Local foods initiative draws producers, consumers
A meeting at Hillsboro Library last week drew several proponents of local foods, including those who produce them and those who want to purchase them.
Locally grown beef, pork, eggs, honey, dairy products and vegetables could be available in a variety of ways and in a variety of places as a result of the initiative.
The movement has been going on for more than 18 months, according to Stompin� Crick farm co-owner Sarah Riley.
Riley said a core group has had four meetings to build networks and systems.
�People have things to sell,� Riley said.
She is one of the applicants for a SARE� (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) grant that will identify those people with things to sell and provide information about potential consumers like restaurants, school systems, resort areas and local stores.
The $15,000 grant would define how much local farmers are producing and how much local consumers need so that the group, which Riley said could operate under the Create Pocahontas umbrella, can develop a business plan.
County coordinator Jay Miller arranged last week�s meeting. Miller attended a local foods conference at Stonewall Resort in November, as did Riley.
Ideas like a storefront, packaging plant, refrigerated truck, cannery and farmers market were just a few of the ideas that the more than 20 participants vocalized during the meeting.
Riley said the variety of ideas also contain a variety of issues the group will have to address like how to include high-end markets and how to make the products affordable for county residents. Still, she said, she is optimistic about the future of a local foods initiative in the county.
�We have everything that we need and I don�t know of another place that does,� she said.
The group�s ideas weren�t only about selling Pocahontas County agricultural goods and stabilizing farm prices, but also about consumers.
Marlinton Middle School principal Joe Riley said nutrition plays a role in behavioral problems in the school system. Riley, also an owner of Stompin�Crick Farms, said he would like to see more local foods in the schools. North Central West Virginia Community Action participants Lisa Thompson and Jane Jackson said they would like to know how to get local foods into their agency�s food pantry.
Pretty Penny Restaurant and Caf� owner Blair Campbell just wants to know when she can incorporate more local foods into her menu. Her restaurant at Watoga and caf� in Hillsboro already offer locally grown meats and vegetables in season.
Miller inquired about the possibility of using the meat curing facility at Pocahontas County High School and about how Pocahontas Producers might fit into the local foods picture.
Joe Riley, who was a Vo-Ag teacher at PCHS when the facility was built, said it was to be used only as a demonstration/education facility for FFA and 4-H projects.
Pocahontas Producers is a farmers� cooperative that owns a stockyard facility near Marlinton. The co-op holds cattle sales in the spring and fall, retaining a percentage of each sale, according to West Virginia University Extension Agent Greg Hamons.
While no decisions were made other than to continue with the project and to explore more grant funding opportunities, enthusiasm for a locally grown food initiative was high. The group will hold a locally grown potluck dinner March 15 to do more planning. The location is yet to be determined.