BRC 24: Brian K. Patton: Sustainable Development in Appalachia

Brian K. Patton is the publisher of brianpatton.org, a blog about Virginia politics, environmental issues, and even a little NASCAR.

The recurring argument people use to oppose environmental regulation and sustainable practices is that they impede economic growth. However, Appalachian Sustainable Development (ASD) is one group doing its best to diminish that myth and help diversify the Appalachian Region to include sustainable development. Appalachia’s economy has always been and largely still is dependent on the extraction of its natural resources.

ASD is a not-for-profit organization working in 10 counties of the Appalachian section of Virginia and Tennessee, a region which suffers from double digit unemployment, out migration of young people and chronic environmental problems. Formed in 1995 following a year long community strategic planning process, ASD focuses on developing healthy, diverse and ecologically sound economic opportunities through education and training, and the development of cooperative networks and marketing systems.

One example of this effort is how ASD has been successful assisting traditional farmers become registered organic farmers and market their locally grown produce in area grocery stores.

Appalachian Sustainable Development organizes workshops for farmers and gardeners, offers free technical advice for local growers, seeks to educate the general public about the benefits of organic farming and helps to make locally grown, organic foods available to area consumers.

Obviously, an increase in organic farming is not going transform Appalachia’s economy that is dependent on its coal and extraction of other natural resources. But, we have to start somewhere.

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