Appalachian Harvest, a project of Appalachian Sustainable Development (ASD), needs growers for organically-grown fruits, vegetables and herbs. According to ASD Executive Director Kathlyn Terry, the project has three times the demand for its organic produce than farmers to provide the supply.
Located in a 15,000-square-foot facility in Duffield, Va., Appalachian Harvest is in its 12th growing season. The network of certified family farmers sells organic and some conventionally-grown produce to grocers like Food City, Ingles, Whole Foods and Earth Fare.
Appalachian Harvest helps growers navigate the process of becoming a “certified” organic farm. “Many growers and farmers are put off about becoming a certified organic farm because the paperwork appears daunting, but we help them through that process,” Terry explained.
Growers do not need a big farm or need to be experienced farmers to work with Appalachian Harvest. “We have growers who work as little as a half-acre or with as much as 10 acres or more,” Terry added.
Appalachian Harvests welcomes new growers and will help them identify crops to plant based on requests from grocers. Once a grower commits to Appalachian Harvest, they are required to attend growers' meetings and educational events, and to work with other farmers to develop farm plans that meet market demands.
According to Terry, there are many benefits to working with Appalachian Harvest and also to being a “certified” grower. The most direct benefit is access to a developed and fast-growing market for organic produce that often sells at a higher price. Growers are also provided exposure to additional markets and opportunities for local farming ventures. Most importantly, organic farming creates a sustainable future for a working farm and the environment.
Once produce is harvested, the grower brings it to Appalachian Harvest where it is inspected, cleaned, packaged, shipped and, most importantly, inventoried. Produce is shipped collectively with other growers.
It was the need for collective growing and selling that prompted formation of Appalachian Harvest. When federal legislation killed tobacco growing as a cash crop, local farmers were looking for ways to continue farming for a living. A group of local farmers looked into the organic farming market and found that supermarkets demand large quantities of produce, too much for one farmer to handle alone. The farmers realized the best way to enter the organic produce market was to pool their resources and work together to meet the needs of large grocers - thus Appalachian Harvest was born.
The group welcomes small and large, experienced and novice growers. Appalachian Harvest has three staff to help growers - John Britton, primary farmer contact; Tom Peterson, organic consultant; and Robin Robbins, marketer. Any of these folks will be glad to help. For more information, call 276-623-1121 or email Terry at ASD@asdevelop.org.