Create Buckhannon wins statewide agricultural competition


BUCKHANNON — Create Buckhannon is the winner of the 2021 West Virginia Vanguard Agriculture Competition, a statewide contest sponsored by the Robert C. Byrd Institute (RCBI) at Marshall University to honor innovation and ingenuity in agriculture.

The Vanguard award recognizes a West Virginia entrepreneur or organization whose idea has the greatest potential to solve logistical challenges in the local food supply chain. Katie Loudin wrote the application on behalf of Create Buckhannon, which captured the top prize for its technology-based solution to match the supply of locally grown produce to consumer demand for fresh fruits and vegetables.

Loudin said the Buckhannon-Upshur Farmers Market struggles to balance supply and demand because consumers do not know what food will be available each week and participating farmers do not know how many customers to expect. In addition, the Covid pandemic has increased consumer expectations for curbside pickup, and many people no longer carry cash. Loudin said she hopes Create Buckhannon’s innovative approach will begin to fix some of these challenges.

Loudin and other Create Buckhannon members will contact area farmers each week to determine the types and quantities of food they will have available. That information then will be posted to a digital store where consumers can browse what is available and submit orders online. Loudin said the idea was inspired by the Turnrow Appalachian Farm Collective’s pop-up farmers markets launched in 2020 as a response to supply chain problems in the southern region of the state.

To develop its idea, Create Buckhannon will receive a business assistance package from RCBI valued in excess of $5,000 that includes product design and development, prototyping, marketing and business development planning.

The Vanguard contest is part of RCBI’s Agricultural Innovations, an initiative to improve opportunities for West Virginia’s farming and agricultural economy. The initiative supports and enhances a vibrant local foods system by promoting entrepreneurship and innovation. RCBI also helps food producers, distributors and buyers expand their reach and influence through advanced manufacturing practices and product development.

RCBI’s Agricultural Innovations initiative is funded by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation and supported by a coalition of statewide partners.

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