CAN Member Organizations

Appalachian Center for Economic Networks

Appalachian Sustainable Development

Coalfield Development Corporation

Community Farm Alliance

Mountain Association for Community Economic Development

Natural Capital Investment Fund, Inc.

Rural Action


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Our Mission

CAN’s mission is to work with individuals, community leaders, businesses, policy makers, nonprofit organizations, and others to develop and deploy new economic strategies that create wealth and reduce poverty while restoring and conserving the environment.


Sectors of Focus

Food & Ag Systems

Clean Energy

Entrepreneurship Support

Creative Placemaking

Organizational Development & Capacity-Building


Welcome to the Central Appalachian Network!

Latest News


We’re pleased to announce our 2018 CAN small grant recipients! 5 of these 6 projects are community-led efforts exploring innovative approaches to “creative placemaking”, which leverages the power of culture, arts, and local assets to drive community and economic development:

CAN Receives $1.2 Million ARC POWER Award for Economic Diversification!

As part of the Appalachian Regional Commission’s POWER program for economic diversification and workforce development in coal-impacted communities, CAN’s award will focus on building the production capacity of the region’s food producers. The award, titled “Growing Food System Capacity and Scaling Economic Impact,” involves over 10 organizations working on coordinated strategies across 5 states. Read ARC’s press release here.

Forest Farming & Agroforestry in Central Appalachia

This Food & Ag Systems Working Group learning call, hosted by CAN and the Appalachia Funders Network, featured a collection of leading practitioners and funders who work Webinaron agroforestry andforest farming around the region. They shared key concepts anddefinitions, highlighted current projects taking place acrossthe region, and emphasized the economic potential, environmental impact, and cultural significance of this sector for Appalachia's communities and rural landowners. To download a pdf of the slides from the webinar presentation, click here.

CAN Hosts Farm Bill Learning Call with NSAC

CAN members, practitioner partners, and Appalachia Funders Network members of the Food &Ag Systems Working Group (FASWG) were joined by policy experts from the National SustainableAgriculture Coalition (NSAC). NSAC staff shared an overview of the Farm Bill process,Farm Bill Webinar identified critical USDA programs that are fundedthrough the bill, and laid out opportunities to getinvolved in advocating for a 2018 Farm Bill that supports local food systems, food access, ruralbusinesses, and farmland conservation. This is a great starting point for anyone curious about the Farm Bill and federal Ag policy.To download a pdf of the slides from the webinar presentation, click here.

We're excited to share the 2017 cohort of CAN Small Grant recipients!

These projects are pursuing capacity-building, communications, and policy-oriented approaches to the goals of food security, energy efficiency, and community engagement. Through their commitment to peer learning and network-buiding, these community leaders and development practitioenrs are working tos ensure that their individual efforts add up to accelerate Appalachia's transition to a more diversified, just, and sustainable economy.

The local food value chain in action!

Every wondered what a local food value chain looks like on the ground? Check out this beautiful 7-minute video featuring the CAN members and partners in two value chains, Appalachian Ohio and Southwest Virginia, who are working to grow resilient local food systems that build wealth in the community.

Regional Food Security Data Scan now available!

Authored by the Appalachian Foodshed Project for CAN and the Food & Ag Systems Working Group of the Appalachia Funders Network, this report provides state-level data snapshots related to food, agriculture, poverty, and health of the Central Appalachian region and suggests approaches to creating and utilizing data as a means of understanding and addressing food, health, and quality of life issues in Appalachia. Statistically, Central Appalachia shows up as moderately worse off than the rest of the country in various categories of food security. However, meaningful data for rural areas is limited and inconsistent, making it difficult to draw concrete conclusions about our communities and region. On the plus side, the existence of robust and emerging local food systems offers a powerful asset in combating food insecurity and poor nutritional health in the region. Click here to download a PDF of the report.

The Vital Role of Food Systems in Central Appalachia's Public Health.

Central Appalachia’s public health disparities are staggering compared with the rest of the country. However, this data-driven analysis and video presentation by Dr. Randy Wykoff, Dean of the ETSU College of Public Health shows that there is great potential to impact the major health factors of social determinants and behavior. Education outcomes, public health, and economic opportunities influence each other deeply, and this means actors in each area need to work together. As Dr. Wyckoff points out, local food systems offer a strategic entry point to address all of these factors simultaneously.


We are pleased to announce the 2016 cohort of CAN Small Grant recipients! These projects are at the cutting edge of the sectors of local food distribution, food & health, and energy efficiency. Through their commitment to peer learning and network-building, these community leaders and development practitioners are working to ensure that their individual efforts add up to accelerate Appalachia’s transition to a more diversified, just, and sustainable economy.

