Downstream Strategies (DS) of Morgantown and Alderson, the Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation (GVEDC) and the Greenbrier Valley Local Foods Initiative (GVLFI) announce the formation of a partnership to develop an innovative new farmer project in the Greenbrier Valley. The proposed project, named Sprouting Farms; Appalachian Croft and Resource Center, will create new opportunities for beginning and existing farmers and help strengthen local food systems.\r\nSprouting Farms will bring together resources developed by DS and the West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition through support from a USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant, and a Croft and resource planning project developed by the GVEDC and GVLFI. This project seeks to meet the identified needs of new and beginning farmers, as well as support existing farms and community members through shared farming resources, affordable land ownership, land access, new farmer business support, and food production models to help expand local food systems and markets. The partners hope this model will be replicated in areas beyond the Greenbrier\r\nValley.\r\nAccording to the project developers, the majority of farm owners in the United States are nearing retirement age. Even with the opportunity this fact presents, new farmers find it difficult getting started. Many beginning farmers find land prohibitively expensive and have a difficult time entering the market as they lack the experience and business skills necessary to succeed.\r\nThe Sprouting Farms project includes six main components: 1) the Farm Business Accelerator Program that includes apprenticeship and incubator programming; 2) the Crofting and Land Access program that provides affordable land ownership and leased land; 3) The Mentorship and Educational Support Program that provides mentorship and curriculum and workshops; 4) the Resource Sharing Program for participants and area farms; 5) the Production program that provides anchor quantities for wholesale markets; and 6) the Sales and Planning program that works closely with producers to open new markets for participants and participating area farms.\r\nThis project will be based on a central farm site that offers shared facilities and equipment as well as facilities for processing and aggregation, storage, and educational events. The next steps for this project include securing a location, funding, and formalizing partnerships. More information is available at www.sproutingfarms.org.\r\nDownstream Strategies, LLC is a private sector consulting group offering environmental consulting services that combine sound interdisciplinary skills with a core belief in the importance of protecting the environment and linking economic development with natural resource stewardship.\r\nThe GVEDC is the designated economic development organization for Greenbrier, Monroe and Pocahontas Counties in West Virginia. It provides a variety of services to new and existing businesses such as: business financing, general and technical assistance, site selection and most importantly, the highly skilled and loyal West Virginia Workforce.\r\nGVLFI is an initiative of the GVEDC focused on supporting and promoting local foods in the Greenbrier Valley. It runs the Greenbrier Valley Grown local branding program and SNAP-UP (doubling food assistance funds) and works with partners around the state to host trainings, events, and provide support to area farms. GVLFI seeks to increase the economic stability of the region by supporting local food production.