The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) has been a steadfast supporter of projects in Highland County. The agency, which promotes community and economic development in 13 Appalachian states, helped the Center start its farmers’ market and business incubation program. Their Asset Based Development Initiative enabled a feasibility study for a local slaughter facility to be conducted, which led to the establishment of Allegheny Meats. They have also lent their support to Highland Public Schools to increase energy efficiency through window upgrades.
That is why The Highland Center was especially honored to host the head of the ARC, federal co-chair Earl Gohl and his chief of staff Guy Land, last Friday, October 26. The two toured Alleghany Meats and The Highland Center, and were treated to a lunch of local beef and lamb prepared by Allegheny Mountain School fellow Sarah Collins. Mr. Gohl expressed his excitement to see the community’s overwhelming investment in local food projects stemming from what they considered to be ARC’s modest seed funding.
Mr. Gohl’s visit came one day after whirlwind tour of Alleghany Meats, The Highland Center and the Allegheny Mountain School by Stephen Versen of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Chris Cook of the Virginia Foundation for Agriculture, Innovation and Rural Sustainability (FAIRS). FAIRS was instrumental in developing Alleghany Meats, providing funds for architectural blue prints and the formation of a legal entity.
Mr. Versen shared with the AMS fellows the variety of grants and resources available to beginning farmers and ag-entrepreneurs. He also expressed his appreciation for the local meal provided by the fellows. “For someone who judges his self-worth in part by the quality of his workweek lunches, it was especially gratifying to not just be served a delicious, home-cooked meal, but to be able to enjoy that meal with the people who actually grew the food,” Versen said.