Committing to a sustainable economy

At Appalachian Mountain Advocates, we’ve always believed that it’s not enough to protect Appalachia’s environment and people. To secure a prosperous future for the region, we need sustainable economic development.

Toward that end, we have launched a new partnership with another nonprofit organization, the Greenbrier Valley Restoration Project, to focus on promoting local, sustainable agriculture while adding to the vitality of downtown Lewisburg, W.Va., where we are based.

Sustainable agriculture is good for the environment, but it can also have an positive impact on the regional economy.

Small-scale farming isn’t easy, though. It involves long hours, high risk and little support. Our project will support and encourage local farmers by providing a consistent market for their goods, and helping them create more markets and expand their opportunities.

The centerpiece of this project is Montwell Park, a 6.5 acre space in downtown Lewisburg. It will become a farmers’ market, community center and park. Already, Montwell Park is home to The Spring, a farm-to-table restaurant and performance venue. This is a space that  showcases what a responsible, sustainable economy in the region could look as it takes real steps to support the growth and development of that economy.

The Spring is developing relationships with local farmers to provide as many of our ingredients as possible.

A locally sourced restaurant and farmers market will demonstrate how good local food tastes while also offering a platform for talking about the role sustainable agriculture can play in the economic transition Appalachia must make.

The Spring will also include a canning kitchen and a traditional root cellar so that we can serve local ingredients throughout the year. Through collaborative projects with area farmers markets and other partners, we also are working to make fresh, local produce accessible to everyone in the community, regardless of their income level.

Because we operate The Spring as a nonprofit, all proceeds will be reinvested into making the project successful.

In addition to providing a market for local farmers, The Spring will help the local agrarian community create additional markets. We’ll provide technical assistance to help farmers learn how to create value-added products and navigate the permitting process to bring these products to market.

We want to build a community around sustainable agriculture in Appalachia. The Greenbrier Valley, with its relatively affordable farmland, is an excellent place to begin that process, and The Spring will be a hub for people to meet, learn and build relationships.

Building a sustainable economy in Appalachia will require utilizing many different approaches. The Spring and other activities at Montwell Park will help blaze one potential trail.

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