During the winter of 2011-2012, WVFFC awarded six Rapid Response Mini-Grants to groups around the state. The purpose of the grants was to help bring more local food “from farm to table” within WV, while building wealth and improving health along the way. Funded by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, the mini-grants supplied up to $2000 in funding for capacity-building activities that help build the local food economy in West Virginia communities.
These small amounts of funding were provided for time-sensitive opportunities that might be missed if a community had to wait for a larger grant to be approved. For instance, it allowed the Fayette County Cooks Association to send two AmeriCorps members to a three-day workshop and cover gas expenses so these volunteers could help establish farm to school projects in Fayette and Pocahontas counties.
“This grant has allowed Andy and Adrienne (AmeriCorps members) to collaborate and learn from each other and see what other projects look like,” explains Fayette County School Nutrition Director David Seay, who also notes that these projects are 100 miles apart. “Their interaction has increased the value of each of their services to our students and the community.”
As a requirement of receiving funds, recipients were asked to find ways of sharing “lessons learned” from their mini-grant projects with the broader West Virginia community. For example, the Fayette County project led to the creation of a toolkit of resources for WV school garden projects. Another funded activity, a presentation on food policy at the Tri-State Farm and Food Conference in Huntington, produced printable policy overviews that were shared with groups like the West Virginia Farmers Market Association.
While the first cycle of mini-grants has ended, West Virginia Food & Farm Coalition Program Manager Savanna Lyons explains, “WVFFC has allocated the next round of mini-grant funding to support the efforts of its Working Groups, which are which are tackling the recommendations of the new ‘Road Map for the Food Economy’ through simple six-month projects.”
Lyons adds that current Working Group projects will be completed by October and will include among others, a survey of WV meat processing facilities and initiatives to bring USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) customers to farmers markets.
2012 RAPID RESPONSE MINI-GRANT RECIPIENTS
Heart and Hand House
Operated by Heart and Hand House, Inc., the Barbour County Community Garden market used their Rapid Response funds to build capacity towards becoming a sustainable local food hub. The grant enabled Community Garden Market to pay for additional fundraising and grantwriting in pursuit of larger support for the food hub, development of new sales outlets for local growers (i.e., Farm-to-School, local institutions, restaurants, etc.), and activities to increase grower capacity through education, training, skill-building, and resource development.
Unlimited Future, Inc.
Partnering with Heritage Farm Museum & Village, The Center for Appalachian Philanthropy (MiAppa), Coalfields Development Corporation and Marshall University, mini-grant funds were used to bring Anthony Flaccavento of SCALE, Inc. to Heritage Farm to share lessons learned from his many years in farming and building local food systems. Building a local food system means improving markets for local foods, increasing awareness of local food issues, and ensuring equitable access to ‘good food’ for all residents, especially in the economically depressed areas. Mr. Flaccovento’s presentation was part of a series of meetings which led to the launch of a new retail food hub in Huntington in Spring 2012. The presentation was documented by three Marshall seniors for their capstone project to be shared on Unlimited Future’s website, The River Cities Local Food Council’s Facebook page and Create Huntington’s website, as well as the WV Food & Farm Coalition and the Aggregation and Distribution Working Group.
Small Farm Training Center
Offering on-farm tours, workshops and field days that teach the ABC’s of organic gardening, the Small Farm Training Center (SFTC) provides educational outreach to schools and colleges on the issues of food independence in the City of Wheeling. To support these educational activities, the Rapid Response grant funded two SFTC representatives to attend the OEFFA conference (Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association) in Granville, Ohio. It also helped purchase workshop presentations (audio CD’s) from the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture for use in educational activities.
Tri State Farm and Food Conference
Mini-grant funds enabled Laura Hartz of Downstream Strategies, LLC to provide a presentation on Food Policy at the 2011 Tri-State Farm and Food Conference. This talk focused on recent policy developments that included the Food Safety Modernization Act, the Proposed National Leafy Greens Agreement, and the West Virginia Food Manufacturing Facility Rule. The workshop discussed some of the influential recent policy measures, their potential impacts on farmers and their customers, and ways that farmers can help to determine the future of food safety regulation so farmers, farmers markets and manufacturing facilities can help the economy grow in a sustainable way.
Fayette County Cooks Association
Rapid Response grant funds were used to cover travel expenses for a learning exchange between farm to school and school gardening projects in Fayette and Pocahontas Counties. Funds also covered training in development of school gardens for two AmeriCorps members who are helping to create a School Garden Toolkit.
East Wheeling Community Gardens
Wheeling, WVThe East Wheeling Community Gardens used their Rapid Response funding to send a team of five representatives to the 3-day WV Small Farm Conference in Morgantown, WV to learn about gardening, cooking, grant writing, and urban agri-tourism development. The development of an urban agri-tourism model is particularly relevant to operations in Wheeling, which rely on a network of 12 community gardens to grow a sustainable local food economy. By attending the conference, members gained specific knowledge in various agricultural ventures, including Urban Composting, Beekeeping and Gardening with Youth. As a condition of receiving the grant, East Wheeling Community Gardens provided WVFFC with interviews and a tour of their numerous collaborative projects, which will be shared on YouTube in a WVFFC Fresh Ideas in Action “Snapshot.”