The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

July 15, 2014

Federal officials tour Greenbrier Valley farms

MAXWELTON — A delegation of federal officials launched a three-day tour of West Virginia in support of a new tourism promotion venture with a visit to the Greenbrier Valley.

“Bon Appetit Appalachia” is a food guide to “the inviting culinary destinations of Appalachia,” according to an introductory article penned by Louis S. Segesvary, public affairs director of the Appalachian Regional Commission, in the online edition of Food Traveler magazine. The new map guide, Segesvary writes, features some 286 locations showcasing the region’s “most distinctive food destinations.”

Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) officials, including co-chair Earl Gohl and chief of staff Guy Land, joined representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a briefing conducted by, among others, the Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation (GVEDC) and the West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition.

GVEDC executive director Steve Weir provided an overview of agribusiness in the Greenbrier Valley, noting his agency has provided business development support to such enterprises as the Greenbrier Valley Brewing Company, a tenant in the GVEDC-owned Rahall Building, and another Airport Industrial Park production facility, Smooth Ambler Spirits. Both the brewery and the distillery were on the itinerary for the federal officials’ visit to the local area on Monday.

Weir noted the GVEDC’s involvement in support of the agriculture industry extends from such local events as a harvest dinner planned for September to the anticipated establishment of a “share crofting” program within the next couple of years.

The share crofting model involves the planned acquisition of at least 200 acres of arable land, much of which will be divided into 25-acre parcels which will be apportioned to young farmers needing a start in the agriculture business.

“It gives young people interested in agriculture the means to get started,” Weir said.

Jill Young, with the Value Chain Cluster Initiative, part of the West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition, told the gathered officials that her organization offers consulting services to ag-based businesses. Those services run the gamut from technical assistance and marketing to energy audits and even recipe formulation.

“Our job is really to pull it together and connect the dots,” Young said.

In addition to visiting the brewery and distillery in Maxwelton, the federal officials planned to tour Perk Farm, an organic dairy in Frankford; downtown Lewisburg; and Swift Level Farm, located just outside Lewisburg and specializing in grass-fed beef production and horse breeding.

Also on the tour was breakfast at The Spring, a nonprofit farm-to-table restaurant in Lewisburg, where the officials were scheduled to meet with representatives from the Monroe Farm Market.

“Bon Appetit Appalachia” can be accessed online at www.visitappalachia.com/bonappetitappalachia/

— E-mail: talvey@register-herald.com

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