Disrespecting President Sign of Bigger Problems

President Donald Trump visited our town last week for a rally. I had only seen a president in person once before, going to Denver’s old Stapleton Airport to see Ronald Reagan during his second term. (In copies of photos I sent to friends, I joked that the small speck in several pictures was indeed the president.)

Although I momentarily contemplated going to Trump’s appearance for the sake of personal historical significance, several things held me back.

The first was the mob scene generated by a presidential visit. The city started closing streets around the civic arena at noon, and the parking garage nearest to the facility shut down three hours prior to the rally.

In addition, officials advised arriving early to get a good seat, which meant showing up several hours early—an unrealistic prospect on a working day.

However, what cinched my decision to forego the rally originated with the fact I had a prior commitment that evening, and I decided honoring it came first.

(Ironically, so many streets were blocked because of the president’s motorcade I wound up being an hour late to the meeting. Fortunately, everyone else was late too.)

Crossing Lines

Prior to the rally, we prayed that no violence would erupt and no incidents occur that would put a blemish on our city during its time in the national spotlight.

That concern was heightened by a threat—deemed not credible—by a Trump supporter to take revenge on the coterie of protesters who gathered nearby to air their grievances against the president.

Free speech is a guaranteed by the First Amendment, and as a free speech advocate, I have always supported unfettered expression of ideas, opinions and open dialogue.

And yet, in the maelstrom of public criticism that has raged against President Trump since last November, I fear that our society has crossed the line of rational thought and whipped itself into an irrational frenzy.

It is the kind of frenzy that led to June’s mass shooting of Republican congressional representatives at a baseball practice in Alexandria, Va., and could result in something worse.

Indeed, had anything serious happened to Trump here, I can imagine half the country would have been raising hearty cheers and dancing in the streets.

Praying for Leaders

I am quite aware of the intense criticism aimed at our president. My purpose is not to defend him or debate his policies, temperament, or fitness for office.

It’s to point out that the refusal to accept election results and constant carping against whoever is elected president has gone on for more than 35 years and is tiresome.

The reason this is such a problem is its reflection of a growing lack of awareness of biblical guidance and wisdom. Take such verses as:

  • Romans 13:1 and 7 (MEV): “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are appointed by God.

. . . Render to all what is due them: taxes to whom taxes are due, respect to whom respect is due, fear to whom fear is due, and honor to whom honor is due.”

  • Psalm 84:9: “Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of Your anointed.” I wrote in a previous blog (http://kenwalkerwriter.com/shooting-lays-bare-need-pray-leaders/) about our need to pray for our rulers and respect those God places in office.
  • Exodus 22:28: “You shall not curse God or curse the ruler of your people.”

Disrespecting Authority

Exchange “Trump” for “Obama,” “Bush” or “Clinton” and it’s the same: vitriol, hatred and disrespect on a national scale for the person serving in the nation’s highest office.

Underlying this is a spirit of contentiousness, disregard for authority, and a lack of appreciation for God establishing government and installing leaders, whether good or bad.

This raises the question of how we can expect God’s blessing on our nation when we as a nation spend so much time carping about those He installs as our leaders, be that at city hall, the statehouse, or the White House.

Healthy Eating a Long-Term Battle

cleaneatzUntil I read about the pending opening of a Clean Eatz franchise in Huntington over the summer, I had never heard of the North Carolina-based restaurant chain.

I was impressed with their proclamation that menu items are a maximum 500 calories, and that the owners’ goal is to help people adjust to a healthy lifestyle. Having had my own struggles with weight ever since I seriously injured my back in 2013, I need all the reminders I can get.

Making a quick check of the web site, I learned the Huntington location is the eighth in three states, with 16 more planned in six states. Sounds like an idea whose time has come.

Obesity struggles

The news on the obesity front can easily discourage anyone who hopes to see our nation embrace healthier living.

Huntington got tagged in 2008 as the nation’s fattest city in a Centers for Disease Control, which resulted in famed British chef Jamie Oliver filming his award-winning ABC mini-series here.

Initially, rates dropped, school menus changed, and Oliver’s storefront filming studio became Huntington’s Kitchen, a local resource that teaches healthy cooking classes and serves as an advocate for healthy living.

Yet, long-term trends are evidence of a continuing problem. When I checked recently, the “State of Obesity” web site reported West Virginia’s rate tops 35 percent, compared to 23.9 percent in 2000 and 13.7 percent in 1990.

