ACCESS WV (Appalachian Coalition for Cultural Preservation, Ecotourism, Sustainable Food Systems of Southern West Virginia) is an Appalachian Coalition with a mission of increasing access to activities and resources that impart cultural preservation, promote ecotourism, recreation, and sustainable food systems in southern West Virginia counties. 

This Appalachian Coalition is based on the foundation of partnerships with other non-profit, for profit, NGO and government entities, business men & women, and most importantly the mountain people who call the Appalachia’s of Southern West Virginia, home. 

ACCESS has established a niche in Wayne County for organizing and promoting outdoor recreation at our two Army Corps of Engineer Lakes – Beech Fork State Park and Rec Area & East Lynn Lake & Dam – and at our one State Forest, Cabwaylingo, along with a winter-time agri-tourism event at a local area farm. At each location, ACCESS organizes a variety of 10K, 5K, and guided family hikes, each one held in each season of the year. ACCESS has built a reputation of pairing these adventure outings with a locally sourced meal at the finish line as a means to promote our local food economy and finisher prizes that are locally made or support local businesses in lieu of t-shirts and medals. 


Our interest in bringing Grow Appalachia to Wayne County is to further pursue our mission of promoting sustainable food systems and preservation of culture in Southern West Virginia. 

– Note: if you’re not one for statistics, skip on down to the items in bold – 

Wayne County, like many counties in southern WV, eastern KY, western VA and northern TN, was once a thriving extraction economy. A decade ago, when coal was king in southern Appalachia, Wayne County was the home of 42,000 people, and jobs were a plenty. Folks shopped at locally owned grocery stores, and some carried on the tradition of maintaining a back yard garden. 

Today, of the County’s approximately 38,000 residents, 21.5% live below the poverty line, well above the national average of 15.2%. The county has a median household income of only $38,311 compared to $59,039 nationally. 20.6% of students do not complete high school. Only 22.8% of residents hold an associate’s degree or higher, compared to 46% nationally. Wayne County has only 47.7% of residents ages 16 and over participating in the workforce, well below the national average of 62.7%. 

According to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (WVDHHR), Wayne County has 30.1% of residents with poor health, compared to the WV average of 25% – the worst in the United States. It has the state’s 5th highest prevalence of cardiovascular disease. Wayne County has the 2nd highest prevalence of cancer in West Virginia (WVDHHR), a state that ranks third in cancer-related deaths in the United States (CDC). Birth defects and birth complications are also higher than normal in Wayne County. Wayne County has an infant mortality rate of 6.4 per 1000 births compared to the US average of 5.9 (CDC). West Virginia is among the worst in the nation for the prevalence of poor physical health, poor mental health, prevalence of heart attack (7.5%) and coronary heart disease (8.0%), prevalence of obesity (37.7%) and diabetes (15.0%). Wayne County specifically, is worse than the state’s average in every major health risk category making it statistically one of the least healthy counties in the nation’s most unhealthy state. 

The point here is that the folks who remain in Wayne County, WV choose to be here despite the lack of cultural emphasis on health promoting activities and self-care, and the lack of jobs and career opportunities they may encounter elsewhere. 

As a Grow Appalachia partner site, we’re fortunate to have the support, the wisdom and the experience of the Grow Appalachia network that will strengthen our efforts to promote a cultural shift that places emphasis on our mission of promoting outdoor recreation, preservation of culture and sustainable food systems. 

As a Grow Appalachia partner site, along with the partnerships we already have and continue to make across our county and region, we can help rebuild a sustainable food system in Wayne County, that puts high quality, nutrient dense foods on the table. It is our belief that convenient stores, big box stores, and food banks needn’t be the only solution to food security. 

We believe that teaching a man to fish is far more superior a way to eradicate hunger, generate revenue in a declining economy, and improve the health of community members no matter the socioeconomic status. 

The partnerships that have made our partner site a possibility include WVU-Extension Service, Wayne United Methodist Church, Wayne County Economic Development Authority, Marie’s House – Women’s Home for Substance Abuse Rehabilitation, WV Department of Agriculture, Wayne County Farmer’s Cooperative, Wayne High School Horticulture Classes, Guyan Conservation District, Valley Health Care Centers, Small Business Administration, area businesses, churches, and community members. We foresee an opportunity to reach hundreds of people through this program, both directly and indirectly through hands on education and training, and by the downstream impacts of foods donated and purchased from program recipients across the community. Each of the previously mentioned organizations will have a role in either referring families into the program, organizing a community garden, assistance with marketing and entrepreneurship training, or playing a role in the instructional component of the Grow Appalachia Curriculum. 


In order to achieve program sustainability, program participants will be encouraged (but not required) to turn their garden surpluses into a revenue stream for their family. The same goes for the community garden site and farmer’s market at the Wayne Methodist Church. Surplus items grown in this garden, will be sold at the Friday Farmer’s Market as either fresh produce or value added following the methods discussed in the food preservation class taught in partnership with local WVU-Extension. A portion of the proceeds generated will also go back to support the sustainability of the program. 


Through the partnerships mentioned above, we plan to offer six classes throughout the growing season that run the gamut of organic garden planning, growing & maintenance to food preservation, heart-healthy cooking, and even how to turn your hobby into a business!  We intend to highlight the fact that a garden with fewer inputs and cooking with fewer ingredients is healthier for the soil, and for the individuals who will consume the end products. 


In the south west coalfields of WV, many people farm and garden. The folks who settled these lands were pioneers and their heritage has been passed down for generations. What many people aren’t accustomed to doing is marketing and selling their products. This is where our partnership with the local EDA, Small Business Administration, and the WVDA Division of Business Development will play a critical role of teaching entrepreneurship and marketing so that our program sites have the tools they need to be successful in selling their surplus – should they decide to do so. 

In addition, already established retail markets like the Ceredo- Kenova Farmer’s Market and the Wild Ramp Consignment Market in Huntington, WV, where SNAP and Senior Farmer’s Market Vouchers will be accepted, make the challenge of reaching a broad customer base, less difficult.  Other marketing opportunities like the Barboursville Farmer’s Market, the Central City Farmer’s Market, the Wayne County Farmer’s Coop in Dunlow and partnerships with Turnrow Appalachian Farm Collective will allow participants the opportunity to reach even wider markets that exist outside of Wayne County. 


Our First meeting was held Feb 28th at the Wayne Methodist Church where families received a program overview and education about preparing their garden beds for this years harvest. Gardeners received a copy of the WVU Extension Garden Calendar along with organic peas, lettuce and onion sets to plant out this spring. 


Keep up with what’s happening with ACCESS WV, a parter of Grow Appalachia and our project – Grow Wayne –  by following our Facebook Page – Grow Wayne!