UFI’s involvement in agricultural education and growing the local food system in West Virginia.

In 2013, Unlimited Future, Inc. (UFI) received a grant from the Central Appalachian Network (CAN) to construct a high tunnel with the intent of creating a hands-on outreach and education center for urban and rural producers near Huntington. The high tunnel was constructed in August of 2013, at Perennial Favorites located at 2202 Madison Avenue in Huntington. The high tunnel is a 130 foot x 30-foot metal-framed structure with manual roll-up sides and doorways at both end walls. The high tunnel provided an agricultural training and workforce development pilot program. In addition, the site will also be a workshop and demonstration site for any farmers near Huntington interested in expanding production through season extension. Only 1 mile from the Wild Ramp, a local food market, the site is conveniently located and adjacent to an up and coming city neighborhood.

Agri-preneurs: Creating Self-Employment Options in Agriculture

UFI supported the development of the Wild Ramp to expand economic options for farmers and food producers in the Tri-State Area.  UFI is working to enhance the services available to individual farmers by creating targeted workshops and technical assistance programming. The workshops, one-to-one TA, and resources would all focus on building a strong local foods value chain in the Ohio River Valley.  UFI is working with Appalachian Center for Economic Networks to engage farmers in regional brand development and market-ready training.

In addition, there is the potential to grow new urban agriculture businesses with this site. UFI and MU Sustainability are currently working with the Huntington Landbank to promote urban agriculture as an option for the remediation of abandon property.

Refresh Appalachia: A Partnership with Coalfield Development Corporation

Coalfield Development Corp. was founded in response to a disengaged workforce and lack of quality affordable housing in southern Wayne County. CDC has created a successful workforce development program that trains clients in the construction and materials salvage trades. The construction program was hired to build the high tunnel through the CAN grant. The partnership has grown and CDC and UFI are looking to build a catalogue of resources and investors for the Refresh Appalachia program.

This Refresh Appalachia program builds on the success of the Quality Jobs Initiative, by creating a new sub-program in agriculture. The Quality Jobs Initiative (QJI), a program of CDC, is a workforce development initiative that employs low income, unemployed and disadvantaged youth. During the two year program the participants, called Crew Members, receive hands-on job training, mentoring and complete a higher education program. The QJI model requires Crew Members to complete 33 hours of supervised work in general contracting, 6 hours of higher education course work, and 3 hours of personal development per week.

Production training modules include; Farm Safety and GAP Certification, Specialty Crop Production, Pasture Raised Animals, Value-Added Food Processing, Branding, and Business Management, Retail and Institution Ready, Holistic Farm Management, Agri-Business Entrepreneurship and Personal Development and Success.  MCTC will offer Associates in Applied Science degree program, where field work and core curriculum courses will count for higher education credit.

Funding Sources

Central Appalachian Network Grant 2013- $20,000 received

Central Appalachian Network Grant 2014- $8,000 received

Northeast Sustainable Research and Education Grant 2014- $15,000 received

USDA/ WVRD Rural Business Enterprise Grant. – $ 50,000 received.

USDA Local Food Promotion Program Grant – $6,000 received.