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VISTA Summer Associate Danny White helps local farmer Andy Blanton build a fence in exchange for manure for the Coalfields Demonstration Farm

Farming for Health and Wealth (FFHW) is a project of the Rural Appalachian Improvement League which works to identify, motivate, and organize small farmers and gardeners in the coalfields of Southern West Virginia. Jack Seitz is the project manager. Currently, the program is working to establish a network of seasonal farmers markets along the Coal Heritage Highway during the summer of 2010 to encourage tourism and help small area growers to expand production and market their produce locally. Already thanks to a USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program Grant, FFHW has organized a farmers market in Pineville. The program also oversees the management of the Coalfields Demonstration Farm, which serves as a catalyst for workshops and networking for area growers with the long term goal of establishing the Coalfields Growers Co-op. This Co-op will be made up of small producers from across the coalfields who will use their collective economy of scale to export produce, meat, cheese, and forest products from the area to nearby "high end" metropolitan markets. The model farm teaches area youth agricultural and entrepreneurial skills and will host workshops to showcase innovative gardening techniques to area growers of all ages.

Check out the NEW FFHW blog here!

Mullens Growers Co-op

The Mullens Growers Co-op is a group of local growers who meet weekly to learn and share information on growing vegetable gardens.  The Co-op also hosts workshops and field days as well as local foods dinners.  Weekly meetings are informal with discussion centered around a topic agreed upon the week before. Topics include everything from specifics of growing vegetables to composting, cover crops, and canning.  It is a chance for academic extension materials and information to be shared and be given the same consideration as local "folk" wisdom.  The meetings are also a chance for growers to network and make arrangements to sell their produce at local farmers markets and other venues.  In the 2009 season 4 growers took advantage of co-oping to sell their produce at the Pineville Farmers Market.


Pineville Farmers Market

The Pineville Farmers Market was started in 2009 thanks to a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture.  It is a seasonal market which runs from July to October and allows growers of all sizes to sell local produce.  All produce must be grown in West Virginia.  In our first season we had eight producers sell either through co-op or directly at the market.  We look forward to an even bigger season next year.



Coalfields Demonstration Farm

The Coalfields Demonstartion Farm was started on unused land that is now a beautiful productive organic farm.  In addition to supplying produce to local markets, the farm also implements innovative and sustainable growing techniques which it synthesizes with local folk wisdom to showcase a new way of growing for the coalfields.  The Farm hosts workshops and experiments and also helps preserve and protect rare hierloom varieties of seed which are part of the rich cultural heritage of the area.  A key component of the program is to teach area youth about farming and gardening through our summer internship program which is made possible through a partnership with the Human Resources Development Foundation and the Coal Heritage Highway Authority.  The internship teaches youth about sustainable agriculture, marketing, and food security while giving them valuable work experience and a summer income.

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Volunteers are a vital part of RAIL's success. We are SEEKING VOLUNTEERS! Please contact us if you want to make a difference and join our remarkable work teams.

In September 2010 RAIL volunteers began initiating a plan to invigorate Community and Economic development in the southern coalfields of West Virginia. In the past ten years RAIL has studied the needs of families in Appalachia as well as available resources and other accessible opportunities that can help their community become sustainable. Gaining a better understanding of what is needed has culminated in the Coal Heritage Trail of New Commerce Action Plan. Those implementing this plan, an organization at the grass roots, well understand their work cannot be successful without the help of volunteers and generous resources providers. Anyone interested in participating in this bold undertaking of helping families living in the Appalachian coalfields improve their economic and social conditions may contact for more information. RAIL gets its name from Rural Appalachian Improvement League, Inc. and can best be described as Volunteers coming together as an organization to find ways to best benefit their community

March 18, 2011

Alternative Spring Break
click to view this video