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New Project to Strengthen Local Food Systems in Western NC

Three cows grazing, with mountains in the background

Written by JJ Richardson

The Center for Environmental Farming Systems recently received $1.1 million from the Appalachian Regional Commission to develop sustainable infrastructure for local and regional food systems in Western North Carolina.

The center, also known as CEFS, is a partnership of NC State University, N.C. A&T State University and the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Through collaboration with several Western North Carolina partners, including N.C. Cooperative Extension, the CEFS project will emphasize technical assistance, market development, career ladders, value-added opportunities and other supply chain needs. Direct funding will be available to farms, value-added businesses and apprentices.

To accomplish the three-year project’s goals, CEFS will convene partners in seven Western North Carolina counties — Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain — plus the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

Tri-County, Southwestern and Haywood community colleges and Western Carolina University will expand value-added and farming training, as well as business development support. Students from the seven-county region will also receive supply chain and production training through an innovative apprenticeship program.

The Southwestern Commission Council of Governments provided support and guidance during proposal development and will be a key part of the local advisory team. Cooperative Extension will play a major role, providing matching funding and collaborating with project staff in training, supply-chain development and outreach.

The Cherokee Preservation Foundation is also supporting the project. The Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project will launch the effort with a regional local food assessment.

Nancy Creamer, CEFS director and professor of horticultural science at NC State University, said she is excited to begin this collaboration. “This project leverages CEFS’ supply chain and local food system development expertise and brings to bear the formidable strengths of our local partners to the challenges facing our Appalachian communities,” she said.

The award was one of three, totaling $3.36 million, that the Appalachian Regional Commission made on April 3 to continue supporting economic diversification in the region’s coal-impacted communities. The other investments focus on strengthening responses to the substance abuse crisis in Kentucky and Ohio.

Funding for the awards was made via POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization), a congressionally-funded initiative that targets federal resources to help communities and regions that have been affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations and coal-related supply chain industries due to the changing economics of America’s energy production.

About the Center for Environmental Farming Systems

CEFS develops and promotes just and equitable food and farming systems that conserve natural resources, strengthen communities, improve health outcomes and provide economic opportunities in North Carolina and beyond. Learn more at

About the Appalachian Regional Commission

ARC is an economic development agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 420 counties across the Appalachian region. ARC’s mission is to innovate, partner and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia to help the region achieve socioeconomic parity with the nation. For more information, visit