The movement towards building robust local food economies is about more than just money. It’s about sustaining a rich heritage of agricultural knowledge and land care that West Virginians have been stewarding for many years. It’s about creating excitement and building structures for new economic opportunities that could not only strengthen our existing businesses, but lead to formation of new businesses and attract young agricultural entrepreneurs into our state to become a part of its rich landscape.
Places with limited resources must take multiple bottom lines into account when considering economic development. Profit, but also healthy people, community relationships, mutual trust, civic engagement and reduced environmental impact are some of the areas wherewe reap dividends when we build direct relationships between our consumers, institutions, and food production – whether that means getting local food into our schools, setting up farmers markets or working together to grow food ourselves.
Setting up a way for people to buy from within their own local foodshed, or even grow their own food, cracks open the system of invisible, far-away producers who are so disconnected from their customers that they may feel no sense of accountability or responsibility. By contrast, increasing the number of local food transactions actually builds community relationships and increases people’s sense of accountability to each other, as well as their enjoyment of each other. Producers and consumers see each other as people and at venues like Farmers Markets they can exchange volumes of valuable information about planting, cooking, weather, and the West Virginian pioneer tradition. You can’t put a price on that.