In the beautiful Tygart Valley of north-central West Virginia, several small producers of fruits and vegetables have joined together to market and sell their produce. The Tygart Valley Growers' Association is one of a growing number of cooperatives in the US, a business model that shares risk and reward among a group of owners. And the group is seeing success. Local news station WBOY in Clarksburg recently did a news story on the group and its relationship with a high-end resort. (Visit the link to watch the video clip.)
Growers Association Sells to Stonewall Resort
VALLEY FURNACE — A movement is growing in Barbour County. Mark Hollen of Alder Creek Enterprises Farm said he gets half his food from his farm. And the extras are staying local.
He said he always wanted to own a farm.
“After eight years of looking, we found our little piece of heaven here in West Virginia,” Hollen said.
Heaven it is, with a bounty of fruits and vegetables including zucchini, potatoes, strawberries, corn, tomatoes, squash and more, and Hollen’s farm is only one of many in the Tygart Valley Growers Association.
“We're working with farmers to help them produce more food or access more markets that rural people can access, especially those using food stamps or other types of assistance,” said Ben Nemeth of WesMonTy Resource Conservation and Development, the group that works with the Association.
But that’s not the only market the farmers hit. The Association also caught the eye of Stonewall Resort’s head chef Paco Aceves. He buys a batch of fresh produce from the co-op every week. Last week it included beets, squash and basil.
“This is easy for us to be able to do. To buy the same foods we’re already getting but obviously with a better quality because none of these items were more than 24 hours old,” Aceves said.
“Stonewall is good exposure for West Virginia, that they can have locally-grown produce to show people who come into the area,” Hollen said.
The business for the group of 80 farmers is valuable too, but it’s the ingredients that sends Hollen outside every day.
“It was young zucchini, tender, very flavorful, selected for the highest quality of what I produce,” he said.
And those are all the makings for a perfect ratatouille.
“It’s very rewarding to taste very simple foods. You don’t have to be too creative," Aceves said.
The Tygart Valley Grower’s Association might market its foods in local grocery stores. If you'd like to attend their meetings, visit [here].