past event
US Economy

Firmly Rooted: Building Enterprise and Ownership in a Regional Food Economy

For more than 30 years, the southeast region of Appalachian Ohio has been leading the way in leveraging rural assets and enterprise to build a regional food system that is core to its stronger local economy. Facing industry and employment shifts over recent decades, regional innovators looked within and found solid ground. They have creatively networked local producers, tested a wealth of ideas, and flexed every resource to build a food hub and a bounty of locally owned and growing businesses. Mainstays of the regional food economy include farmers and crafters; the Chesterhill Produce Auction, a social enterprise where hundreds of growers sell to thousands of commercial and family customers from multiple states; a USDA-certified business incubator specifically for food product entrepreneurs – and plenty more. The region’s education institutions have joined in, offering courses on food entrepreneurship and training workers who can help build a renewable energy economy, harnessing another asset they have in abundance: the sun. Along the way, they have reinforced a strong sense of place, community — and resilience, with residents and restaurants now able to source the “30-mile meal,” besting the nation’s current 100-mile meal trend by a long shot. Join us on September 27 to learn from these stalwart rural Ohio go-getters.

This America’s Rural Opportunity event is co-sponsored by Appalachian Partnership, Inc.

Featured Speakers

Leslie Schaller

Director of Programs, ACEnet

Literally for decades, Schaller has crafted and directed multiple training and technical assistance programs that assist micro-entrepreneurs develop their businesses and form and tap support networks that serve as resources to each other. Schaller secures public and private funding through grants and fees for service to support regional brand initiatives, targeted sector training, financial management support and capital access. Schaller works directly with entrepreneurs throughout the intake and assessment process, start-up and expansion stages. She is currently a partner in the Aspen Institute’s Scale Academy, the Central Appalachian Network, the Ohio Food Policy Network, the Ohio Food Hub Network and UpGrade Athens County.

Art Oestrike

Owner, Jackie O’s Public House and Brewpub

Oestrike is the owner of Jackie O’s Pub & Brewery and Bagel Street Deli in Athens, Ohio. Originally from Cleveland, Art earned a B.S. in Education, B.A. in Russian, and his M.A. in Linguistics from Ohio University. Voted best local entrepreneur and best local business owner in Athens multiple times, Oestrike is a leader in the sale and promotion of local food in the region. In addition to brewing beer, Jackie O’s owns Barrel Ridge Farm, one of the local farms that supplies produce for the brewery food menu. Jackie O’s has become one of the top 10 employers in Athens County, and half of the energy used by the brewery now comes from installed solar panels made possible by a USDA REAP grant. While their “flagship” beers are widely-available in Ohio, Oestrike looks farther: “It’s not about being the best beer in Athens or best restaurant in Athens. It’s about trying to be the best in the United States.” And he also intentionally connects to other sectors: Jackie O’s periodically issues limited-edition bottle releases only available at the brewery to spur tourism to the region.

Sean Terrell

Interim Dean of Workforce Development and Community Engagement, Hocking College

Terrell leads a team of workforce and economic development professionals focused on transforming the Appalachian economy through short-term, for-credit and non-credit, certificate-based training programs at the College. To tie in with the local food economy, Hocking College now offers a variety of relevant training programs including Culinary and Hospitality and Fermentation Science. These programs provide hands-on experience to students in College-owned and operated businesses, including Rhapsody Restaurant, the Lodge, and the Hocking College New Straitsville Distillery. The College is also implementing a winery and nanobrewery that will soon serve as laboratory sites for students in the Fermentation Science program.


David Brooks

Author and Journalist

Executive Director, Weave Aspen Institute

David Brooks is best known as an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times, a regular contributor to PBS NewsHour, Meet the Press, and other national news outlets. In a new venture, Brooks joined the Aspen Institute in March 2018 to spearhead Weave: The Social Fabric Project – a bold effort aimed at bridging the differences that divide Americans and at seeking out compelling common ground. Weave is looking all across the country to find and talk to groups and individuals that are rebuilding communities – especially those who typically go unrecognized. We are delighted that during his stop in Appalachian Ohio, he has agreed to lead the conversation among our ARO innovators, and bring their community building (as well as economy building) to light.

Event information
Thu Sep 27, 2018
12:00pm - 1:30pm EDT
Walter Hall Rotunda at Ohio University
25 South Green Drive
Athens, Ohio 45701