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Program Post: Local Food Storytelling!

Nate Allen

Each week, our programs take you behind the scenes of their work. This week, our communications and development team does what they do best: tell stories! Specifically, they pass on the tales told by farmers and chefs at our recent Business of Farming Conference

From ASAP’s Communications and Development Team

We enjoy sharing the stories of farmers and those who work with local food as one way to engage you with ASAP’s work. Every year, ASAP’s Business of Farming Conference brings together more than 200 farmers to explore their farm business through workshops on topics ranging from QuickBooks to social media to food safety. But before the farmers break off into these intensive sessions, special speakers tell tales to kick off the day.

Laura BlackleyLaura Blackley of Jordan Blackley Farm was the first to share her story this year. Laura and her partner, Cindy, have farmed since 2008 in the Hominy Valley community of Candler. They sell berries, honey, and more at West Asheville Tailgate Market. The way Laura sees it, “Everybody’s farm has its own unique story, and what you’re really selling is a story.” To capture the story of their farm, Laura keeps a journal. At the conference, she recalled one of her first entries: becoming a farm owner.

An ad in Mountain Xpress caught Laura and Cindy’s attention. They went out to see the farm and fell in love immediately. Back then, “The bank was calling us—even courting us—to get a mortgage. Ah, the wild, reckless, free days of predatory lending!”

The two drove out to the farm to visit one more time before signing on the dotted line, and they were “praying for a sign.” While on the way there, they saw a bush engulfed in flames alongside a bank. That was the sign they needed, and they bought what would become Jordan Blackley Farm!

The next speaker was Nate Allen, chef and co-owner of Knife & Fork in Spruce Pine, NC. While Nate didn’t see a burning bush before launching his restaurant, he did start with a clear vision: sourcing nearly all ingredients and materials from “extremely local” growers and suppliers.

Nate’s mission is to get as many restaurant owners and chefs as possible to buy as much local food as possible so that we can truly take back local. He said that he will personally “hold food artisans’ feet to the fire to buy more local product.” And Nate truly does walk the talk. At BOF, he reported that in 2012, Knife & Fork spent more than $100,000 on local product. He acknowledged that isn’t such a large number if you’re a big operation, but that it’s a tremendous amount when your total sales are $500,000, like at Knife & Fork.

Thanks, Nate and Laura, for being a driving force in our local food community and for helping ASAP achieve our mission. Stay tuned for more stories from more local food folks over the next couple of months!

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