By Sylvia Crum
Recently, Robin Robbins, ASD’s Appalachian Harvest food hub manager and Scott County Virginia farmer was the subject of a “Champions for Change” spotlight that aired on “At This Hour with Kate Bolduan,” a news program produced by Cable News Network (CNN).
CNN journalist Kate Bolduan chose to feature Robbins and her family farm after talking to Farm Aid, an ASD funder and an organization known for its interest in strengthening family farm agriculture. The segment touched on the important work of food hubs, which help connect farmers in Central Appalachia with food retailers and brokers seeking to purchase healthy, farm-grown produce. Food hubs enable local farmers to participate in the commercialization of their produce by providing an infrastructure to deliver small-batch crops to retailers. This network not only benefits communities from an economic development perspective but also reinforces the need for healthy produce for consumers.
“Farm Aid has long-supported the work of Appalachian Harvest and our parent organization, Appalachian Sustainable Development, and we were pleased when CNN’s production team contacted us about being featured on the show,” stated Robbins. “It was an honor to be among institutions and people who are being recognized for bringing positive change to communities.”
In the “Champions for Change” feature, Robbins and her family provided viewers an insight into modern farm life in rural communities and the critical role food hubs can play to stabilize farm families and bring economic diversity to Central Appalachia.
Founded in 2000, Appalachian Harvest is considered to be a pioneer of the food hub model and serves farmers in Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia and parts of West Virginia. ASD and Appalachian Harvest are dedicated to impacting economic development and addressing food insecurity in the region.
Appalachian Harvest has secured more than $13 million in produce sales for local farmers since its inception. The food hub currently works with 11 grocery store chains – representing 3,800 stores located from Maryland to Georgia – that seasonally purchase produce from 70 farmers in the region.
Appalachian Sustainable Development and its programs have been repeatedly cited for their efforts to diversify local economies, strengthen the region’s food business sector and increase consumer access to healthy, local foods. Due to its experience in these areas, ASD was recently awarded a $1.5 million grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission to create a Central Appalachian Food Enterprise Corridor. This initiative’s purpose is to establish stronger partnerships for boosting distribution of regionally grown produce.
The corridor, which includes five states and 43 counties, is expected to act as a regional economic driver, generating 120 jobs, retaining 250 jobs and ultimately creating 95 new businesses.
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 served 15 counties in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. As the organization seeks out other regional partners in eastern West Virginia, Kentucky and Southeast Ohio, delivery routes for our food hub (Appalachian Harvest), which currently extend from Maryland to Georgia, are expected to broaden, creating important connections for increasing market access and bringing necessary resources to 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 or the Appalachian Harvest food hub, go to www.asdevelop.org, Facebook or Twitter.