Late last year, KK&P kicked off a year-long project with a new client: the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). The project, a study of agriculture and local food in the Appalachian Region, will provide a detailed assessment of current dynamics in the region’s agriculture sector and local food economies, and identify opportunities, best practices, and promising models for strengthening those economies through local food initiatives.
Stretching from northeastern Mississippi to the Southern Tier of New York, the Appalachian Region is vast and diverse. It’s home to urban centers as varied as Pittsburgh, Birmingham, Knoxville, and Youngstown; rural areas and communities in geographies as different as the Mississippi Lowlands and the Blue Ridge Mountains; and a wide range of climate zones, microclimates, and agricultural production characteristics and conditions. The 25 million people across the region’s 13 states and 205,000 square miles have historically experienced higher levels of poverty than the nation as a whole—and still do today. While 81 of the region’s predominantly rural 420 counties were considered economically distressed in 2019, it has seen an overall decline in poverty over the past 60 years.
As a federal-state partnership focusing on economic development, the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) works broadly to alleviate poverty and increase economic opportunity and vibrancy—across the region and with a particular focus on economically distressed areas. Agriculture and local and regional food economies represent a unique set of levers to advance ARC’s strategic goals and achieve greater economic resilience and self-reliance across the region. Investments in local and regional food system innovations and solutions are an opportunity to invest at the intersection of ARC’s priorities: workforce, economic growth, infrastructure, natural and cultural assets, and leadership and community capacity.
This study for ARC builds on KK&P’s deep portfolio of regional food system research and planning, including our work in the Mid-South Delta, Charlotte, and Rhode Island. We’re thrilled to be working with ARC and to have the opportunity to develop new research for such a vast and complex region.The KK&P team – which includes collaborators Mass Economics, Erin Hostetler of EMH Food Systems Consulting, and Jennifer Brodsky of True North Collective – has been hard at work on data analysis, literature review, and engagement of a project advisory committee composed of stakeholders from the region. In the coming months, our research will progress to examining and codifying relevant opportunities, models, and practices for the Appalachian Region. We will look forward to publicly sharing our final report in late 2021.