Wild Ramp launches local food project
HUNTINGTON -- Growing the local economy from the inside out while highlighting healthy food choices -- those are some of the goals behind a new project designed to promote and create a stronger network for local food.
Some organizers behind The Wild Ramp Local Food Market at Heritage Station are behind a new effort to launch the "30 Mile Meal" network in Huntington.
Meetings were held on Wednesday to share information about the network, which is seeking members/partners, including farmers and other food producers, restaurants, farmers market operators, retailers, caterers, schools and more.
Members pay dues to join the network, which will provide access to use the "30 Mile Meal Huntington" logo in selling food and inclusion in an online map that consumers can check to see where local food options are available.
It's modeled after a successful program in Athens, Ohio, said Gail Patton, executive director of Unlimited Future Inc. and a coordinator of the project with local farmer BethAnn Earl. Youngstown, and Licking County, Ohio, and Huntington are three communities imitating the program, which can be found online at realfoodreallocalinstitute.org.
Patton cited an example of a pizza shop in Athens, Ohio, which makes its dough from locally grown and locally processed spelt, a type of wheat. Several different businesses on the food's path from the farm to the table can prosper from such partnerships, growing the economy from the inside out, she said.
"There are all these opportunities we may not think of when it comes to food," she said, adding that 17 percent of all U.S. travelers, about 27 million people, consider themselves culinary travelers who want to sample the food and drinks in different regions.
Patton said the network will be under Tri-State Local Foods Inc. umbrella -- the same as The Wild Ramp, a nonprofit organization with a nine-member board. The Wild Ramp, run by volunteers, sells locally grown and produced foods by consignment, with farmers getting 90 percent of the proceeds and 10 percent going back to the year-round market's operation.
How exactly the 30 Mile Meal will be governed has yet to be decided by the members who join, she said.
Mayor Steve Williams signed up immediately as an individual partner and said he's excited about the initiative.
"What The Wild Ramp has done is an example I use of what we can do ourselves," he said. "I hear people say, 'It would be wonderful to have a Whole Foods in Huntington.' It would be, but we're building that ourselves. The beauty of this is not only that it's an economic model for citizens, but it's a healthy choice."
Farmers are eager for feedback from consumers on what to grow and sell, and this type of network will assist in that, said Rich Sherman, a West Virginia University Extensive Agent in Cabell County.
"Right now, it's hard to get things marketed in this area, as a farmer," he said. "If there's a market, they will levitate to it, if there's a way to make money from it and make it sustainable. If you have a market for a product they can grow on a farm, they're moving to it. It surprises me to see people moving out of their comfort zones (to grow new foods)."
Patton has a vision of Huntington creating its own locally sourced hot dog, and eventually The Wild Ramp growing to a larger location where it will not only serve as a market, but have an on-site eatery and a large warehouse and distribution area in the back.
"We feel confident we will grow in the future. We just don't know how far into the future that will be," she said.
She welcomes new ideas for supporting local food.
"We're open to all suggestions and possibilities because you never know when one will be the one to change everything," Patton said.
Anyone interested in getting involved in the 30 Mile Meal project can learn more online at www.realfoodreallocal.org. Dues for membership cost $50 for established businesses and organizations, and $25 per year for emerging businesses and organizations less than one year old, as well as members of Savor Huntington and individuals who want to support the effort.
With questions, call BethAnn Earl, 30 Mile Meal project coordinator and local farmer, at 304-522-7745.