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Over $1 Million For Regional Food Assessment And Internships Headed To WNC

Lilly Knoepp
The CEFS grant will focus on the seven western counties of North Carolina.

 The Appalachian Regional Commission has awarded a grant to connect local students with agriculture opportunities in the region.


The Center for Environmental Farming Systemswas awarded over $1 million dollars to develop a more connected food system in Western North Carolina. The 3-year-project will bring together the three regional community colleges – Tri-County Community College, Southwestern Community College and Haywood Community College – and Western Carolina University as well as other regional partners.  The Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project will analyze the infrastructure for farmers to grow and ship their crops like refrigerated trucks, as part of regional food assessment.


Laura Lauffer will be the project manager. She says this will span from “seed-to-shelf.”


“What are some opportunities along the supply chain? So that when this project is done in 3 years there will be infrastructure and sustainable resources in place that will last past the grant. That is really the goal here,” explains Lauffer in reference to the seven counties that are part of the project.


Lauffer is still looking for organizations and local faculty to partner with to expand the program beyond the 44 paid internships.Lauffers explains that these internships will span across the agricultural industry from traditional farming jobs to marketing.


“The outdoor industry and brewing industry are two other industries that are happening in the region. We’re bringing in two faculty from NC state tourism department to figure out how we can make that linkage,” says Lauffer.

The project will kick off in August and will hire a full-time extension agent out of Cherokee.  

Lilly Knoepp is Senior Regional Reporter for Blue Ridge Public Radio. She has served as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina since 2018. She is from Franklin, NC. She returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.
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