The Collaborative for the 21st Century Appalachia®
Our Collaborative for the 21st Century Appalachia® is a grassroots organization concerned with preserving the small farm, the environment, and a more traditional way of life. We believe in sustaining the small farm, the rural community, and the planet through earth-friendly agricultural practices and a buy-local emphasis.
What We Do
We also believe in the importance of preserving the traditional elements of folk life as we move forward into the 21st century, especially as they relate to that most essential of human and community experiences: food. So central to our lives, yet so frequently taken for granted, food and the act of preparing it are often swept aside from our consciousness in the name of convenience, expediency, and economy. We believe that a modern paradigm needs to take into account the intangible value of food and its production, as well as its sheer nutritional and economic import.
Our most visible presence is in sponsored events like the Cast Iron Cook-Off®, a culinary extravaganza that showcases regional New Appalachian Cuisine®, emphasizing indigenous ingredients and traditional cookware, like cast iron. Cultural events such as the Cook-Off promote current health findings, serve as valuable opportunities for chefs and farmers to connect, and remind people of the value in good, honest food.
We recognize that if we are to succeed in our efforts, we must take a diversified approach to the problem. Most importantly, Collaborative for the 21st CenturyAppalachia® engages chefs and farmers in grassroots dialogue sessions to further our sustainable agriculture/buy-local emphasis. By assisting Appalachian farmers grow products for the ever-increasing number of gourmet chefs seeking fresh, healthful and high-end ingredients, we both provide new economic opportunities for small farms and support regional tourism.
WVFarm2U.org, Collaborative for the 21st Century Appalachia®’s website, is another example of its programming that supports the public, and West Virginia’s chefs and farmers. As a “virtual marketplace,” it allows farmers to market their products not only to local chefs, but to the world. Through our discussion forums, our listings of “Buy Local” locations, and our collections of valuable links and resources, we provide an effective and accessible way people to connect and harness the tremendous agricultural and economic potential of Appalachia.
Our partnership with Pierpont State Community and Technical College has allowed the Collaborative to create a college-level certificate in Sustainable Agri-Business, helping to ensure that the farms will be there for future generations, while evolving them for the present. This partnership has also resulted in a series of video training modules on subjects such as emerging agri-culinary market trends, value-added and specialty farm products, and the earth-to-table/buy local movement.
The Collaborative for the 21st Century Appalachia® is launching a state-wide initiative in conjunction with West Virginia chefs to capitalize on marketing opportunities centered on the use of local food products in their restaurants. We have established strategically-placed hubs with major or high-profile restaurants and resorts as anchors, such as the Stonewall Resort at Stonewall Jackson State Park. Within these hubs, West Virginia University Small Farm Extension agents work with farmers to develop quality standards and address distribution and logistical issues, allowing those farmers to supply their products to participant restaurants.
How We Began
The concept for the Collaborative for the 21st Century Appalachia® was envisioned by Dr. Allen D. Arnold as a means of promoting culinary and cultural tourism and of developing a world recognized regional cuisine that employed indigenous ingredients as well as traditional cookware. He founded the organization by incorporating it as a nonprofit in West Virginia on May 19, 2005 under the name “The Institute for Regional Cooking and Center for New Appalachian Cuisine®.” The newly selected board of directors, at its initial meeting held on July 14, 2005 however, amended the name to Collaborative for the 21st Century Appalachia® to better describe the grassroots nature of the organization and its functioning as a federation of cooperating institutions.
At that meeting, the board elected Stonewall Resort’s Executive Chef, Dale Hawkins, as Chair, named Dr. Arnold as the organization’s founding director, and also embraced and adopted the Creed he had written as the tenets to shape the organization’s mission and work. Official IRS 501 (C) (3) exempt status designation was awarded on August 22, 2005.