Area organizations work together to improve access to fresh, local food in Hillsboro
HILLSBORO, WV – A community-oriented project in Hillsboro is starting to get off the ground, thanks to a few area organizations that seek to improve access to fresh, local produce. High Rocks, the Grow Appalachia program, the Gesundheit! Institute, some volunteer college students, and the Pretty Penny Caf have all partnered for the initiative.
The groups met a couple of weeks back for a brainstorming session at The Pretty Penny and tossed around ideas on how the different organizations might be able to work together and help out in the Hillsboro community.
All of the parties involved agreed they liked the idea of promoting local food and providing a venue for small farmers to sell their produce. The group settled on a building project that would address both ideas – a mobile, community-owned farm stand.
Kate Fritz, originally from Parkersburg, West Virginia, has been volunteering her time at Gesundheit! for about three years now. She said any grower in the area will be invited to sell produce out of the new farm stand.
“So Grow Appalachia has 26 families who have garden plots that are associated with their Grow Appalachia umbrella, and Erica Marks, of Grow Appalachia, coordinate them and helps them with all manner of getting their farms being as productive as possible. So definitely the growers that are under the Grow Appalachia umbrella, Gesundheit!, when Gesundheit! starts producing, and then other community growers who are out there who are interested.”
Tyler Kobick, originally from Cleveland, has been living off and on in Hillsboro for the past five years. He started working with Gesundheit! building medical clinics in El Salvador in 2006, and now he’s the general contractor at Gesundheit!. He said there are a couple of facets to this project, but in general, it’s all about branding and coordinating a local food movement in Hillsboro.
“We’re trying to at least create a conversation, and possibly an organizing body, that captures all of local food movements in town. We built a small farm stand this week, as a start. It’s about ten feet wide, from front-to-back, six feet side-to-side. It has wheels, so it’s mobile. It has a metal roof on top and then it has drawers inside that pull out, and it also has a set of bins that hinge open to display and store vegetables.”
They’re tentatively planning on building a couple more farm stands, but Kobick said this first one will help identify issues like location and scheduling. It’s undecided where the first farm stand will go initially, but Kobick figures it should be somewhere near either the Pretty Penny or McCoy’s, to attract people as they pass through town.
Every spring the Gesundheit! Institute hosts student groups from colleges all across the United States. The visits offer students a constructive alternative to the wild spring break events many college students are accustomed to. Students from NYU and University of Maryland, Baltimore County visited recently and helped with the farm stand project. They said they were grateful to have been a part of the process.
Mark Tasker is a student at UMBC and served as the trip leader for the group. Tasker has been out to Pocahontas County a few times now, and he said he’s glad to have an opportunity to help out in Hillsboro.
“When I’m recruiting for the trip, I don’t even try to sell Gesundheit! I actually talk about Hillsboro itself, like the Pretty Penny, McCoy’s. Just all the great people. I’ve been volunteering here for the last three years and I’m really happy that we finally get a chance to sort of give the community something.”
Emily Melluso, also from the UMBC group, said she was glad to have a chance to visit the area and be a part of the project.
“It’s just been really neat to be in this like think-tank type environment, where there are just so many ideas, and things are actually like getting done, in the hopes that this will create something the community can use and maybe even grow from.”