The Appalachian Regional Commission awarded more than $2 million dollars in grants to organizations in Western North Carolina.
The biggest check went to the Southwestern North Carolina Planning and Economic Development Commission for $1.25 million dollars. That money will expand the Western North Carolina Farmers Market in Asheville, by investing in a new facility that will teach entrepreneurs about food safety as well as develop food-centric entrepreneurial projects, often using the produce sold at the farmer’s market.
David Smith, chief deputy commissioner for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, accepted the check. He reminded the crowd that agriculture and agri business in the state is $87 billion dollar industry – something Western North Carolina contributes to.
“Some people don’t realize how long this state is from east to west. We are harvesting strawberries in Pender county before the trees leaf out in Asheville,” says Smith. “As you travel from East to West the soil types change - We’re certainly not a monoculture.”
These awards are part of $26.5 million POWER Initiative from the Appalachian Regional Commission. Founded in the 1960’s, the federal and state partnership gives money to communities in the Appalachian Mountain range from northern Mississippi to southern New York says Tim Thomas, federal co-chair of the commission.
“It’s great to be here in my role as federal co-chair of the ARC to see the energy and the great ideas in the local community,” says Tomas, who is originally from Kentucky. “ People are striving to create more opportunities for their area so what is going on here with the farmers market is so exciting and it’s just great for the ARC to be part of it.”
Additional local recipients of the most recent grants were Mountain Bizworks and Mayland Community College in Spruce Pine.