EDGE (Economic Development Greater East) is a federally recognized nonprofit 501 (c) (3).
EDGE's entrepreneurship and workforce training focuses on stemming community brain drain and talent export, allowing locals to remain local and thrive. EDGE focuses on best researched and piloted approaches in the locus of individual and community well-being through meaningful living wage entrepreneurship and work, connecting with the local community and allowing locals to stay local, and combating the deep and wide chasms created by generational disenfranchisement, discredit, and disillusionment.
EDGE was formed when a group of community members and land-based producers realized the need for coordination of, and support for, regional education and programming in land-based sectors ripe for scale. While EDGE focuses on entrepreneurship and agripreneurship and food as the foundation of community well-being and economy. EDGE has since expanded its commitment to local work to include remote and other trade opportunities.
Evolving out of a volunteer-based agricultural working group in 2016, participants pooled their 25+ years of experience in farming, business, nonprofit, military, and public health to work collectively for full scale regional regenerative land-based production and a healthy, and a vibrant entrepreneurial and work-force, and, local community.
EDGE's agripreneurship goal is to grow and support land-based producers toward a living wage comparable to that outlined by the agricultural economist David Kohl for Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and our section of the Southeast, which is a farm family gross income of at least $80,000 per year (based on the work of the respected AgBiz Planner program).
EDGE also coordinates and collaborates on issues of food security and food desert dilemmas, leading with heritage foodways and skills at the core of that joint effort and issues of nutrition and health.
Goal: Establish a retail store, aggregation, and training center as a flagship bricks and mortar space for economic development of agriculture, entrepreneurship, agripreneurship, tourism and hospitality training, community renewal, and community connection.
Mountain Farm Community Grocery is a three-entity partnership [McDowell County Farms Cooperative, Economic Development Greater East, and Southeast Economic and Education Development Hub, with EDGE management, building ownership by McDowell County Farms Cooperative] currently under renovation as a premier site for value-added and fresh food sales and production training, entrepreneurship training, and, consumer and youth and adult food and nutrition education. It also serves as a anchor institution to coalesce community trust, connection. and potential.
Mountain Farm Community Grocery focuses first on aggregation and sales of food produced from local and regional producers such as maple products, high tunnel produce and orchard fruit products, bee and honey products, sustainable mountain harvest, and meat and poultry.
Phase Two and Three of the larger Mountain Farm and Friends project includes expansion of aggregation, training, and hospitality.
Mountain Farm Community Grocery builds on a two-pronged market model of sales to Hatfield and McCoy Trail tourists, whose yearly income averages over $100k, and, the fortune at the bottom of the pyramid model, of local consumers also deserving access to nutrient dense foods at affordable prices and for purchase also through EBT.
Located in Kimball, WV, Mountain Farm Community Grocery is Phase I of a three phase Mountain Farm and Friends campus, researched and established through EDGE, to include build out for greater capacity for additional training, aggregation, hospitality, and community engagement.
Goal: Expand regional agripreneurship, develop local entrepreneurship, coordinate and provide training so locals can THRIVE. Expand regional training in mountain farming production lines that can scale. EDGE provides training and partnerships for training in agricultural entrepreneurship and other entrepreneurship and workforce training for the WV and SWVA coalfields and beyond through its THRIVE initiative at Vallscreek Demo Farm.
EDGE participants who seek to start farm projects receive additional support through EDGE and expand their scale and earning capacity through participation in two cooperatives: McDowell County Farms Agricultural Cooperative and Southeast Education and Economic Development Hub Cooperative Corporation. Current participants are drawn principally from McDowell County, WV and Tazewell County, VA.
Goal: Regional coordination across sectors, regional coordination of economic development and workforce training EDGE recognizes regional and national partners are needed to support locals remaining local and thriving, jumpstarting regional agripreneurship and entrepreneurship, and facilitating remote, flexible, and at large work training and work opportunities.
More Below are additional programs EDGE would like to grow capacity to provide or to facilitate regional capacity in (programs for which EDGE does not need to be the principal provider).
These programmatic areas below incorporate researched needs in our region to increase capacity in the land-based, tourist, creative, and trades sectors.
The Rural Semester: Rural policy, Ag Policy, Rural economic modeling; Sustaining, attracting and keeping talent and leaders
Community Foundation Nonprofit Incubator Aggregates and provides nonprofit incubation services in Accounting Insurance Tax Compliance
Angel Investors Circle A means to pool or manage community-oriented investment and donor funds.
Sustainable cosmetics and fashion = R & D and Training Piloting business research and businesses Training in sustainable cosmetics and fashion Feasibility on environmentally non-harmful tanning Feasibility fur, wool, cotton, leather, and deerskin production
EDGE developed the scope and range of its work from research indicating that rural economic development projects often are too narrow in their target geographic area. Furthermore, emerging economic sectors must also build alliances and partnerships with regions already prospering in those sectors.
EDGE seeks to support economic sector alignment and to collaborate with places and organizations for mutual benefit, irrespective of partner site location on the East Coast. For example, Appalachian county McDowell County, WV is closer to Danville, VA (Southside Virginia) than it is to the Appalachian city of Pittsburgh. Why shouldn't it then partner with Danville, which is roughly along the same latitude and also seeking to reinvent itself? Or, with Winston-Salem, NC, a regional metropolitan draw from southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia for work, sales, and leisure?
Though working also in its founding local area, EDGE cannot afford to become myopic neither in seeking nor applying research-based models or developing them. It thus seeks to adapt best practices and best programs from research-based models and on-the-ground projects that make a good fit for its economic sector aims.
EDGE is committed to economic sector push. It seeks to be extremely proactive in connecting to people and places that make sense in the triple bottom line (sustainable environment, profit, treating people well).
We Need to Rethink Rural Analysis and Cross-sections for Collaboration The massive population and economic decline along the 36th parallel (roughly represented in this map) in the United States means that places and people in this very rural cross-section may have more in common with each other than those people and places have with other kinds of geographic cross-sections including points along this map. For example, if you start 40 miles south of Norfolk, VA and drive 10 hours west, Danville, Va is the only town that tops above what the US Census defines as rural. Cut this way, this is one of the most rural cross sections of the East. Why should not the people and places there have as much in common and face similar challenges of rural economic development? And, do this together?
EDGE is open to connecting to other places similarly affected by single sector economies whether that is in in highly extractive Appalachia, pine plantation and chicken house packed South Carolina, or emptied out fishing towns in Maine.
Together, in regional and wider collaborations, mutual investigations, knowledge sharing, and partnerships, we can work together for a truly “greater” East.