Watauga Food Council News

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Action Planning Session

The Watauga Food Council hosted an Action Planning Session on January 19th, 2017 at 9 AM in the Watauga Agricultural Conference Center. This workshop was facilitated by Community Food Strategies and included a locally-sourced lunch. 

see the Results Here

Reception on November 3rd

The Watauga Food Council hosted a pre-dinner Reception before the 61st Annual Farm-City Banquet. Farmers, elected officials, and local-food enthusiasts met Food Council members and learned about our plans for 2017, all while eating locally-grown food and celebrating our local food system!

Learn more here

Data Sharing Party

On October 11th, the Watauga Food Council hosted a Data Sharing Party. This was an intentional, and successful, strategy to strengthen Food Council membership and see where we've come and where we need to work to build a more secure local food system. 

LEARN MORE HERE

 

 

The purpose of the Watauga Food Council is to serve as an umbrella organization to coordinate and strengthen our local food system.

Our vision is a food system that: 

  • Is just and fair 
  • Builds a strong community
  • Supports vibrant farms
  • Nourishes healthy people
  • Supports sustainable ecosystems
  • Builds a thriving local economy
 

Formed in the spring of 2016, the Watauga Food Council emerged out of the Greening My Plate Gang and several other community efforts to better cultivate an inclusive and robust local food system. Our core group has since met monthly to network, develop mission and vision statements and Focus Areas, and to plan for future work. 

Leadership Team

Margie Mansure, North Carolina Cooperative Extension ~ Co-chair of the Watauga Food Council

Quint David, Town of Boone's Sustainability Committee ~ Co-chair of the Watauga Food Council

Sadikshya Aryal, Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture ~ Topic Leader: Promotion of Local Food System and Healthy Foods to Consumers

Maria Julian, Appalachian District Health Department ~ Topic Leader: Food Access and Security

Dave Walker, Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture ~ Topic Leader: Viable Career Choices

Click Here to Learn About Our Work So Far

 

Food Access and Security

 All individuals of the community have access to fresh, healthy, affordable and diverse local food.

Promotion of Local Food System and Healthy Foods to Consumers

The public interacts with local food and farms in meaningful ways to learn about the food system.

Viable Career Choices

All individuals have the opportunity to develop viable careers within our community’s many and diverse local farm and food businesses.

 
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Appalachian District Health Department: The Watauga Food Council is making big picture impacts, in the spring of 2016, by working collectively to identify community resources and initiate partnerships. With the goal of supporting healthy eating and food systems, The Community Health Team with the Appalachian District Health Department recently identified available funding that was distributed to purchase food dehydrators, a vacuum sealer, and food processor. Excess produce from farms and stores that would be composted or fed to pigs will be dehydrated or frozen at the FARM Café's commercial kitchen, then stored at the newly established High Country Food Hub's freezer for later distribution to low-income residents. Food dehydration classes will also be offered in the future to the public as a part of this initiative. Impacted organizations include: Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture, F.A.R.M. Cafe, Hospitality House of Boone, Hunger & Health Coalition, Watauga County Farmers' Market, Watauga County Cooperative Extension, and local food pantries. 

High Country Food Hub: The Watauga Food Council helped secure bi-partisan, town-county support for Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture's new High Country Food Hub, which is a central storage facility for locally-grown food. In February, the Watauga County Board of Commissioners approved 1,400 square feet of the Watauga County Agricultural Services Center to be transformed into freezers, refrigerators and dry food storage space. After securing a location, Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture found financial support from Heifer USA, the USDA’s Local Food Promotion Program, and Carolina Farm Credit to renovate the space and buy a commercial freezer and cooler. Freezer space quickly filled to capacity with local farmers' products. The Watauga Food Council engaged the Town of Boone's Sustainability Committee about available funding to purchase a new freezer. The Food Council also helped frame the economic benefits that the Food Hub shares with Boone's restaurants and citizens, as well as the social impact of the Food Hub, serving food pantries. On September 15th, 2016, the Town of Boone approved $16,500 for a new freezer at the Food Hub. This advocacy work goes a long way toward helping the Food Hub open new markets for our community’s farmers and serving as a collection site for vegetables grown in community gardens, before they are distributed at local food pantries.

Data Sharing Party: As a strategy to strengthen Food Council membership and see where we've come and where we need to work to build a more secure local food system, the Watauga Food Council hosted a Data Sharing Party on Tuesday, October 11th, 2016. The goals of the project were to: 

  1. Put on a project as a group. 
  2. Put on an event that would encourage new individuals/organizations to become engaged in the Watauga Food Council.
  3. Better understand our local food system. 

Organizations and community members were invited to network and learn about what others are doing around local food. The Food Council posed several questions (asked of everyone and specific to each organization) within the event's invitation.

Here are some BIG questions we have (please answer as you’re able to):

  • What impact does your agency/or you have on food access and security?
  • How do you promote our local food system and healthy foods?
  • In what ways are we making farming a more viable career choices? 

Here are some questions that might help you gather information about your work:

  • What numbers do you collect that demonstrate how many or how much you reach others with your work?
  • What outcome are you most proud of in your work?
  • [Specific questions asked.]

