Our Mission

Our mission is to transition Appalachia to a more resilient economy and a healthier population by supporting local agriculture, exploring new economic opportunities and connecting people to healthy food.

Our History

Appalachian Sustainable Development (ASD) is founded as a nonprofit organization with a focus on sustainable agriculture.

ASD opens an office in Abingdon, Virginia, establishing its physical footprint as 15 counties in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. The organization begins seeking regional partners for increasing market access for local farm produce.

ASD organizes a food hub – Appalachia Harvest – in Duffield, Virginia, designed to help tobacco farmers who were losing subsidies remain on family famrs by growing fruits and vegetables instead. Today, staff members secure orders from food brokers and retailers, provide aggregation and distribution support and offer training in food safety/handling and organic certification.

ASD starts Healthy Families-Family Farms, which purchases produce “seconds” (fruits and vegetables that don’t meet food retailer’s strict aesthetic standards) from small to medium farmers and donates it to food banks and pantries. To date, more than 1.2 pounds of produce has been donated.

ASD adopts Learning Landscapes, a garden classroom program for teaching children grades K-12 where food comes from. The initiative has evolved to focus on food production (so children can take food home), nutrition education and cooking classes.

Appalachian Farmers Market Association is started as a volunteer association, made up of farmers market managers across the region. The group publishes a local food guide with an annual circulation of 15,000 copies and hosts workshops, conferences and peer-to-peer round tables.

Appalachian Harvest reaches cumulative $2-million milestone in produce sales.

Agroforestry opportunities and education begin to teach about the gathering, growing and marketing of forest botanicals (herbs, roots, mushrooms, etc.) for supplementing landowner’s incomes.

ASD launches training programs to assist farmers in obtaining food safety certification. To date, 100% of those taking this training have passed their USDA GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) audits.

Through funding from Grow Appalachia, Grow Your Own is started, which provides families with education, seeds, plants and tools for growing their own gardens. Similarly, Garden Box Project offers families and the disabled who don’t have garden space but want to grow their own produce in mobile gardens on wheels a way to grow healthy food. Since 2012, families have grown more than 113,000 pounds of food.

ASD launches Rooted in Appalachia, as a way to raise awareness of local food. This award-winning brand creates consumer awareness of local food through farmers market events that offer free food tastings, giveaways, educational materials and more.

Appalachian Regional Commission awards ASD $75,000 through its Food LINC (Leveraging Investment for Network Coordination) initiative aimed at building capacity for and strengthening local food systems.

ASD receives $1.5 million from the Appalachian Regional Commission to create a food distribution corridor that supports sustainable jobs in local food production and distribution in five states by connecting producers to wholesale and retail outlets searching for local products. The goal is to impact communities by leveraging the large markets Appalachian Harvest already serves.

Appalachian Harvest General Manager Robin Robbins takes center stage at a press conference held prior to the 31st annual Farm Aid concert in Bristow, Virginia, Sept. 17, 2016. She described ASD’s efforts in building a family-farm-based economy as an alternative to tobacco and coal industries.

ASD partners with the East Tennessee Foundation to create the Appalachian Sustainable Development Endowment.

“Intersections: Aligning Agriculture, Nutrition, Health and Economic Development,” a day-long conference organized by ASD, January 9, 2017, in Kingsport. The event brought together partners in regional agriculture, nutrition, health and economic development sectors.

Practically Perfect is launched as a pilot program with national partner Wholesome Wave. The project aims to provide low-moderate income populations with healthy seconds produce at discounted prices in retail stores. After the pilot, this program is intended to expand to a national audience.

The Appalachian Harvest Herb Hub is launched to provide medicinal herb farmers a way to wash and dry local herbs in a facility that meets food safety standards to be sold to the growing medicinal herb industry.

Launched Farmer and Rancher Mentoring (FARM) program to improve start-up opportunities for a diverse group of beginning farmers – youth, adults, veterans and more, strengthening viable agricultural operations, addressing workforce development, nutrition, natural resource conservation and economic development.

New partnership with LEAP for Local Food on a 3 year FINI grant, project title: “VA Fresh Match: A Regional Approach to Propel Statewide SNAP Incentive Growth”.

The Thompson Charitable Foundation and ASD co-host the Drinkable Crops Summit in Tazewell, VA, connecting growers, brewers, malters and economic development specialists to examine ways that agricultural producers and local communities can capitalize on the fast-growing trend of craft beverage production.

Appalachian Harvest revenues climb to $17.5 million (cumulative since 2000). The food hub now provides local produce for 11 grocery store chains extending from Maryland to Georgia, providing access to approximately 3,800 stores.

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