ARC officials say West Virginia has also gone further than most in drafting a statewide strategic plan, the "Road Map for a Food Economy." An official who helped schedule Gohl's visit calls it cutting-edge thinking.
ARC officials say West Virginia is recognizing and seizing opportunities where they make sense - and the demand has been there to support them.
While ARC, the USDA and others can support those initiatives, Gohl said, "the reality is the energy around local foods started in West Virginia, lives in West Virginia and is going to grow in West Virginia."
Lyons, who's been working on local food programs for three years, said the road map encourages investment. At least one bank has made multiple donations to various ventures because it can look at the plan and see tangible benefits.
"There's the economic development half of this, which is often communities looking for a way to create energy, to create excitement, to reflect the character of the place," Lyons said. "On the other side are health advocates and people advocating for food access. And both are equally powerful."
The key to helping West Virginia and other states grow what they've started is redefining expectations.
Investors typically like to see large facilities and large sales, she said, but "that's not how we do things here."
"Here in West Virginia, it's micro. So we have to be willing to invest on a micro scale and in micro-scale infrastructure," Lyons said. "We have to right-size our businesses and grow them gradually and carefully, and help people grow into them."
W.Va. Food & Farm Coalition: http://bit.ly/fa9288