- Education and Training: technical assistance
- Farm Business Management: agritourism
- Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, community development
The Stecoah Entrepreneurship and Agri-Tourism project is ongoing and was successful during the grant period as it met the goals of providing entrepreneurs with facilities and training for value-added food production and provided tourists with educational opportunties through classes and special events.
The overall effect was to help sustain the agricultural community by providing awareness of and demand for farm-fresh products whether used used for value-added products, retail sale or in a dining experience.
The purpose of this project is to improve local and regional economic opportunities while simultaneously preserving our Appalachian cultural heritage through food-based entrepreneurship and agri-tourism opportunities.
Historically, many Western North Carolinians relied on small family farms for their livelihood and more recently, as a source of supplemental income. The decline of tobacco production, loss of manufacturing jobs and lack of business support services has degraded the quality of life for our area residents. Many of these families are looking for ways to increase returns on their farm-based operations, often with the desire to develop their own businesses in production and marketing of food products. However, many farmers and/or food entrepreneurs lack the necessary skills to even begin the process.
Stecoah Valley Food Ventures addresses these needs and offers solutions for the tree major barriers to entry into a value-added agricultural businehss by providing the facilities, training and specialized services needed to produce value-added and other agricultural products. Technical support provides equipment training, assistance in complying with food and drug regulations, professional product development and package design. Marketing and business development services include sales/marketing support, business plan development and small business financing support provided by project partners.
Tourism - Food Classes and Special Events:
In addition to the need to support local entrepreneurial endeavors, there exists a need to provide opportunities for those not interested in participating in a value-added food business. Tourism is growing exponentially and offers many opportunities for local residents. Cultural heritage tourists are often looking for educational opportunities, yet such opportunities are sorely lacking in the local area. The project will address this need by providing classes and other events in a variety of food and food-related subjects and settings. All of these events will help preserve Appalachian foods and foodways while supporting the local agricultural community.
The project includes three major objectives to help improve local economic conditions.
1. To provide farmers, growers and food entrepreneurs the tools necessary to profitably engage in a food-based small business, i.e. to produce and sell value-added agricultural products or nature-based products.
2. To provide cultural/heritage and agri-tourists food and nature based educational opportunities through kitchen cooking, typical classroom and outdoor classroom experiences.
3. To provide cultural/heritage and agri-tourists other opportunities to experience food-based or agriculture related activities through special events such as the Appalachian Dinner Series, Harvest Festival, Country Fair and other special events.