Shagbark Seed & Mill, a certified organic seed cleaning and flour milling facility that markets grains, dry beans, flours, chips, crackers and pasta–all grown in Ohio–proposes to expand its Heirloom Popcorn line to a bagged, ready-to-eat product, and market it as an Appalachian product, since the variety has been long grown in our region. We are seeking partners to assess the market, pioneering farmers from the Appalachian region to grow heirloom varieties of popcorn, and potentially investors into various aspects of the value chain including equipment. We have a small grant from the Central Appalachian Network Mini Grant program to conduct outreach and market research and are looking for partners to help move this expansion forward.

The impetus for this expansion is to expand east and south to reach farmers and markets in Appalachia, so the impact of a popular product can be enjoyed by our region's farmers and eaters. Shagbark owners are well aware that ready-to-eat products outweigh those that must be prepared--evident in their corn tortilla chips and cracker sales, which account for 30+% of Shagbark Seed & Mill’s revenue. These sales reflect more demand for organic corn from farmers in the region, and a bagged ready-to-eat Heirloom Popcorn has the potential to create similar opportunities or farmers in the Appalachian region and increase Shagbark's fiscal strength to carry out the broader work around building soil through good farming practices, increasing market opportunities for the Appalachian region’s farmers, introducing high nutrition and delicious grain and bean products to our region’s communities, and improving food access and health.

Now that Shagbark associates have visited three commercial popcorn facilities (Ohio, Delaware, and Illinois), we have gathered data about various logistical options for various scales of production. We could start anywhere from small-scale popping of our local popcorn at farmers markets, to seeking investment to install a full commercial scale popping and bagging line in our production facility, and a spectrum of options in between. Given Shagbark's level of resource commitments in current product lines and goals, first steps will likely be toward the more modest end.

Proposed Location

Athens, Ohio


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