WILLIAMSON – The Mingo County Redevelopment Authority announced today that applications are being accepted for two crew member openings on the newly formed Refresh Appalachia Mingo County Agriculture Crew. Leasha Johnson, executive director of the MCRA, said that Refresh Appalachia is looking for individuals who are interested in an exciting career in sustainable agriculture. Refresh Appalachia is a social enterprise of the Coalfield Development Corporation in partnership with the Mingo County Redevelopment Authority, the Williamson Health and Wellness Center, Wayne County Economic Development Authority, The Growing Warriors Project, Wild Ramp, Unlimited Future, Inc., and Marshall University’s Robert C. Byrd Institute. In October, this collaborative was awarded federal funds to implement the regional initiative, which aims to increase the success of beginning farmers in southern West Virginia and Central Appalachia, strengthen local food systems, increase access to healthy food, and aggregate and distribute produce to meet regional and national markets.
Ben Gilmer, President of Refresh Appalachia, said “This is a unique, challenging, and rewarding position for those interested in developing a career in the agriculture sector.”
Refresh Appalachia enhances the knowledge and skills of beginning farmers by creating a network of training sites called Learning Farms Incubators (LFIs). These LFIs function as social enterprises, generating revenue through sales for program sustainability and serving as hands-on training sites for beginning farmers. “We are currently farming in abandoned factories, on former surface mines, and in more traditional agriculture settings found in Central Appalachia. Our initiative aims to transform the lives of young people in the region and those displaced by the coal mining industry”, said Gilmer. Crew members participate in a workforce development program according to a 33-6-3 model: 33 hours a week are spent doing on-the-job training on farm projects, along with participation in workshops and trainings; 6 hours a week are devoted to core community college and business classes for an associate’s degree in Applied Sciences, with a focus on entrepreneurship; and 3 hours a week are committed to life skills coaching (parenting, financial management, and personal and professional development). As a social enterprise, Refresh Appalachia strives to blend the efficiency and production of the for-profit sector with the compassion and purpose of the charitable sector.
Johnson said that dislocated coal miners and family members of those impacted by layoffs are especially encouraged to apply. “In the aftermath of a collapsed coal economy, the MCRA’s focus on economic diversification is strongly enhanced by the availability of post mined lands for the creation of an agriculture industry, as well as other targeted industries. The industry that’s suffered the most from the shift in regulatory requirements and market conditions of the past few years is the very industry that has positioned us for future growth, for sustainability, and for economic hope”, Johnson said.
For information about how to apply, refer to the job description at www.refreshappalachia.com.