Our Impact - Local Foods

Through our member organizations, CAN collectively provides training, technical assistance, and other support to over 1,000 family farmers and food producers annually.

From 2009 to 2015, value chain sales income to producers we track increased from $3.5 million annually to over $12.7 million annually.

These producers farm over 7,000 acres of land. Many are certified organic, while over half are cultivated using chemical free or sustainable practices.

Value chain producers are also a significant source of employment in the region. In 2015, value chain producers provided full-time jobs for over 476 year-round positions and over 241 seasonal positions.

CAN works with approximately 90 wholesale buyers each year, including restaurants, school systems, and grocery stores. CAN members and partners help these buyers locate, purchase, and market locally-grown products. In 2015, they purchased over $6.7 million from local farmers and food producers.

CAN connects thousands of producers, food processors, buyers, entrepreneurs, and intermediary organizations to encourage learning and sharing across the region.

CAN encourages investment in the region. In 2015, we worked with dozens of investors and funders, including the Appalachia Funders Network, national and community-based foundations, government agencies, and local banks and businesses, to help them support food systems and build the local economies of the region. Value chain investment in 2015 totaled around $3.2 million, over 70% of which was from sources within the value chain.

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Creating Multiple Forms of Wealth

CAN believes that wealth is about more than just money; in all of our work, we aim to build systems that create and protect all of the assets that lead to healthy, wealthy communities, including skills and knowledge, trust and relationships, political influence, infrastructure, natural resources, and savings and financial investment.

CAN is part of the WealthWorks collaborative, which emerged out of the Ford Foundation's Wealth Creation in Rural Communities Initiative. We work to develop strategies for creating and protecting these community assets.

CAN also serves as one of the Regional Hubs for WealthWorks nationally. Visit our Regional Hub page for more infomration about the WealthWorks framework, CAN's areas of expertise, and opportunities for training and support.

Wealth Works

The Work of the Central Appalachian Network (CAN)

CAN member organizations approach sustainable economic development through a variety of sectors, including energy, forestry, food systems, waste and recycling, health, social enterprise, entrepreneurship, and green business development.  CAN recognizes the importance of all of these sectors, and believes that the collective impact of a network can create powerful changes by focusing on one or more sectors at a time.

CAN also works to support organizational development, capacity-building, and peer mentoring among the region’s non-profits and community groups. We do this through an annual Small Grants program, peer networking activities, and sharing of tools and resources.

CAN is currently exploring new ways of working that connect and strengthen sustainable development actors around the region to build shared analysis and strategies. To this end, CAN will support sector or issue-focused working groups and learning groups that bring in regional partners and supporters to take part in shared learning and strategizing, with the possibility of deeper work.

Our collective focus is currently on strengthening, developing, or exploring practitioner networks and/or working groups in the following sectors:

Local Food Value Chains

In recent years, CAN has focused our collective efforts on working to support the development of local food economies. Thriving local food economies can support the development of diversified and resilient economic bases, increase local control of wealth, empower local individuals and communities, increase self-sufficiency and decrease dependence on government benefits, and help to protect natural resources such as soil, water, and air quality. 


CAN works to develop and strengthen local food value chains, which we define as supply chains infused with the triple bottom line values of promoting financial, social, and environmental goals.  Local food value chains include producers, processors, aggregators, distributors, farmers markets, wholesale buyers, consumers, and a wide variety of important supporters.  In five sub-regions throughout Central Appalachia, CAN works to develop infrastructure, make connections, and build capacity to increase the profitability and sustainability of these value chains.

CAN's member organizations, and many of our partners, act as “intermediaries” in these chains.  Intermediaries:

In addition, CAN itself provides small grants, technical assistance, training, and planning and assessment support to partner organizations and local farm and food businesses.  

As a group of intermediaries, CAN has a unique viewpoint, enabling us to comprehend and coordinate local foods work at a systems level, across political and cultural boundaries, while also providing support to individuals and organizations “on the ground.”

What does a value chain look like? Download our value chain "map" here.

For more information about the sub-regions in which CAN's work is currently focused, please explore the "Our Region" tab at the top of this page.

For more information about CAN's Small Grants Program, please visit the Small Grants page here.