Value-Added Coaching Program for West Virginia Agricultural Service Providers

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2023: $149,999.00
Projected End Date: 11/30/2026
Grant Recipient: Future Generations University
Region: Northeast
State: West Virginia
Project Leader:
Jennifer Totten
Future Generations University


Not commodity specific


  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, financial management, value added
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, urban/rural integration, values-based supply chains

    Proposal abstract:

    Problem or Opportunity and Justification

    West Virginia’s farmers currently rely on the seasonality of farming and the volatile nature of the farmers market direct sales method for the majority of their income.  According to a report prepared in 2013 by the West Virginia University Food Justice Lab and the West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition, 78% of farmers in the state who grow specialty crops list farmers markets as their primary sales outlet.  Many farmers could help stabilize their income if they were either producing value-added products themselves or production planning for value-added products being produced by a manufacturer.  This presents an opportunity for farmers to both increase profit and have more stable and forecastable income.  Additionally, the passage of the 2018 and 2019 Cottage Food bills, and the increase in tourism activities due to the New River Gorge National Park designation in the state have both increased demand for value-added products produced by West Virginians.  

    Unfortunately, the process for achieving process authority in West Virginia is unclear to potential value-added producers.  To date, the clearest way to become a retail level value-added producer is to work with another product creator who has navigated the process itself.  Many service providers in the state are uncomfortable coaching potential producers when the process itself is not clearly written down in a check-sheet form.      


    Solution and Approach

    Future Generations University, in conjunction with several partners including process authorities at Virginia Tech, is proposing the creation of a Value-Added Regulator Toolkit and Training Manual for service providers to utilize when working with potential farmers who are interested in scaling to retail scale with value-added products.  Additionally, the university will build a training program which centers around an accompaniment model of coaching service providers who are working with farmers, by existing value-added producers.  The training program will be offered over a 9-month period with one module delivered either in person or virtually every other month.  Each module will cover a component of value-added product creation and then participants will be expected to execute coaching of farmers in their community while being mentored by the value-added product makers. 50 service providers will participate engaging a total of 100 farmers in coaching through two training cohorts.  Of the 100 farmers engaged, it is expected that 50 will have a product approved through process authority and ready for retail shelves. 

    Performance targets from proposal:

    Over a three-year period, 50 service providers will be trained to assist 100 farmers in creating value-added products which then are approved for process authority in West Virginia. 

    Farmer Target: Of the 100 farmers, 50 will either create a value-added product themselves suitable for retail shelves or will sell to makers of a value-added product.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.