Young gardeners bring produce to market through WVSU program


November 13, 2013

Budding young gardeners in West Virginia State University (WVSU) Extension Service’s SCRATCH Project have become entrepreneurs with the delivery of their first harvest of sweet potatoes to The Wild Ramp market in Huntington.

The crops will be sold in the shop with proceeds benefiting the youth-based agricultural education program.

“SCRATCH and the Wild Ramp are a perfect match,” said Toril Lavender, SCRATCH technology specialist, noting that the two entities began their partnership last summer when participants brought flowers to sell at the shop. “The Wild Ramp sells only products made or grown within 250 miles of Huntington, with 90 percent of the profit going back to producers, so we knew they would be a great place to sell SCRATCH products.”

Educating participants about gardening and entrepreneurship is a dual purpose of SCRATCH, which stands for Sustainable Community Revitalization in Appalachia Through Children’s Hands. The kids studied product pricing of similar vegetables at supermarkets in the area and chose their own price point for the sweet potatoes: $3.50 per pound.

The kids, ranging in age from 5 to 14, met with Shelly Kenney, market manager for The Wild Ramp, to learn about aspects of business management and why growing and buying locally is important.

“They had fun meeting and talking with Shelly,” Lavender said. “She explained the importance of providing local and high-quality products for which customers are willing to pay a little more to purchase.”

The experience has opened the kids’ eyes to multiple product lines, all “Made from SCRATCH.”

“Some of the kids are hoping to produce more crops and value-added products, such as lip balms and beauty products,” Lavender said. “We’ll be researching these items this winter in preparation for the spring growing season.”

The SCRATCH Project launched in 2011 to bring more locally grown and healthy food into Huntington by educating youth about gardening and sustainability. Kid-based community gardens are functional throughout the city at the Maudella Taylor garden site, the Barnett Center, the A.D. Lewis Community Center and Spring Hill Elementary School.

The Wild Ramp is a community-supported market with the mission of providing a viable economic outlet for local food producers while providing consumers access to locally grown agricultural products. It is located in Huntington’s Heritage Station at 210 11th St., suite 13.

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