By Sylvia Crum
Does rural matter? We sure think so! But sometimes researchers or those who work to move people and places out of poverty have a difficult time creating strategies that recognize the differences between urban and rural. Rural metrics just can’t compete with urban metrics. Often, rural areas do not receive funding and support simply because the population numbers cannot compare with higher populations in urban areas.
This April, ASD’s executive director, Kathlyn Terry was invited to participate in a panel at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Healthy Eating Researchers Annual Grantee meeting in Minnesota. The panel, titled “Crafting a New Approach to Reach Rural, Remote, Isolated, and Persistent Poverty Communities to Improve Health Outcomes,” included panelists from all disciplines working in Appalachia, the Deep South, and the Tribal Nation. It was an amazing opportunity to share data that shows we all have to make a change in how we view rural areas (the presentation is now available on ASD’s website, www.asdevelop.org).
More similar than you might think
The panel highlighted the similarities between rural areas and showed how Appalachia, the Tribal Nation, and the Deep South are all suffering from similar challenges. Each of these areas are tackling similar challenges like chronic poverty, high rates of unemployment, poor health, food insecurity, limited education, and lack of financial resources, to name a few. Through exposing these similarities, it became clear that it is vital for rural communities (and regions) to band together and find ways to ensure that rural DOES matter and to secure the resources and support we need to move rural communities to a more resilient, healthy, place that is filled with hope and not despair.
How ASD helps rural families earn income
For more than 22 years, Appalachian Sustainable Development has been bringing hope to rural communities by creating jobs in farming and agriculture. Through our Appalachian Harvest food hub, we connect local farmers with wholesale retailers who are interested in purchasing either conventional or Certified Organic produce. Each year the food hub provides the necessary training and technical support to local farmers so they can meet the strict aesthetic retail requirements and sell their produce, allowing them to stay on family farms. The food hub also aggregates produce and then provides distribution to purchasing partners on one of two tractor trailers that it owns. Since 2000, farmers have sold more than $12.5 million dollars’ worth of produce to retailers and grocers. ASD also encourages smaller scale farmers and growers to sell at their local farmers market, bolstering an entrepreneurial spirit and a sense of community.
How ASD feeds families in need
Since 2004, ASD has been raising money to purchase seconds produce from local farmers which it then donates to Feeding America and local food pantries. To date, ASD has donated more than 1 million pounds of nutritious and delicious produce to families in need. ASD also teaches people how to grow food in home based and community gardens. Over the last 3.5 years, About Appalachian Sustainable Development (ASD)
Nationally known and respected for its commitment to local farmers, Appalachian Sustainable Development is transitioning Appalachia to a more resilient economy and a healthier population by supporting local agriculture, exploring new economic opportunities and connecting people with healthy food. Since 1995, ASD has been serving 15 counties northeast Tennessee and southwest Virginia. As ASD’s work expands to include regional partners in Eastern WV, KY and southeast OH, delivery routes for the Appalachian Harvest food hub will extend from its current routes that range from MD to GA, building important connections to increase market access and bring necessary resources to the rural communities in our physical footprint. ASD operates programs that create jobs in farming and agriculture and address food insecurity. For more information about ASD, go to: www.asdevelop.org, Facebook or twitter.