One important part of that system, a commercial kitchen, is slated to be dismantled at the behest of the county commissioners. Over one million dollars was invested by numerous foundations and funders throughout North Carolina. That space is set to be remodeled, once again, and the kitchen equipment sold or given away. Ashe County will never have the opportunity again for such a wonderful facility and what a waste of taxpayer money!
All over the country people are demanding local food for themselves, their hospitals, schools and universities. A commercial kitchen is essential in providing a place to develop value added food and processed food for sale to institutions such as ASU, hospitals, and schools. The focus of the kitchen here was to provide for microenterprise development for value added foods. The scope of use should have been broader. It should have been a regional kitchen with buy- in from surrounding counties and it should have been a part of a larger vision of a local food system.
Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture, a high country women farmers’ group, is interested in further development of the local food system and preserving the kitchen. We tried to work with the county to buy some time to develop some grant proposals to put the kitchen back in operation. The timeframes were completely unworkable as developing a grant and obtaining funding takes at least 6 months, we were given 3. Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, Representative Cullie Tarleton, Senator Steve Goss and all of the County Commissioners were contacted to help us in this endeavor. We received responses and assistance from each of these individuals other than the County Commissioners. There has been deafening silence from the Commissioners.
Hardwick, Vermont saved their town through the development of a local food system. Their website states “The Center (Center for Agricultural Economy) vision supports the desire of rural communities to rebuild their economic and ecological health through strong, secure, and revitalized agricultural systems to meet both their own food needs locally as well as to determine and build the best opportunities for value-added agricultural exports.” Ashe County has a long history of agriculture. Where is the vision for agriculture in Ashe County as a point of economic development and as a response to the increasing demand for local food? We could be a model community but it seems the county is not interested.
President Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture