CUMBERLAND — Officials with the Appalachian Regional Commission, a federal organization that promotes economic development, kicked off a two-day visit to Western Maryland on Thursday as part of their efforts to examine fresh food supply systems used in the region.
The ARC is a major source of grant funding for economic projects ranging from capital improvement such as roads and neighborhood renovations to the creation and expansion of businesses.
Earl Gohl, federal co-chair for ARC appointed by President Barack Obama in 2010, and Guy Land, chief of staff for ARC, began Thursday’s tour at the farmers market on the downtown mall.
“Today is the first stop on our tour. ARC funding has helped to support a variety of activities in Western Maryland that otherwise may not have gotten done,” said Gohl.
Local officials present for the visit were Cumberland Mayor Brian Grim; Julianna Albowicz of Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s office; Al Feldstein and William Atkinson, Maryland Department of Planning; Ed Mullaney and Jennifer Light, downtown managers; City Council members Nicole Wagoner and Nick Scarpelli; and Shawn Hershberger, economic development for the city.
“Cumberland has a lot going on and a lot of things coming together. I’m here not to tell you what to do, but to work to help them see what their goals and dreams are,” said Gohl.
“This is part of a larger series of visits to Appalachia to look at the local food economy to examine how food systems can be an important part of an economic development strategy,” said Land.
Officials present witnessed brisk activity at the farmers market with an estimated attendance of more than 500 people at the 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. event.
“We started the farmers market around 23 or 24 years ago now. It has been doing extremely well,” said Mullaney.
A line for Higson’s corn and other produce was around 30 people deep through most of the event. Vendors sold all types of produce, plants and flowers.
“The farmers market has been a huge success. When I came down this morning the line for Higson’s corn was dozens of people deep,” said Grim.
Higson’s reported going through about 300 dozen ears of corn in a couple of hours.
“Farmers markets like this are an important accelerator for the local economy,” said Gohl.
The market has 22 vendors listed to sell, however not all of them come every week.
Some of the vendors present Thursday were HI-JA Farms, Rice Farms, Gahagan Family Farms and the Dovedale Nursery of Springfield, W.Va.
“It’s great to be able to bring people of their level in ARC to see firsthand the direct impact their funding has on small communities like Cumberland,” said Grim.
Land said that ARC serves all of West Virginia and parts of 13 other states.
Other stops on the two-day tour are: The Evergreen Heritage Center, Mount Savage; Frostburg State Grow It Local Greenhouse; Firefly Farms Creamery and Market, Accident; Five Aces Plant Breeding Inc., Oakland; Northern High School chapter of the Future Farmers of America; and the DeBerry Farm, Oakland.
The ARC officials will be at Garrett College for an announcement on broadband at 2 p.m. Friday in the Garrett Information Enterprise Center. The event is open to the public.
Greg Larry can be contacted at email@example.com.