The Wild Ramp is Ramping Up!
Folks, the market is open -- now it's time to Ramp Up! The Wild Ramp is a new non-traditional and convenient farmers market in Huntington, W.Va. Meant to provide fresh, local food to the area once coined "America's Fattest City," The Wild Ramp serves as much more than just a market. The Wild Ramp is now an educational center that allows people to learn how to support local farmers and businesses, while at the same time gaining easy access to fresh, local food for our families.
Our town needed The Wild Ramp, now The Wild Ramp needs you.
The Wild Ramp is filling a need in downtown Huntington for a grocery store that sells healthy, fresh food. For several years people have been asking how we could get a Trader Joe's or Whole Foods Market downtown. As it turns out we didn't have to recruit a chain store. We just had to look within. The Wild Ramp addresses this unmet need with its retail-style farmers' market in Heritage Station.
The Wild Ramp is a non-profit organization whose mission is to operate a year-round community-supported market that provides a viable economic outlet for local food producers while providing consumers access to locally grown agricultural products. The store is staffed wholly by volunteers, which keeps operating costs low to benefit our farmers.
Our name came from a Facebook naming contest, and is named after the traditional Appalachian delicacy (that tastes somewhere between an onion and a garlic) that is one of the first greens to emerge in Spring.
The idea started with an article in the Washington Post by Jane Black about Local Roots, a local foods market in Wooster, Ohio. A meeting was held to discuss the possibilities of starting a similar market in Huntington. That was the first of several meetings and Chat n' Chew discussions that were attended by approximately 60 community members including consumers, producers, Marshall University students, and restaurant owners who were interested in supporting the idea.
In March several people took a trip to Local Roots to see if their business structure could work for us in Huntington. A group of local farmers and consumers formed a working group, and a storefront was located, walls were painted, volunteers were recruited, and farmers were invited to start selling food. The Wild Ramp opened for business as an outdoor market on July 11, 2012.
Community volunteers have logged over 3,000 hours on this project since late March. Over $45,000 has been invested to date including cash, volunteer labor, professional services, materials and equipment. There are 10 Lifetime and 125 yearly Friends of the Market. The Wild Ramp Facebook page has over 1400 “likes”. On a recent Saturday there were 15 volunteers, two contractors and an architect working on the shop. They logged over 112 hours. This is truly a community-supported market!
The Wild Ramp is everything the community dreamed it could be. There are over 100 products in the market, offered by over 40 local producers and farmers, most living within 100 miles of the store. Farmers set their own prices for their goods and get 90% of their selling price. Farmers tell us they love not having to stop work on the farm to go sit at the Farmers' Market- they can bring their goods to us whenever it's convenient for them. Shoppers tell us that they love buying fresh food from local farmers. What's not to love about supporting our local economy while eating tastier food?
The fifteen counties that make up a 75 mile radius around Huntington spend 1.8 billion dollars every year on food. Less than 1% of that money currently goes to local farmers. There is a huge opportunity for economic growth from within by creating a marketplace for locally grown food and agricultural products. According to a recent study, if West Virginia farmers grew enough fruits and vegetables to meet the in-season fresh produce needs of all state residents it would require less than 10% of available farmland. Such a shift would also generate 1,723 new jobs and contribute an additional $ 35.7 million in local sales. The Wild Ramp is helping make this potential growth a reality.
The market has come a long way from its humble beginnings as an open air market held on borrowed tables outside to an indoor rented space with a real cooler and freezers. However, our cooler was packed to the gills this week with raspberries, Snowville Creamery milk, tofu, Laurel Valley Creamery cheeses, fresh eggs from 5 small farms (including duck eggs!), ready-to-eat food from Mission Savvy in Charleston, and tofu and bean burgers. We are simply running out of room to provide all the great food everyone wants to buy! We need more capacity. We also had an issue last week where our borrowed tables were needed for another event. We really need display tables of our own!
We also need a produce scale, a permanent checkout counter, and wheeled produce display units so we can add an outdoor market easily. The Wild Ramp also wants to provide more information on the products and the farms they came from as well as more outdoor signage so people can find us. Signage is an important part of getting our message out. In order to “Ramp Up” the market the following items are needed:
- $300 - for a laminating machine and supplies (for in-store signage).
- $1600 - for a commercial grade produce scale- legal for trade.
- $3000 - for a commercial grade refrigeration unit.
- $1000 - for up-cycled materials to create produce carts. (labor donated)
- $1000 - for up-cycled materials to create a new checkout counter. (labor donated)
- $2100 - for The Wild Ramp exterior signage, window signage and cooler signage.
- $500 - for folding tables of our own.
Thank you for looking at our project and we hope you'll consider donating to our cause for some of our fun locally-produced rewards!
Here's some of our latest blog love:
And lastly, here is what someone who just stopped in to see us had to say:
- (30 days)