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CCF Recipient Feature: West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition

West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition


The West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition (WVFFC) leveraged a Charitable Contributions Fund grant from Farm Credit of the Virginias to transform the educational landscape for students in Pocahontas County through hands-on gardening and entrepreneurship initiatives. At the core of their mission, the WVFFC aims to enrich students' understanding of nutrition, agriculture and business, while cultivating a deeper appreciation for wholesome foods, which is achieved beautifully by involving them directly in the growth process.

In a move to integrate local produce into school meals, the WVFFC developed a comprehensive local procurement marketing plan for all five schools in the county. This innovative plan includes a visually engaging map that highlights local farms contributing to school lunches, accompanied by farm logos displayed in cafeterias. This visual representation not only educates students about the origins of their food but also promotes local agriculture, making each lunch a learning opportunity about community-supported agriculture and its benefits.

Education extends beyond the gardens into the classrooms through specialized curricula, such as “Learn Grow Eat Go,” “Dig In” and “Teen Cuisine,” which collectively reached 194 students this period. These programs are tailored to different age groups, focusing on critical skills such as food safety, kitchen techniques and recipe comprehension, all while using ingredients students have grown themselves. For instance, Marlinton Middle School’s “Teen Cuisine” program empowers students with culinary skills that they apply using fresh garden produce, enriching their learning experience and fostering a sustainable connection to their food sources.

The tangible impact of these programs is evident in the numbers – an impressive 849.47 pounds of produce were harvested this season, with the majority funneling back into school cafeterias, thus enhancing meal quality and freshness. Furthermore, student-led entrepreneurial ventures have already begun to see financial returns, with proceeds from microgreen and carrot sales contributing to local farm-to-table outlets. These activities not only foster a spirit of entrepreneurship, but also help students appreciate the value of their labor and the importance of local economies.

Highlighting community engagement, the "Meet the Farmer" event during Farm to School Month bridged the gap between students and local agricultural leaders. This gathering provided a platform for students to engage with experts like Walt Helmick and learn about local agriculture policies. The hands-on experience was further enriched by an apple-tasting session, illustrating the significant differences in taste between locally grown and distant produce.

Collaborations with the Pocahontas County FFA, local farmers and construction classes underscore a community-driven approach to overcoming these hurdles as the project was able to rebuild the FFA high tunnel! The goal is to have the tunnel operational by fall of 2024, ensuring continuous growth and learning opportunities for students across Pocahontas County. Through these initiatives, the WVFFC is not just educating students about food production but is nurturing a new generation of informed consumers and innovative producers. “We are so grateful for Farm Credit of the Virginias for their generous support as it allowed us to work directly in and with youth in communities to develop their knowledge and skills in the area of agriculture and youth entrepreneurship!” shared Spencer Moss, Executive Director of the WVFFC.

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