As RSVPs and responses came in to the core Food Council team, we populated giant Post-it Notes, leaving room for day-of answers and "What are we missing..." blocks. Twenty-six people attended the afternoon event. For many, this was either their first Food Council event or their first since the spring. An ASU Masters of Public Administration class attended. Their questions helped spur conversations about our local food system. Here are some selected answers from the Data Sharing Party

  • Blue Ridge Conservancy has 5,300 acres of conserved, working farmland protected in the High Country.
  • The Watauga Farmers' Market's attendance has peaked the 2nd-3rd week of every August for the last 3 years, dropping dramatically once school starts back. 
  • High Country Local First contributed $2,500, from its rewards cards, to 6 local school gardens in 2015-2016
  • On average, the Hospitality House serves 12,000 meals a month on a very limited budget (donated food, food grown onsite, and bought from food banks). 

Moving forward, the gathered-data will be transformed into a meaningful infographic 1-pager that can be used to better explain our local food system. 

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Meet the Food Council Reception: On November 3rd, 2016, the Watauga Food Council hosted a pre-dinner Reception before the 61st Annual Farm-City Banquet. Farmers, elected officials, and local-food enthusiasts met Food Council members and learned about our plans for 2017, all while eating locally-grown food and celebrating our local food system! Light hors d'oeuvres, featuring local food by Reids Catering were served.

The Watauga Food Council held an Action Planning Session on January 19th, 2017 at 9 AM in the Watauga Agricultural Conference Center. This workshop was facilitated by Community Food Strategies, a multi-organizational initiative that works to empower local food councils with knowledge and organizational capacity to positively impact their community’s local food and farm economy.

What Happened: We worked through a Results-based Accountability action planning process to identify achievable, short and medium-term strategies that will impact Watauga County’s local food system.  

Who Was There: Over 50 individuals interested in making sure that Watauga County’s food system is just and fair, builds a strong community, supports vibrant farms, nourishes healthy people, supports sustainable ecosystems, and builds a thriving local economy. All were welcome and invited, whether they work for a food/farm agency, shop at the farmers’ market, or believe that everyone deserves healthy food!

Was There Food: Yes! We had a wonderful locally-sourced lunch (in January!), as well as coffee and pastries in the morning.

Action Planning Results

Through the Results Based Action (RBA) planning process, each Focus Area (Food Access & Security, Promotion of Local Food System & Healthy Food to Consumers, and Viable Career Choices) group developed a number of key strategies that our community can take in the near future. They also identified a number of indicators that could help us better know what success looks like. Below, you will find the full notes from each Focus Area's action planning process. 

Over the next few weeks, each Focus Area group will meet to begin work on their identified strategies. If you would like to learn more or become involved in a specific Focus Area group, please contact: 

Food Access & Security - Maria Julian (AppHealth) at maria.julian@apphealth.com

Promotion of Local Food System & Healthy Food to Consumers - Sadikshya Aryal (Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture) at sadikshya@brwia.org

Viable Career Choices - Dave Walker (Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture) at craft@brwia.org

Resources for Individuals

Resource Handbook - Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture: (Link) A resource website that is part of a Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture project to connect farmers and gardeners in the Blue Ridge to resources and mentors that can jump start their connection to our food system. Contains information on: business planning & record keeping, markets & marketing, funding & access to capital, land access & transition, production in the high country, post-production care & food safety, equipment & supplies, finding & managing help, and the legal environment for North Carolina farmers.

Resources about Watauga County

County Profile - The Appalachian Foodshed Project: (Link) The Appalachian Foodshed Project has assembled county profiles for each county in West Virginia and theAppalachian Regional Commission (ARC) counties of western North Carolina and southwest Virginia. Each of these profiles contains data relevant to community food security, and is organized into a modified version of theWhole Measures for Community Food Systems: Healthy People, Thriving Economies, Justice and Fairness, and Vibrant Farms and Gardens. 

Healthy Food Access Portal: Research Your Community - The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: (Link) Many healthy food access initiatives and funding opportunities require data-supported descriptions of a community’s needs as part of the application process. This tool provides much of the data requested and can be used to strengthen your funding application.  Please note that the food access landscape is ever changing, and you may need to corroborate data indicators with local knowledge. 

Resources about the High Country

Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy 2012 - High Country Council of Governments: (COG_ComprehensiveEconomicDevelopmentStrategy_2012.pdf) The strategy is an economic development planning tool intended to aid local governments in decision-making. The document provides an analysis of regional and local economic conditions within Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Mitchell, Watauga, Wilkes, and Yancey Counties, NC. Specific projects have been identified that will address economic development in the High Country COG area. 

Resources about Western North Carolina & North Carolina

Healthy North Carolina 2020 - The North Carolina Institute of Medicine: A Better State of Health: (Healthy North Carolina 2020: A Better State of Health.pdf) Every 10 years since 1990, North Carolina has set decennial health objectives with the goal of making North Carolina a healthier state. One of the primary aims of this objective-setting process is to mobilize the state to achieve a common set of health objectives. The Healthy NC 2020 objectives provide a common set of health indicators that we, as a state, can work to improve, while the targets assigned to each objective enable us to monitor our progress, or lack thereof, toward achieving these common health objectives. 

Western North Carolina Vitality Index: (LinkThe Western North Carolina Vitality Index reports on the 27 counties of Western North Carolina through the perspectives of the region’s natural, social, built, and economic environments, and was designed to assist local governments, interest groups, and the public. Within the Human Index (Link) are statistics pertaining to Food Insecurity, Access to Healthy Food, and other related subjects. Within the Economic Index (Link) are statistics pertaining to Agriculture and Forestry. Other included indexes hold data about climate, landownership, geology, energy, and water.

WNC Community Food Security Assessment - The Appalachian Foodshed Project: (Link)  The purpose of the WNC CFSA is to establish the scope of the problem, identify extant barriers to and assets for improving food security, and clarify key questions for communities to consider as they make long-term strides to creating a more just and equitable food system.