The only state that ranked above ours: Louisiana at 36.2 percent. Colorado has the lowest at 20.2 percent—although with one in every five people tipping the scales at a body mass index of 30 or higher, Colorado has nothing to brag about.

Receptive to Healthy Eating

Receptive to Healthy EatingDespite the setbacks, I see Clean Eatz coming to our town as a sign of a receptiveness to healthier eating that didn’t exist prior to Jamie Oliver’s visit. This area has become home to so many 5-Ks, 10-Ks and even marathons that some people have tagged us “Runnington.” Traffic detours or race-related delays are so common I try to remember the need to detour around various areas on certain weekends.

There are subtle signs of changes on a national scale as well, starting with the long-term decline in soda consumption. Earlier this year, Fortune reported that sales had fallen to a 30-year low in the midst of declining for the 11th consecutive year.

It reminded me of long ago, when a friend who worked for the Jefferson County Health Department in Louisville, Kentucky, mentioned there were 10 teaspoons of sugar in a 12-ounce can of soda.

After checking the calorie count for that size serving, I realized that it had as many calories as beer, meaning a soda gut could be every bit as bad as a beer gut. After eliminating my nightly habit of alternating cream soda and cola, I shed 12 pounds in six weeks.

Subtle Impact

Interestingly, the same week I read about Clean Eatz coming to town, I saw a story about McDonald’s announcement that it was eliminating some unpalatable ingredients from its most popular menu items.

That included making its famed Chicken McNuggets and other items without artificial preservatives and removing high fructose corn syrup from its hamburger buns. The changes come as Mickey D’s tries to reverse declining customer traffic the past three years.

When an international chain like McDonald’s is removing leading offenders in the fat-sodium-sugar triumvirate line-up that worsens our obesity battles, it means the grassroots efforts that largely go unnoticed are making an impact. Which is why I can now can enjoy a meal at Clean Eatz.

A Masterful Vision Comes to Life

Artisans Express Silver TrainLast year I wrote a blog about the impressive public art project in Huntington, West Virginia known as the Artisans Express. 

A fund raiser for the Hoops Family Children’s Hospital, it was sponsored by the Cabell Huntington Hospital Foundation.

The organization invited artists to submit their interpretations for train engine models (trains being a key element of a city founded by railroad magnate Collis P. Huntington).

After a winnowing process, a foundation committee selected 42 designs. Molds shipped from Nebraska—which arrived amid a foot of snow—were delivered to the artists, who created their masterpieces.

After a special unveiling at the Facing Hunger Foodbank in early May, they were placed throughout the downtown area and at Marshall University.

The creations were stunning in their originality and wide-varying array of designs. The display officially ended last October, with models then going to the sponsors who had purchased them. However, a number of the owners left them in place.

Coffee Table Book

Artisans Express Coffee Table BookThis colorful collection now lives on in another way, through a 132-page, full-color coffee table book recently released by the hospital foundation. Reasonably priced at $30, the volume is available at Empire Books downtown, or can be ordered online.

Seeing the models in person was a fascinating experience. The first night they were placed downtown, the area hummed with activity despite it being a normally laid-back Sunday night. People touched the trains, climbed on them, photographed them, and “oohed” and “ah-ed” over them.

And yet, sitting back to appreciate them in print adds a new dimension to the exhibit. For one thing, this book collects all the engines in one place. Even though I attended the unveiling, inspected them on the street, and did some editing of the book, it wasn’t until I had my copy in hand that I gained a full appreciation for this project’s dazzling nature.

At the unveiling, there were simply too many trains to “see” all of them. Nor could we get around to look at each one. That’s why the multiple angles of the trains and accompanying artists’ photos give readers a unique look at this display.

This is more than a picture book, too. It contains historical information about the city and how the project got formed, and offers behind-the-scenes details about the artists and the concepts that went into their creations.

Widespread Appeal

Artisans ExpressAs I noted last year, public displays of sculpture have appeared everywhere from Chicago (pigs) to Lexington, Kentucky (horses).

And, while I recognize that the primary interest in this book will originate in the surrounding Tri-State Area of southern West Virginia, eastern Kentucky and southern Ohio, it still retains universal appeal. Anyone who appreciates trains or fascinating artwork grounded in the limitless imaginations of their creators will find this book worthwhile.

