The key to expanding any business is growing the customer base. For West Virginia agriculture producers, the process starts with finding more local buyers for their products.
Savanna Lyons, program director at the West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition, said that’s the goal of the new federally funded Value Chain Cluster Initiative. Lyons held a meeting in Spencer with a number of stakeholders from a four-county region Wednesday. It’s the first of several meetings in other regions of the state in the weeks ahead.
“There are a lot of different ways to get products from producer to consumer,” said Lyons. “We’ve seen an explosion of farmers markets across the state. Now we’re starting to see farmers interested in cooperative selling so they can get in on farm to school. They’re looking a different ways to get products to buyers who are taking interest.”
The Value Chain Cluster Initiative offers a pool of money from three federal agencies aimed at helping develop those relationships and food supply chains from the local growers to local consumers. Lyons calls it “field to fork.”
“More and more people are getting interested in local food because of the safety aspect,” she said. “Getting products that have more flavor and color and haven’t set on a truck for thousands of miles. We have a good producer base here in West Virginia that’s growing, but we have to invest in those people if we want them to make some money.