Expanding Market for Appalachian-grown Heirloom Apples

2010 has been declared the Year of the Heirloom Apple by the Renewing America’s Food Traditions (RAFT) alliance. An initiative of Slow Food USA, RAFT is a coalition of food, farming, environmental and culinary advocates who have joined together to identify, restore and celebrate America’s diverse food traditions. Describing the decline in variety of apples available in the United States, RAFT co-founder Dr. Gary Paul Nabhan says on the Slow Food USA website, “Red Delicious comprises 41 percent of the entire American apple crop, and eleven varieties produce 90 percent of all apples sold in chain grocery stores. Much of the apple juice, puree and sauce consumed in the United States is now produced in other countries.” But, he continues, “Despite the economic downturn, heirloom and antique apple varieties are being successfully marketed at many farmers markets and Community-Supported Agriculture projects in the U.S. Future market prospects for heirloom apples look good, both among chefs and cider makers.” 
 RAFT is working to compile the first national strategy for saving and restoring heirloom apple varieties. Over the next several years, RAFT will focus on the regions with the highest surviving apple diversity, including Appalachia. According to the Finger Lakes Permaculture Network, RAFT is launching the initiative in Appalachia with events in North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. As part of the initiative, RAFT recently released the Forgotten Fruits Manifesto and Manual– Apples, a publication which details the history, decline, nursery practices and local restoration efforts to bring back the...
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Buy Appalachian, Support Local Farmers

The Central Appalachian Network (CAN) has partnered with the Center for Rural Strategies to spotlight efforts throughout the region to support local, healthy food economies. CAN’s mission is “to work with individuals, community leaders, businesses, policy makers, nonprofit organizations, and others to develop and deploy new economic strategies that create wealth and reduce poverty while restoring and conserving the environment.” The Center for Rural Strategies, headquartered in Whitesburg, KY, “seeks to improve economic and social conditions for communities in the countryside and around the world through the creative and innovative use of media and communications. By presenting accurate and compelling portraits of rural lives and cultures, we hope to deepen public debate and create a national environment in which positive change for rural communities can occur.” Together, CAN and Center for Rural Strategies have put together a great slideshow highlighting the fruits of our famers’ labor, accessible here. Efforts to communicate the story of local farmers are complemented by “Buy Local” campaigns throughout the region. One of the emerging tools to support local farmers in the region is the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project’s Buy Appalachian Guide. The Guide features products by growers in Virginia, North Carolina and other parts of the Southern Appalachians. Growers can request to be included in the Guide, by filling out this form. ASAP seeks to “collaboratively create and expand regional community based and integrated food systems that are locally owned and controlled, environmentally sound, economically viable, and health-promoting.” By sharing compelling stories about the...
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Coal Country Beeworks

With thousand of acres mined over the years in Central Appalachia, establishing constructive uses for former mine sites has been a slow process. An effort by Coal Country Beeworks has put into practice what they call apiforestation, or “reclaiming coal mine lands by planting honey trees, shrubs and vegetation.” Appalachia was once home to rich bee populations, which thrived in the diverse tree habitat of the region. The 1980s, however, brought devastating infestation of tracheal and varroa mites that wiped out much of the region’s bees. Coal Country Beeworks, a project of Eastern Kentucky University’s Eastern Kentucky Environmental Research Institute, aims to reintroduce mite-resistant bees by creating ‘genetic islands’ on reclaimed mine sites, planting trees and shrubs that will provide viable habitat for the bees. Research efforts are underway to establish a Queen Production Program, which would allow for beekeepers to breed bees that are particularly well suited for the region and expand beekeeping operations. The Coal Country Beeworks team aims to enhance rural economic development options by providing the resources necessary to nurture apiary production, while simultaneously promoting reforestation of former mine sites. One of Coal Country Beework’s key partners in the effort has been the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative (ARRI), an effort to improve upon traditional post-mining practices to promote restoring forests on surface mined lands. With over 33,000 of reclaimed mine land made available, ARRI and Coal Country Beeworks hope to create significant economic opportunities by supporting the development of Appalachian apiaries and well-managed timber resources....
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