The Artisans Express demonstrates that vision, artistic ability, and community spirit live well beyond the nation’s major metropolitan areas.

Public Art Inspires

Photo Credit: Ken Walker

Public displays of sculpture or art aren’t a new idea, having been done in such places as Chicago with pigs. And, horses in Lexington, Ky., and Newnan, Ga.

Yet the display of 42 fiberglass, small train engine models that recently went up in Huntington, W. Va., is every bit as impressive as the online photos I’ve seen of similar public art displays.

In fact, photos don’t do this collection of artwork justice. To be fully appreciated, the Artisans Express demands a personal inspection. Only up close can one touch, feel, read and reflect on the artist’s vision.

As with all great art, the interpretation belongs to each person. The viewer brings to the object his or her own background, memories, thoughts and ideas, and leaves uplifted, pondering not only what has been but what can be in the future.

More than a Fund-Raiser

Photo Credit: Ken WalkerOriginating as a fund-raiser for the new Hoops Family Children’s Hospital at Cabell Huntington Hospital, the project has become much more.

For one, it celebrates the city’s railroad heritage (founded by railroad magnate Collis P. Huntington.) Yet just as importantly, this project brings to light the wellspring of artistic creativity residing in the Tri-State Area where West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio converge along the Ohio River.

In the interest of full disclosure, I recently secured a job editing a coffee table book about the Artisans Express project that is targeted for an October release. Some may mistakenly perceive this as an attempt to “hype” that book.

True, I gained a much greater awareness of this project after meeting with the author who helped pull together this display. But my appreciation for the fullness of its potential occurred a day after the private unveiling of the engines.

Springing to Life

Photo Credit: Ken WalkerThe reception, complete with greetings from the mayor, a band, and delicious food, occurred May 9 at the Facing Hunger Foodbank. Volunteers were then scheduled to transport the engines and place them on pedestals. Although primarily in the downtown area, one also sits across from the student center at Marshall University.

The next evening, I suggested to my wife that we head downtown to see some of the trains in their public settings. The effect was so overwhelming it left me (a writer) nearly speechless.

For starters, I noticed how many people were walking around downtown. The numbers were far greater than my last visit.

Not only were more people out, many were obviously inspecting the models, each painted and decorated in a unique style. Families and groups of friends were slowly surrounding them as children read, parents nodded, many smiled, and some commented on their significance.

Inviting Inspection

Photo Credit: Ken WalkerThe sheer array of styles invites closer inspection. There’s the train standing on end like a monolith, with colors of the rainbow dripping down and creating the image of a fine sculpture. Another covered in gleaming silver, as if it were a mirror to the area’s spirit.

One standing in the window of Huntington’s Kitchen (which served as Jamie Oliver’s cooking studio during his award-winning 2010 mini-series) commemorates the victims of the 1970 Marshall University plane crash that claimed 75 lives.

The Jungle Express sits on a pedestal crafted of bamboo. The Orphan Train calls attention to Forever Changed International, which operates an orphanage in Guatemala. I could go on, but you get the idea.

The trains will remain on display until October before their final destination of the sponsors and others who purchase them to help raise money for the children’s hospital. Yet the exhibit will live on in countless memories for years to come.

The Food Revolution Continues

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution March marked the fifth anniversary of the premiere of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. The six-week ABC mini-series won an Emmy Award for “Best Reality Series” and catapulted Huntington, West Virginia into the national spotlight.

Not only did the lush, colorful scenes that opened each installment put an attractive face on the area, it brought permanent change. Granted, in the ongoing battle against obesity it often feels like two steps backward for every step forward, but optimistic signs exist.

A Book Begins

Until the filming of the final installment, my only connection with the series was watching it at 9 o’clock on Friday nights, along with millions nationwide.

However, near the end of the series, I read that parts of the last show would be filmed the following week at First Baptist Church of Kenova. The first episode had featured Pastor Steve Willis preaching a sermon on the damage obesity was doing to the region.

Thinking the Baptist Press news service might be interested in a story on the wrap-up of the series, I e-mailed the executive in charge, who gave me a green light.

winningKnowing that once the event kicked off, Willis would likely be besieged by other reporters, I called him the day before to ask if I could interview him beforehand.

As we talked, he mentioned his toughest challenge was keeping up with the flood of calls and e-mails prompted by his appearances on several national TV shows prior to the series’ debut.

Without thinking about what would follow, I asked, “Why don’t you write a book and tell people to read it?”