Learn more by visiting our Small Grants page.


RCDI group photoThrough a joint Food Systems Working Group (FSWG) partnership with the Appalachia Funders Network, CAN submitted a successful proposal for a USDA Rural Community Development Initiative grant. This grant brings $250,000 in new resources to match existing investments in our region’s food systems. The grant will support 9 different organizations working within four targeted sub-regions in Central Appalachia, and will also convene and connect food system actors from across the region to share strategies, tools, and best practices. Pictured here, FSWG members join USDA Undersecretary Lisa Mensah following her announcement of the national RCDI awards.


We are pleased to announce the 2015 cohort of CAN Small Grants Program participants. While Rooted in AppalachiaCAN is expanding to work in additional sectors beyond food, most of this year’s grantee projects continue to focus on leverage points in the region’s local food system. Learn more by visiting our Small Grants page. The recipients and projects are summarized below:

CAN's Small Grants program is in its 6th year, having funded over 30 different organizations pursuing a variety of local food system and sustainable economic development projects. We've pulled together a summary of all of the grantee projects to date, and it truly is an impressive body Grantee mapof work being purused by some fantastic organizations and leaders. Click here to download asummary infographic, or click here to download the Summary Report, which includes all grantees from 2010 to 2014. Learn more by visiting our Small Grants page.



Older News


In December 2014, CAN partnered with the WV Alliance for Economic Inclusion to host a Small Business Trainers Workshop in Charleston, WV. Building on a series of learning calls between entrepreneurship support actors, this 1-day strategy session brought together banks, Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs), non-profit organizations, business incubators, community groups, investors, USDA, US Small Business Administration, development districts, and Community Development Finance Institutions from across the region. The major takeaway from the event was the need and opportunity for more cross-sector collaboration and better coordination of the small business support services and resources available across Central Appalachia. You can read more about the insights, challenges, and promising opportunities for collaboration across the region's entrepreneurial ecosystem in this 3-page briefing paper: "Cross-Sector Collaboration in the Small Business Support Ecosystem." Please download and share


Rooted in AppalachiaWe are pleased to release "Improving Systems of Distribution and Logistics for Regional Food Hubs," a research report prepared for CAN by the Massacheusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Food hubs are increasingly popular as a means of bridging the gap between small and medium-sized farms and mainstream markets. Hubs located in rural areas, however, face numerous challenges when it comes to logistics and distribution. This report summarizes existing research on food hubs, profiles several national case studies, and provides a set of findings and recommendations related to food hub development in Appalachia. You can download the report here.


CAN was featured in an article in the Fall 2014 issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Reivew (SSIR), one of the leading publications for social change work. The article focuses on CAN as a collective impact network, and the importance of CAN's long-term funding partnership with the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation. You can read the article here!


Through CAN’s work with rural entrepreneurs and value chains, we’ve recognized the importance of market access for strengthening rural-based economic sectors. Following the 2013 CAN Tank gathering described below, we distilled the experience and analysis of over 50 of Appalachia’sleading development practitioners down to a set of concrete strategies. Click here for the 3-page briefing paper on strategies for Expanding Market Access for Rural Enterprises. We hope it can inform your work to build sustainable rural economies in Appalachia!


CAN TankIn August of 2013, CAN hosted a "CAN Tank" event in Roanoke, WV, which brought together regional economic development leaders to address the challenge of expanding market access for rural-based enterprises and economic sectors. Click here to download a research report on the rural-urban continuum and economic connections in Appalachia, prepared by Brian Dabson of the University of Missouri's Institute of Public Policy. See our Resources and Publications page for more information.


CAN members and partners were part of a gathering hosted by the Red Mantra Group in August 2013, which brought local food system developers and supporters together with a diverse group of corporate buyer representative. Executives from Whole Foods, Wal-Mart, Kroger, Nestle, CH Red MantraRobinson, Harris Teeter, and others sat down to discuss the obstacles to a thriving regional food economy, particularly the challenges of financing, logistics, and farmer readiness. The proceedings report summarizes those discussions and provides some key findings and recommendations. You can dowload the report here.


Branding study image

CAN is pleased to announce that the report "Branding Study for Appalachian Food Economies" is now available! This report was compiled in conjunction with the MIT Keeping Wealth Local Clinic. It provides an overview of place-based food brands within and outside of the region, and offers exciting insight into the possibilities for place-based branding efforts in Central Appalachia. You can download the report here.

Click here to download CAN's eight page Executive Summary.


Since 1992, our network of nonprofits has worked in over 150 counties in the Central Appalachian states of Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. We have a bold vision of a more just and sustainable Appalachia. Learn more about the network here, and about our work here.