Recently I attended the Grand Opening of the Rose Mountain Butcher Shoppe in Lansing, NC (in Ashe County). This is the High Country’s first totally “local” Butcher Shoppe, featuring fresh meats and produce from Ashe and Watauga farmers, GMO free, humanely raised and processed fresh cuts of pork, beef, lamb, poultry, rabbit, quail, and fresh trout.
Rose Mountain also features healthy local produce such as farm fresh eggs, goat cheese, all natural breads, hydroponic lettuces, seasonal veggies, local honey, homemade vinegars, mustards, teas, jams and jellies.
This shoppe is owned and operated by Ann Rose, farmer and owner of Rose Mountain Farm. Ann is a member of Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture and one of the recipients of Seeds of Change Initiative Appalachia, which partners with the Heifer International Project.
Seeing Ann Rose brought back many memories! In 2003, during the time I served as the Watauga County Extension Director, I helped women farmers, gardeners, and agricultural supporters to organize the grassroots project called the Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture (BRWIA). BRWIA obtained its 501.c.3 nonprofit status in 2004.
Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture is dedicated to strengthening the High Country's local food system by supporting women and their families with resources, education, and skills related to sustainable food and agriculture. This is done by providing opportunities for women farmers to share knowledge. BRWIA hosts an annual Farm Tour, providing opportunities for consumers to learn about self-sufficiency and to connect everyone to our local agricultural heritage and landscape.
The vision of BRWIA was to have an equitable local food system that protects the environment, strengthens the local economy, alleviates hunger and poverty, and improves community health.
In October 2011, the BRWIA, in partnership with the Appalachian District Health Department, was awarded project management of Heifer USA’s Seeds of Change Initiative Appalachia. The Seeds of Change Initiative is a campaign to grow jobs, improve health, and end American poverty through the extraordinary potential of locally grown food. They will focus on empowering local food and farm entrepreneurs to grow living wage jobs and increase access to healthy local food for all, while fostering ecological stewardship. Technical assistance will be given by the Center for Participatory Change. This project is in a five-county region of Alleghany, Ashe, Watauga, and Wilkes in North Carolina, and Johnson County in Tennessee.
While attending the Grand Opening of the Rose Mountain Butcher Shoppe, I was asked what had inspired me to help start the Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture. I well remembered what had inspired me and I shared this story:
My grandfather Charlie Edwards died in 1939 at the age of 39. My grandmother Carrie Arrington Edwards was left with a 50-acre Appalachian mountain farm and seven children, ranging in age from three to 18. The farm was on top of the mountain three miles from the nearest town (Haysi). She was a strong Appalachian woman and she knew that she had to provide for her children. She grew lots of vegetables. She had a fruit orchard, some walnut trees, chickens, pigs, horses, sheep, bees and other farm products. She "peddled" her farm products in Haysi. She would get her farm produce, eggs, etc. loaded up on her horse and head to town on a Saturday morning where she sold everything to have an income for her family. She and the children (and some neighbors, who would often come to help) worked that farm to make a living. Yes, my grandmother was a strong Appalachian Woman.
During my years with NC Cooperative Extension (1993 to 2008) and my service on the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors (1997 to 2008, elected Chairwoman of the Board in 2007), I was very much aware of the importance of working with small businesses and small farms. In reality, Ashe and Watauga counties only have small farms and with few exceptions, small businesses. During my time with the Watauga County Cooperative Extension, my staff and I worked with the Christmas Tree Growers to expand and build their businesses. We sponsored several Sustainable Tourism Conferences as well as numerous workshops.
I remain very concerned that the current North Carolina administration is pushing to privatize the state’s economic development efforts by turning them over to a nonprofit corporation that will be funded by public and private money. Once elected to the NC House, District 93, I will work with existing economic development/entrepreneurial groups in both counties to assess the needs in our two counties. I am presently in the process of speaking with some of these leaders.
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