Ironic that is exactly what happened. Willis sought my help to write the manuscript and see if my agent could shop it to publishers. The resulting Winning the Food Fight has received renewed interest lately, hitting #35 last week in Amazon’s “Heathy Living” category.

Signs of Progress

Steve Willis

Steve Willis

Last year, I wrote an update on the battle against obesity for Mature Living. Huntington had just reclaimed the ignominious honor of recaptured the nation’s “most obese” title, with a rate of 39 percent.

Still, that was seven percent lower than five years before when the city first gained attention for its obesity problems. And Willis sees a great impact, tough reflected quietly.

He mentioned the ordinary mothers who now cook healthy meals. The child his wife babysits who calls broccoli her favorite food. The middle-aged folks who shifted habits to avoid adding weight year after year.

“The reality is the culture here among 20- and 30-year-olds is healthy now,” he says. “I’m not going to say the culture of those in their 40s and 50s has changed as a whole. But without question adults in their 20s and 30s are not going to allow themselves to fall in the same trap.”

Great Story

Two weeks ago the Huntington Herald-Dispatch carried a story about how health experts are optimistic even though statistics haven’t changed over the past five years.

Among the many signs of progress the story cited:

  • A dramatic increase in fresh foods and “scratch” cooking in school cafeterias (compared to the breakfast pizzas and flavored milk served in the past).
  • Nearby Barboursville’s efforts to encourage physical activity attracting attention from the National Dairy Council and its “Fuel Up to Play 60” program, coordinated with the NFL.
  • The active roster of healthy cooking classes at Huntington’s Kitchen, the storefront space downtown that served as Oliver’s cooking studio.
  • An expanding local food movement, which includes the Wild Ramp. Nearing its third anniversary, this Kickstarter-funded market moved last year and has turned into a local landmark that is helping expand awareness of natural and organic foods.

Sometimes the best stories don’t attract the biggest headlines.

Prayer Moves Mountains

Sometimes the most significant events take place in relative anonymity, outside of TV cameras, cell phone videos, or news reporters chronicling it as “something important.”

Such was the case at a recent city-wide prayer meeting at the Huntington High School auditorium. The gathering of several hundred individuals followed the Sept. 7 “One Prayer” observance sparked by Mayor Steve Williams.

While the first prompted hundreds of churches to participate, the meeting that followed three weeks later was equally (if not more) exciting.

An Emotional Evening

Drug Program GraduationThe length of the meeting itself—nearly three hours—showed that no one was eager to leave. And why would they, with the palpable spiritual atmosphere coursing through the auditorium?

I knew something was different when the first person to pray that night was the county’s superintendent of schools. Following later were the sheriff, along with representatives of District 3 Congressman Nick Joe Rahall and U.S. Senator Joe Manchin. The latter read congratulatory letters before they prayed.

While this kind of official recognition may demonstrate the pull churches still have in West Virginia, that didn’t excite me nearly as much as people who came to the podium to share what God was doing since Sept. 7.

A Dealer No More

medium_298365574Rocky Meadows, a reformed drug user and founder of a sober living home called Lifehouse, read excerpts from a drug dealer’s note that told of being so inspired by the mayor’s call for prayer he decided to quit the business.

Amazing, to say the least. It promptly reminded me of one of the snide remarks that appeared in a letter to the editor of the Huntington Herald-Dispatch. Noting a shooting spree that erupted at a downtown Huntington bar after the “One Prayer” day, the writer questioned what good the mayor’s move had accomplished.

What the letter writer failed to mention was that in the aftermath of the shooting, the bar’s owner voluntarily surrendered his liquor license. So the troubled night spot is no longer open. Sounds like God at work to me.

Likewise for the drug dealer who quit the business.

Tower of Hope

Drugs and povertyOne of the speakers at the city-wide prayer meeting was Shane Polan, part of a prominent family with interests in business and real estate. One of its holdings is a 13-story hotel two blocks from city hall that in recent years had been converted to low-cost apartments and attracted numerous drug users. Some had overdosed there.

However, after his brother kicked a three-decade-long drug addiction after making a decision to follow Christ, Shane has his own spiritual awakening last year. Ironically, he had already started the process to turning the hotel into a long-term residential facility called Hope Tower.

Working in cooperation with the city’s largest church and evangelist Eddie James, Polan recently welcomed the first group of converts from James’ Atlanta-area ministry to the building. The group of young men is helping convert one floor of apartments into a dormitory space for single men.

