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Alliance going back to the garden

SAGE Build OutAt the Charleston Area Alliance, we are going back to the garden to nurture our region’s economic and public health.

What may appear to be a large vegetable garden on Charleston’s West Side is in reality the epicenter of a multipronged economic development initiative to train prospective urban agriculture entrepreneurs, or “agripreneurs.” Through the Sustainable Agriculture Entrepreneurs (SAGE) program launched last spring by the Alliance, participants receive education and training in farming and business practices that are both economically and environmentally sustainable.

On Thursday, Earl Gohl, federal co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), met with members of the Alliance to discuss the burgeoning local foods movement in West Virginia. Gohl said the state is emerging as a leader on this front. Since 2005, the number of farmers’ markets in West Virginia has more than tripled, from 30 to 93, according to an Associated Press article published this week. (Feds say West Virginia’s local foods movement may become model for Appalachia)

Gohl said that public health officials support the local foods movement because it allows easier access to healthy foods, vital in a state with high rates of obesity, diabetes and cancer.

Sustaining and expanding local agriculture can play a big role in diversifying our local economy and improving the health of our citizens.

West Virginia’s food economy is worth $7 billion, but only $6 million stays in the state. Efforts like SAGE help keep that money here and encourage healthier lifestyles. If we can sustain and capitalize on this local foods effort, our state and its citizens will benefit for generations to come.

PS: Without the support of visionary businesses and individuals, programs like SAGE could not blossom. We invite you to plant the seeds for a brighter future with a contribution to the CADCO Foundation, our charitable arm. For more info or to make a donation, contact JoEllen Zacks HERE

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