About the West Virginia Food & Farm Coalition
The mission of the West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition is to build, support and strengthen a statewide network of those involved in West Virginia’s local food economies, with the interconnected goals of improving access to healthy, locally-produced food for all West Virginians and helping viable food and farm businesses to grow.
The Coalition was launched by the West Virginia Community Development Hub in August 2010. West Virginia communities had repeatedly contacted the Hub to ask whether there was a supportive resource network for food-based economic development projects like farmers markets and local food cooperatives. Meetings with over 25 food-focused agencies and organizations helped identify the need and shape the basis for the new initiative, whose startup has been supported since that time by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.
Our Philosophy and Approach
Our conviction is that when West Virginia farmers and food producers become more directly connected to West Virginia consumers, the results include healthier people, greater business opportunities, stronger communities, and a unique economy reflecting our state’s proud heritage of self-sufficient food production. We are especially dedicated to the success of small-but-growing West Virginia food businesses and beginning farmers focused on selling to local consumers.
To advance these ends, the Coalition helps build linkages among farmers, processors, distributors, educators, agencies, nonprofits, farmers markets, restaurants, youth groups, institutional food service, and anyone else interested in making our local food economy stronger. Rather than launching food enterprises or building big programs and facilities of its own, the Coalition’s office serves these groups by answering questions, raising awareness about useful resources that already exist, identifying and sharing successful business models, and helping people to connect with each other on collaborative projects.
The Coalition also works to create venues where West Virginians can discuss big-picture issues related to West Virginia food and agriculture, and talk collaboratively about how to address challenges and take advantage of opportunities. Many agencies and organizations exist in West Virginia to support food eaters, food producers and everyone in between. We seek to tie the threads together and to help continue a statewide conversation among multiple sectors about how to help West Virginia’s local food economy grow.
- To identify obstacles and opportunities in the food system.
- To organize the existing community of advocates for food systems and to develop and continue a statewide conversation among them.
- To bring together people and organizations who have complimentary interests in food issues, and to create environments for mutual learning and exchange among ground-level practitioners.
- To identify projects, businesses and strategies that are having success in the field and link these efforts into a statewide collaborative learning process.
- To use an evidence-based approach to encourage new investment and policymaking that supports the food economy.
- To identify existing resources and actively build collaborative partnerships so that we can all respond to and leverage resources.
- To develop new resources that fill gaps and respond directly to the needs of stakeholders.
- Create an environment where collaboration, not competition, is the norm.
- Respond directly to the needs of coalition participants in a “servant-leader” mode.
- Reinforce and build on what is already being done, rather than replicating it.
- Provide participants with opportunities to contribute information and resources to one another and to support and reinforce each other's efforts.
- Constantly create opportunities for new coalition participants to become engaged, maintaining an “open door” approach.
Who is part of the Coalition?
The WVFFC does not currently have a formal membership structure. Individuals or organizations become participants in the Coalition when they attend an WVFFC meeting, join the WVFFC mailing list, or engage in active conversation about food issues with WVFFC as a partner. WVFFC is not a representative organization; rather, our goal is to convene and connect a network of people everywhere who want to see more food go from farm to table in West Virginia.
Who leads the Coalition?
WVFFC’s growth process is advised by a Steering and Transition Committee which has twelve members. Currently the committee members include three farmers, a hospital food service director, a business lender, a restaurant owner, a funder, an Economic Development Corporation staff member, an agricultural economist, a law professor and several nonprofit staff. We do not yet have a formal board or officers of our own, but are working towards a more developed decision-making structure that is inclusive of a broad range of stakeholders.
Currently the Coalition is housed under the organizational umbrella of the West Virginia Community Development Hub. However, we are working through a multi-year plan to move away from that umbrella, with the Hub's careful assistance and full support along the way.