- Fruits: apples, berries (other), peaches, pears, berries (strawberries)
- Vegetables: sweet potatoes, beans, beets, broccoli, carrots, cucurbits, eggplant, greens (leafy), parsnips, peppers, rutabagas, tomatoes, turnips, brussel sprouts
- Additional Plants: herbs
- Animals: bovine, poultry, rabbits, swine, fish
- Miscellaneous: mushrooms
- Animal Production: free-range
- Crop Production: organic fertilizers
- Education and Training: technical assistance, demonstration, display, extension, farmer to farmer, focus group, networking, workshop
- Farm Business Management: cooperatives, feasibility study, value added
- Pest Management: botanical pesticides, row covers (for pests), mulching - vegetative
- Soil Management: composting, green manures, organic matter, soil analysis, soil quality/health
- Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, public participation, employment opportunities, social capital, social networks, sustainability measures
Resorts and high-end restaurants in West Virginia spend millions of dollars each year bringing gourmet food items and meats into the state from other states, as well as from outside the US. It seems ironic that despite a huge native whitetail deer population, no venison is grown commercially in the state. Our expectation is that some West Virginia farmers would be interested in raising and selling specialty items directly to these resorts, if they knew how to make the connection, what to raise, when and how to cultivate and harvest it, and then how to present it. Our organization is committed to the “buy local” concept and a cadre of chefs are interested in being pro-active in an Alice Waters—Chez Panisse type outreach. The purpose of this grant is to demonstrate the financial value to the farmer of this initiative and to make the connection by using the chefs themselves in dialogue sessions with farmers. Our early research with focus groups and the State Department of Agriculture indicates that knowledge gaps exist for most farmers and so secondary and post-secondary educators have been integrated into the project to create appropriate training modules/programs—including a related set of standards for integrating agricultural education and culinary programs in the high school curriculum. Funding of this grant would provide a set of “mirror” activities for West Virginia’s non-distressed counties that would parallel a similar Appalachian Regional Commission/Benedum Foundation Grant serving the distressed counties.
Project objectives from proposal:
Since we plan to identify and recruit those individuals to attend our sessions who have a high potential to become a producer of these products, having the extension office collaborating with us to get the word out will be invaluable in ensuring a broader participation. They will also be an important part of gathering results, as well as in interpreting them. Verifying Client Audience Benefit The number of farmers who attend the sessions gauge participant’s interest. Determining via a pre- and post- discussion evaluation the number of participants in the visioning sessions who have gained a better understanding of the financial advantage of growing for high-end restaurants exotic/gourmet agricultural products not currently available in West Virginia would gauge benefit to audience. Determining also via the same evaluation the number of participants who see that this kind of farming is realistic and doable, would be still another such gauge. The number of farmers who band together to be part of a network of support as they engage in these efforts would demonstrate program effectiveness. A plan will be produced delineating educational opportunities and programs at the secondary level in this field so that students will begin to articulate plans for future careers in these areas and plot out how to get there. The number of students who seek information would be one indicator. The number who actually enrolls would be another indication of varied levels of benefit to client audience. Similarly learning/training modules (and subsequently training programs) will be prepared at the community/technical college level for out-of-school current farmers. Here again, the number who enroll for these educational experiences indicates success of the outreach as well as of the findings of the sessions and their application in the training.