Anne Pope, federal co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission, visited Creative Food Ventures, Ashe County’s commercial kitchen located at Family Central in Jefferson this past Monday. She was accompanied by her chief of staff, Guy Paul Land, along with North Carolina Department of Commerce representatives Olivia Collier, program manager for ARC, and Helen Ruth Almond, heritage tourism officer with the Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development.
The group was given a tour of the newly opened kitchen by Carol Coulter, executive director of Family Central, who has been overseeing startup operations at Creative Food Ventures. Coulter said that Pope is touring projects funded by ARC. Creative Food Ventures received state discretionary funds from the governor in the amount of $198,628. This money was originally scheduled to pay for some equipment, Coulter said, but she got permission to use it for construction when those costs came in way over budget. It just didn’t make sense, Coulter said, to have all this great equipment sitting around if the kitchen was not finished.
Coulter noted two recent grants received for the kitchen; $64,500 from the Golden Leaf Foundation and $26,179 from the Tobacco Trust Fund.
“This is money we desperately needed for equipment,” Coulter said. It will help pay for a bottling and labeling machine for bottle and jar products, a garlic peeler and press, a buffalo chopper/dicer for the purple sweet potato products along with a machine to puree the mixture, and a dehydrator for drying herbs, vegetables, fruits and more.
All this will open up a broader range of use for the kitchen, Coulter said, and especially the bottling machine will make a big difference for some of the kitchen’s clients. Several go to Asheville to use the equipment they have there at Blue Ridge Food Ventures, but soon they will be able to get that service here at home.
“It’s just not cost effective to bottle products by hand,” Coulter said to the group touring the kitchen as she explained the promising new equipment. The puree machine will help the company using purple sweet potatoes to create the mixture they sell to restaurants for pies, cakes and other uses.
The garlic peeler and press will make a big difference for those who grow and sell garlic, Coulter said. Most restaurants won’t accept raw garlic anymore. The chefs want it peeled and pressed or chopped so this new equipment will allow garlic growers to enhance their business.
The commercial kitchen is also working with Creating New Economies Fund to provide a micro-lending program to clients so they can borrow less than $5,000 for startup or expansion needs. It is also an educational program requiring loan recipients to develop business plans in order to help them repay the loan.
“This is a wonderful collaboration of people and agencies working together to create jobs and opportunities,” said Helen Ruth Almond, describing the project as a great consortium of economic development.
Creative Food Ventures offers opportunities for catering and personal chefs, specialty food producers, herbal products for human consumption, farmers adding value to produce, baked goods, dried products, and classes to teach people how to cook or how to produce and market their products.
For more information, call 982-5127.