For most of the region, agriculture is in a state of transition. For example, burley tobacco once dominated farming in the Southern Appalachians. It was a major cash crop at the center of the region’s agriculture for over a century. But the economics of tobacco farming changed and by the mid-1990s, it became clear that federal support programs for tobacco farming would eventually end.
In many areas, communities turned to local food systems as a means to keep farms and build community resilience. Localized food production allows farms to produce food that is aligned with a community’s needs rather than just global demand. Farms can connect with the community, learn what customers want and produce more the following year. This feedback allows food systems to evolve and grow and serve the communities they are a part of.
The loss of tobacco could have been devastating to the Appalachian region’s agricultural base, but the local food movement is helping to build a resilient economy that is anchored in the region’s natural resources and people. Investing in the knowledge and skills of local farmers and other entrepreneurs has helped local farms survive the loss of tobacco. Our region’s local food movement continues to support the development of healthy food systems that benefit the community.
ASAP tracks these changes through its Local Food Research Center. Find data and writings about the impact of local food systems at asapconnections.org/local-food-research-center