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Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Minor

Americorps in Appalachia

What's it really like as an Americorps member?

Kathy graduated from the SAFS Program in 2011. She is now in her second year of AmeriCorps VISTA serving the Appalachian Foodshed Project in Wytheville, Virginia!

This is Kathy's second blog post, you can see her first post here and read about her new thoughts and adventures below! Be sure to click on the photos at the bottom of the screen for more information on the organizations Kathy is involved with.

Well it’s been almost two years since my original blog post. During the second half of my first year as an AmeriCorps VISTA, I was transferred over the Appalachian mountain range into southwest Virginia to an assignment with Virginia Cooperative Extension office. I worked with the Family and Consumer Science Agent in Pulaski and Giles counties to help increase the number of volunteers involved in community programs and to reach new and diverse audiences for the existing programs, which included food nutrition, health, food safety and financial literacy. The primary focus was aimed at fighting poverty and improving the lives of disadvantaged individuals.

I decided to do a second year with VISTA last year within the region, but with one that was more focused on food security issues. This assignment was with a small nonprofit in Wythe county centered on Food Security issues.

Headshot of Kathy

SAFS Alumnus Kathy K

Some of my accomplishments include:

  • Developed strategic business plans for two existing food security programs that are fiscally managed by HOPE, Inc. – Community Food Kitchen and Lil’ Maroon Packs weekend feeding program at Spiller Elementary School.
  • Created Exhibit for the Wytheville Chamber of Commerce Community Expo – HOPE won for best Non-Profit in the Booth Competition.
  • Organized and facilitated a community Food Summit that brought together a cross-sector of over forty-five community stakeholders to address issues surrounding food security in the region utilizing a Collective Impact approach.
  • Developed and implemented community surveys on food security and nutrition.
    Developed regional program partnerships with Virginia Tech, The Appalachian Foodshed Project, Feeding America, Virginia Cooperative Extension and Radford University Dietetic Association.
  • Built a sustainable outreach program focused on providing emergency food resources, nutrition and SNAP education for HOPE’s clients and connected umbrella agencies.
  • Capacity building between local area food pantries, soup kitchen, and Feeding America.
  • Recruitment and management of program volunteers.
  • Increase partnerships with community members and organizations.
  • Marketing and promotion of issues surrounding hunger and poverty.
  • Research funding and resource opportunities.

I still farm and animal sit for my friends Janet and Bruce over in West Virginia when they need me. In fact, I was just over there this past weekend helping to pot up tomato transplants that will soon be planted into one of their high tunnels. I am so thankful to have met them during my first VISTA assignment. My relationship with them has eased my homesickness for Michigan and has allowed me to share and utilize my education from MSU with them and their farm (Mountain Heritage Farm) as well as my need to keep my hands in the soil! I believe that I've had a positive effect on them also. They are now actively composting and using more sustainable methods in their production Last year I talked them into seeking an additional marketing source for their products In addition to the online farmers market in West Virginia, they are now selling weekly at the Blacksburg Farmers Market in Virginia. I also talked them into providing an internship on their farm last year, which turned out quite successful. The internship was not advertised this year, because I hooked them up with my fellow VISTA, Michael in January as I thought they would make a good match. Michael has also just been accepted into the graduate program at Virginia Tech and will be studying Agriculture Economics, so it’s a good fit!

Well, that’s my update for now. Will keep you posted as I seek full time employment in the coming month due to the end of my second year with AmeriCorps VISTA. Time for an actual paycheck! GO GREEN, GO WHITE!!!

Check out more opportunities to serve with FoodCorps.