God at Work

The story of Hope Tower is itself something that is likely to one day attract nationwide attention. So is Mayor Williams taking a very public stand for his faith.

As the concluding speaker that evening, Williams freely quoted from the Bible and sounded like a preacher. He also told of receiving calls from around the region and beyond from government officials wanting to know how to start a similar effort in their community.

Which goes to show that God is at work in many ways today, even if you won’t hear it shouted from the rooftops.

The Never-Ending Story

I missed Marshall University’s recent 30-point thumping of my alma mater, Ohio University. Ironically, the afternoon the Bobcats were playing in Huntington, I was at a family reunion 35 miles west of OU’s campus in Athens, Ohio.

However, a week before the game, I warmed up for the current football season by attending an outdoor screening of We Are Marshall. The epic film stars Matthew McConaughey as Jack Lengyel, the first coach of the team after the tragic 1970 plane crash that wiped out all but four players.

Long-Lasting Impact

This wasn’t my first viewing. My wife and I attended a sold-out Saturday matinee nearly eight years ago on the weekend of its nationwide release.

Even in recent times I received a couple e-mails from friends in other states who had just seen the movie and asked if I was in the area then. I wasn’t, but what touched me when I first moved to Huntington was the crash’s long-lasting impact.

Six years later people were still wounded and mourning the loss. Not just of 75 lives, but the ongoing impact on countless extended family members, friends, and citizens with no direct connections to the victims.

Making an Impression

It’s always interesting to see a movie a second time and notice little things that passed by me the first.

One poignant scene I had overlooked involved a player who missed the flight because of an injury. Right before the plane departs, a player in line at a pay phone (there’s some ancient history) tells his friend to buy him a case of Falls City beer.

we-are-marshall-46641-16x9-largeThe friend hangs on to it for a year, carrying it around like a silent memorial. Then when new teammates arrive the following summer, one who has no idea of the beer’s significance grabs a can. Confused by the looks he gets, the guy tosses another can to the player who bought the case. He hesitates and then opens it, signifying it is time to move on.

I also felt a deeper appreciation for Ernie Salvatore, the legendary sports columnist whose name adorns the press box at Marshall University’s football stadium.

The film portrays him at Lengyel’s opening press conference, asking what he thinks about the Huntington residents who considered resuming football so soon insensitive to the victim’s families.

Although I’m never sure if a movie is true to historical fact, I can imagine Ernie posing that kind of question. A New York area native who settled here after marriage, he was never afraid to ask tough questions or discuss issues in print that many preferred remain buried.

While we weren’t best friends, we often talked after meeting at a Marshall game—and occasionally had lunch after I returned to the area in 2005. I can’t believe it’s been five years since he died.

Deep Connection

16821__we_are_marshall_lAnother fact that made a deep impression on my second viewing came from a note near the end: the 20 consecutive losing seasons Marshall endured before surpassing .500 in the mid-1980s. In retrospect, I marvel at the school sticking with the program that long, especially since three-fourths of that streak came after the crash.

This is where the film shines, as it portrays the fictional father who doesn’t want Marshall to resume football and then gets the school’s president fired. He represents all the naysayers and critics supporters had to wade through to reach MU’s current level of success.

This is why the story of a plane crash 44 years ago retains such power and visceral impact in this community. It’s one that continues to be written.

Uniting in Prayer

Hundreds of Huntington, West Virginia churches came together—spiritually, not physically—on Sept. 7. The “One Prayer” initiative got its spark from Mayor Steve Williams, who asked churches to unite in prayer to ask for God’s help with the city’s serious drug addiction problems.

The day after, a friend posted a Facebook link from her church of the mayor praying when he visited. Williams read a pair of scriptures before praying, “We come before you as one body, pleading for your guidance.”

He confessed pride, talked of our fears and weaknesses, and noted how a wave of addiction had seized many parts of our city—and our nation. (And much more; it’s worth clicking on the link.)

The Same Message

Mayor Steve Williams is on the front page of The Herald-Dispatch.Two days before this observance, the local newspaper noted a video of Williams asking for help had literally gone viral, with 500,000 views from around the world.

However, what fascinates me is not that word of this initiative spread worldwide. It’s how closely some of what the mayor shared Sept. 7 reflected things said at our church, which devoted the entire service to prayer.

