The following guest blog by Earl Gohl, Federal Co-Chair, Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) highlights some of the innovative work of one of USDA's frequent partners supporting locally-led economic and community development in the 13 state Appalachian region. ARC is a leader in place-based development strategies.
An analysis of the most recent USDA Census of Agriculture determined that direct market farm sales grew three times as fast in Appalachia as compared to the rest of the country and that Appalachian consumers spend more per capita on direct farms sales than the rest of the country.
Farmers are not the only entrepreneurs fueling Appalachia's growing local food economy. From Northern Mississippi to southern New York, a bounty of entrepreneurs, including bakers, brewers and butchers as well as chefs, retailers and farmers, are contributing to the Region's local food system.
The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) wanted to document how the local food economy was taking root in the Region. Now, over 900 local food businesses -- like the family owned Farmer's Daughter market in Capon Bridge, West Virginia that features local meats and groceries and Albany Bistro in Decatur, Alabama that features produce from northern Alabama and middle Tennessee -- are featured on Bon Appétit, Appalachia! the largest searchable online map of local food businesses and entrepreneurs operating in the region.
Bon Appetit, Appalachia! was first released in 2014 as tool to promote agri-tourism. In a mere two years, the innovative online tool grew more than 70 percent with hundreds more local food businesses listed on the map, indicating an expanding local food economy. To compliment the website, ARC has produced an abridged, easy-to-carry printed version of Bon Appetit, Appalachia!, now available through 13 state tourism agencies across the Appalachian Region. In addition, the map is being distributed through many Edible Communities magazines in and around Appalachia in partnership with Edible Communities, Edible Communities also produces a monthly podcast, “Backroad Journeys,” which profiles businesses on Bon Appétit Appalachia!
Harnessing the Region's local food economy and robust entrepreneurial eco-system are key to ARC's five year Strategic Plan for Capitalizing on Appalachia's Opportunities. It is also the reason ARC has partnered with USDA on other local food efforts including Local Food, Local Places, and Food LINC, and is a proud supporter of USDA's Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative.
This week, Louisville, Kentucky is welcoming the Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems Funders for its annual meeting, which includes tours of the growing local food system in Eastern Kentucky and across the Appalachian region. They will be visiting many places on the Bon Appetit, Appalachia! map and seeing how entrepreneurs are using local food to strengthen the Region’s economy. Use #bonappalachia to tell us where Bon Appetit, Appalachia! takes you!