The West Virginia Farmers Market Association (WVFMA) and Refresh Appalachia are teaming up to fill agricultural gaps and create economic opportunities in the Mountain State. Many farmers are unable to process poultry due to the lack of processing facilities. To fill that gap, the WVFMA obtained funding from The Conservation Fund for two mobile poultry processing facilities and partnered with Refresh Appalachia to bring the solution directly to the farmers.
The grant provides specialized equipment and training to farmers to prepare their poultry for market. Spencer Moss of the West Virginia Food & Farm Coalition attended a training workshop to see the benefits gained by producers.
“The West Virginia Farmers Market Association’s mobile chicken processing unit has the opportunity to be a useful tool for farmers who are just getting started or scaling up their poultry operations,” says Moss. “Farmers who don’t have the full-time need or the cash flow to purchase their own processing equipment can now borrow this equipment as they grow their operation. The stainless steel equipment makes for an efficient assembly line while processing the poultry. Trainings are integral to making sure users know how to properly use and clean the equipment.”
Colt Brogan, a farmer from Lincoln County, found the program informative and effective. “The mobile poultry program with Refresh Appalachia and the West Virginia Farmers Market Association is a fast, efficient way to process your broilers with as little cost to the farmer as possible,” says Brogan. “With that being said, the training can show you how to go from 30 live birds to 30 birds on ice within about an hour. I think it is a great gift to producers in southern West Virginia.”
This project brings opportunity and benefits not only to the farmer but the consumer who may not have had access to fresh, local poultry before this program. Southern West Virginia is home to many food deserts, or areas where at least 500 people or 33 percent of the census tract population resides more than 1 mile from a supermarket or large grocery store and in rural census tracts where the distance is more than 10 miles, according to the USDA. Free-range poultry is a central focus for this initiative, which brings numerous health benefits to individuals consuming the product.
WVFMA and Refresh Appalachia have already completed two workshops and have seven workshops planned for this summer. The trainings will be conducted in the southern coalfield regions of West Virginia and provide in-depth information on proper use of the mobile units and pastured poultry techniques.
“This training showed me how to process pasture-raised poultry in an efficient and humane manner,” says Eva Jones, an emerging farmer from Mingo County. “As an aspiring poultry producer, I would be unable to enter the market without access to this specialized equipment and training.”
The benefits of this project have reached not only those currently in the workforce but the youth as well. Students from Lincoln County High School were part of the first training session, which provided them with new knowledge and skills. Upon graduation, these students will be able to use this training to become farm entrepreneurs with concise, sanitary and efficient practices in their workplace. In the training scheduled for September 2017, vocational agriculture students and the Future Farmers of America class will be in attendance.
About the Author
Carly Stover is a project coordinator for the West Virginia Farmers Market Association. A native of Spencer, WV, Stover holds a degree in public relations from West Virginia University. As a sister of Kappa Kappa Gamma and former West Virginia pageantry participant, Stover has participated in a variety of community service roles. She has personally organized fundraisers for the Children’s Miracle Network, Relay for Life, UNICEF and local food banks.