UNIONTOWN, Pa. — On behalf of Gov. Tom Wolf, Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding and Department of Community and Economic Development Executive Deputy Secretary Neil Weaver joined community leaders at Republic Food Enterprise Center in Uniontown, Fayette County, in celebration of a recently approved initiative aimed at increasing food production and exportation in the region.
Fayette County Community Action Agency Inc. and the Republic Food Enterprise Center received approval for a $1.75 million grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission’s POWER initiative to develop the Southwestern Pennsylvania Local Food Shed.
The project will include the development of a robust local food shed to provide new and diverse economic opportunities through food production and exportation. The initiative will bridge the gap between farm and table, creating sustainable agriculture products and jobs for communities impacted by the decline of the coal industry.
The project is anticipated to serve 50 existing businesses, create 10 new businesses and 100 jobs, and leverage $3.5 million in private investment.
ARC’s investment will support expanded development of four existing agriculture industry clusters in the region: sheep, lamb, and goats; poultry; specialty crops; and value-added processing.
A diverse group of partners will establish a Regional Agriculture Advisory Council to steer the project’s goals and objectives and sustain the local food shed efforts in the long-term.
The project will include mapping to identify new products, technologies, and emerging markets as well as training and technical assistance to farmers and food entrepreneurs to assist them with increasing production, business skills, and marketing.
In 2016, Wolf announced the availability of funding through the federal POWER Initiative (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) to develop new strategies for economic growth and worker advancement for communities that have historically relied on the coal economy for economic stability.
The multi-agency effort aims to provide economic stability by aligning and targeting federal economic and workforce development resources with communities and workers affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries due to the changing economics of America’s energy production.
The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) is participating in the initiative with the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) and eight other federal agencies.