Sprouting Farms grows Southern West Virginia’s local food systems through education, resource sharing, land access, and food production. Their goal? Help new and existing producers grow products, connect with consumers, and ultimately create economic growth and resilience in their communities. As we saw during COVID-19, the ability of communities to safely and sustainably feed themselves was more important than ever. Thankfully, before the pandemic, Sprouting Farms was creating a more prosperous and secure tomorrow by investing in unique ways for farmers to reach new customers today.
On-Site Farm Stand
In addition to educating and empowering beginning farmers at their Talcott, WV, operation, Sprouting Farms established an on-site farm stand.
“The farm stand offers an additional market outlet for the beginning farm businesses we are incubating, products grown by our education/production team, and is supplemented with other farmers’ products from the Turnrow Appalachian Farm Collective network,” said Executive Director April Koenig.
Instead of farmers selling their produce at the market, Sprouting Farms’ team manages sales, allowing farmers to focus on production, harvesting, and other needs. Beyond helping new farmers generate more revenue for their growing operations, the stand also helps build community resilience through access to healthy, local food.
Food insecurity has always been an issue in Appalachia and the nation, but it spiked dramatically during COVID-19. According to Feeding America, food insecurity was at its lowest point in 2019, with 1 in 9 individuals living in a food insecure household. In 2021, they project 1 in 8 (more than 45 million people) will experience food insecurity.
“Summers County has a major food insecurity issue,” said Koenig. “By offering the onsite farm stand, we’re able to provide more nutritious food options to our community members who utilize Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) support, as well as Senior and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) vouchers.”
Sprouting Farms is also helping farmers reach new customers through Turnrow Appalachian Farm Collective’s online farmers market. This outlet has a wider, and more consistent, customer reach than a traditional weekend farmers market. Products can be sold before they’re even harvested, bought in a way that’s convenient for customers, and ultimately help farmers “get their feet wet” before they grow into outlets with more coordinated production planning, like specialty wholesale markets.
During the pandemic, Turnrow’s market offered an organized ordering and distribution schedule, allowing online shoppers to safely pick up orders at seven locations.
COVID-19 put every community to the test, and often it was local food actors who stepped up to meet community needs. Those producers, food outlets, and other businesses need support though, which is why groups like Sprouting Farms are needed in Appalachia. They’re sowing the seeds of a bright economic future for the Region, one plot at a time.