Conference showcases local farmers
HUNTINGTON — Guests of the third annual Tri-State Farm to Food Conference got a chance to go from the hotel to the market Friday evening during a farm festival organized in part by the owners of The Wild Ramp.
Farmers from a 50-mile radius around Huntington, an area which includes 15 counties in West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky, have attended the event, which is organized by the West Virginia University Extension Service.
Friday's festival, in which farmers had the chance to sell their home-grown goods and meet some of the local clientele who have supported the co-op in its first year, was a new addition to the conference.
"It's a way to bring together farmers and customers and let them all put a face to the food," said Shelly Keeney, who manages The Wild Ramp. "It gives the farmers a chance to get to enjoy the efforts of their harvest by getting to see the enjoyment people have in buying and consuming their products."
There were 10 local farms represented at the event, but not all of them have sold their products at The Wild Ramp, Keeney said.
"I think there is a little incentive to come here and see what it's all about," she said. "It's always a good idea to let people get together and talk to each other to exchange ideas or opinions on what is going on in the market and to see what it is their customers might be looking for."
It was an interesting visit for Wendy Wilson, an owner of Crackerjack Farm in Willow Wood, Ohio, who said she had used apples from her farm to make an apple pie for a baking contest that took place during the event.
Even as a Cabell County Master Gardener, Wilson said she experienced a lot of challenges in cultivating her own garden.
"We started out with a small garden, and it's gotten bigger and bigger each year," Wilson said. "There are a lot of challenges when it comes to trying to find what works best in this climate and to keep the plants fresh and healthy in an organic way."
She said everything about the event, from its support of local farms to the local economy, was beneficial for all Tri-State residents.
"I will say that I do go to the grocery store to buy things that I cannot purchase locally, and I think that is what it's all about," she said. "There's something to be said about when a place is able to sustain its own food source and its own economy, and both of those things are being supported here."
For more information about The Wild Ramp and its produce suppliers, visit http://wildramp.wordpress.com.