Using local resources to build businesses and communities was a common point in the pitches of the four finalists for the Create WV / Valley Ventures Entrepreneur competition, whether utilizing local apples and honey, local vegetables and meats or sunshine. Hawk Knob Cidery and Mead of Lewisburg was selected to receive the $5,000 seed funding sponsored by New River Gorge Regional Development Authority.
Hawk Knob plans to take advantage of the popularity of the cider market, which has grown over 70 percent over the past three years. Josh Bennett and Will Lewis will produce an Appalachian product helping to grow the agricultural economy. Hawk Knob is located at the former Watts Roost Vineyard on Blue Sulphur Pike near Lewisburg and will add to the agritourism appeal of the area by opening a tasting room for their distinctive cider and mead by the first of the year.
Another Greenbrier Valley agricultural producer, Jennifer and Kent Gilkerson of Sunset Berry and Produce Farm, detailed how they have been able to cultivate a network of vegetable producers to offer their Elite Membership delivery program to supply families with local fresh foods. For 16 weeks through the growing season, members receive a plentiful box of delicious produce. New membership incentives are being offered now to build the clientele for 2016. For more information, call 304-646-3784. Produce is delivered throughout the county and the couple had hoped to win and be able to use the funding for a delivery vehicle.
A new restaurant, Vandal’s Kitchen in Fayetteville, also demonstrated how they are benefiting local producers and helping to build the demand for local agricultural products. They had planned to use the funding to launch and improve their fresh, local “Darn Good to Go” lunches and breakfasts, as well as their fresh bottled juices. They are not only meeting the need for a quick and healthy alternative to fast food, but provide unique New River Gorge brand apparel and a community gathering place for educational and cultural events.
The fourth finalist was Richwood’s community project to expand their use of solar power for community buildings. They desired funding to equip their library with solar power. They received a taste of the benefits of solar power when their Main Street was temporarily powered by the sun for the 2013 Create WV conference. A solar powered park, Helios remained for the community to enjoy. They had hoped that by expanding their reliance on solar power, they might gain recognition as one of the first Solar Cities of WV.
The competition was held during the Friday evening dinner of the three-day Create WV conference in Fayetteville at the end of September. The contestants were able to participate in the conference courtesy of Vision Shared.
The competition was organized through the Valley Ventures partnership of the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority, New River Community and Technical College and Greenbrier Valley Economic Development working with Vis Ability.