnering with the WHWC in purchasing the old American Legion building in Williamson. They hope to put a year-around farmer’s market and that site and eventually have a rooftop greenhouse on the building. They hope it will become a “food hub.”
Lyons is working on finding markets for the farm products where local entrepreneurs can sell their vegetables, fruit or possibly chickens.
What is Refresh Appalachia: Agricultural Entrepreneurship Development Program is a social enterprise of the Coalfield Development Corporation. Refresh Appalachia is a regional economic and workforce development initiative to establish a sustainable training and development program to increase the success of beginning farmers and ranchers in West Virginia, the Mid-Ohio Valley Region, and eastern Kentucky. Refresh Appalachia builds on the existing assets of the region to integrate economic and workforce development to grow an intensive agriculture industry to supply the local food system as well as aggregate production to meet regional and national markets.
What They Do: The initiative will enhance the sustainability of economically disadvantaged beginning farmers and help them grow sales in their new farming enterprise. The initiative will leverage investments to 1) develop a Food HUB Distribution & Warehouse Park in Wayne County to aggregate regional food production to supply regional and national markets; 2) support increased agriculture production on surface mined and agricultural sites through Coalfield Development Corporation’s on-the-job training and mentorship throughout southern West Virginia; and 3) establish a Health Innovations & Food HUB that will provide business incubation services and build a local food economy through a centralized food processing / storage / distribution center, commercial kitchen, co-op market, and year-long growing facilities.