One woman who prayed read from 2 Chronicles 7:13-15, the passage including that familiar verse: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

“If my people…will humble themselves.” Too often, I get the impression Christians’ calls for help could be stated, “God, please clean up all those dirty rotten scoundrels that are making the world such a bad place.”

Sense of Peace

Pics of the gathering of recovering addicts, bikers, clergy, and supporters at Huntington City Hall Sunday That’s why it was so encouraging to hear the mayor and many members of our church confess our problems and shortcomings.

But there was more, such as the feeling of peace and God’s presence that hung over our sanctuary throughout the service. We’re not a large church, averaging 100 or so on a Sunday. Yet I sensed a connection with hundreds of churches that day, knowing they too were praying for the same thing.

A few days later, when I asked my men’s group what had gone on at their church that day, a friend said, “It doesn’t matter who spoke or what they said, just that we prayed.”

Among the prayers at our church was intercession for several groups I had never thought about in the weeks leading up to this event. That included drug dealers, many whom learned the trade from family members; prostitutes who often sell more drugs than they do their own bodies; and prisoners in the regional jail.

Spiritual Progress

Prayer For Huntington September 7  At Central Church Of The Nazarene.This being the age of social media, there are already Facebook pages and the ubiquitous hashtag #endofaddiction. Hopefully, what happened here will inspire more prayers locally, and more cities to pick up on the mayor’s lead.

Regardless of what happens, though, I believe our city took a major spiritual step forward on Sept. 7. Huntington has long been known as a place with a church on every street corner. But until the mayor’s plea, I don’t think that many had ever come together with a common purpose in mind.

Nevertheless, it is good to see fulfillment of what Paul wrote: “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought” (1 Corinthians 1:10).

Good News in Food Fight

By Ken Walker-

Victory in the war on obesity will never be won via titanic, headline-grabbing battles, but through quiet, grassroots initiatives that slowly turn the tide. With Huntington at the center of this skirmish—which Steve Willis and I chronicled in Winning the Food Fight— I find it encouraging to see increasing indications of progress.

logo_headerThe latest trio of events started with a story about the trend toward healthy living. It has stimulated the expansion of what had been a downtown pretzel outlet into a carry-out and delivery business offering fresh salads.

Salads With a Twist offers 10 “signature salads” and a choice of 50 vegetables, toppings and dressings for create-your-own aficionados.

You can still get a pretzel (a pretzel twist comes with a salad), but the options for lighter fare are much greater.

Health Conscious

“I think people are very health conscious these days,” owner John Hutchinson told the Huntington Herald-Dispatch. “Everyone, young, old or middle-aged, wants to eat healthier meals and live longer…I think you just feel different after you get full on a salad for lunch. You feel better about yourself.”

bg_contentIndeed you do. So when I go out for lunch the local Pita Pit franchise is one of my favorites, since it offers several vegetarian options and apple slices for a side.

The Salads With a Twist shop isn’t the only example of this healthy trend.  Funded with help from a Kickstarter starter campaign 20 months ago and sustained by hundreds of hours of volunteer labor, The Wild Ramp local foods market is preparing to move to larger quarters.

Presently located in a small downtown space, come warm weather the Wild Ramp will relocate to the historic Central City Market. In its new home, it will be able to offer more workshops and enlarge opportunities for local producers.

The non-profit board that runs the market recently announced that from July of 2012 through the end of 2013 it had generated nearly $346,000 for 121 food producers in the Tri-State Area.

“It has been amazing to see the community come together to build this market from scratch,” says board president Gail Patton, who also directs a business incubator helping entrepreneurs bring their vision to reality. “It is rewarding to see the market making such an impact on the local economy.”

Granting Progress

Not only is the Wild Ramp’s success a feather in the area’s cap, the same day I read about the opening of the new salad shop, another story chronicled how a $220,000 foundation grant will increase local food production.

farmhouseChanneled through the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing (RCBI), the grant will support the goal of producing and adding value to West Virginia grown (and raised) food.

Charlotte Weber, RCBI director, says the funds will help to pull together knowledge and experience and couple it with available technology.

“We want to start new processes within the local food industry that will help it grow and create jobs,” Weber says.

That brings us back to Salads With a Twist. When a societal movement is gathering the kind of steam that allows forward-looking entrepreneurs to create jobs and expand the economy, we are seeing the kind of consciousness-raising that bodes well for the future.