- Education and Training: technical assistance
- Farm Business Management: agritourism
- Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, community development
Stecoah Valley Arts, Crafts & Educational Center is located in Graham County, North Carolina. Situated far in the western Appalachian Mountains, Graham County is remote, distressed and small, with fewer than 8,000 permanent residents. The steep mountainous terrain and narrow twisting roads have hindered economic, educational and cultural growth opportunities, leaving Graham County in rural isolation. However, this same untouched environment houses a wealth of natural and cultural heritage. With over 70% of its land owned by federal agencies, the county often struggles to balance the need for economic growth with the desire to protect its natural and cultural heritage. This project addresses both the need for economic growth while simultaneously preserving our natural and cultural heritage.
Stecoah Valley Center is housed in a restored old rock school building that served as the center of the community from 1926 until the school was closed in consolidation in 1994. The Center offers the perfect setting for an authentic cultural heritage tourism experience. Recognized as Graham County's leader in cultural arts, the Center already offers tourists the opportunity to experience Appalachian food, music, arts, culture through its many activities including the Stecoah Kitchen, Artisans Gallery, summer concert/dinner series, annual festivals, classes and more. It has actively supported the agricultural community for the past four years with its shared use commercial kitchen facility, dining room, classes and gardens. This project will take advantage of the opportunity to utilize the Center's facilities and to build on the strength of the Center's existing position in the local community and region.
The Stecoah Kitchen Entrepreneurship & Agri-tourism project will help improve local and regional economic conditions through a variety of food-related services, activities and events. First, the existing shared-use commercial kitchen facility project (commonly known as Stecoah Valley Food Ventures) will continue to provide the tools necessary for farmers and food entrepreneurs to profitably produce value-added agricultural products. This part of the project offers the opportunity for individual entrepreneurial success while sustaining the agricultural community and heritage of the area.
Second, food classes, including a Heritage Food Series that focuses on traditional Appalachian foods and foodways will be offered as part of this project. The series will include a broad range of cooking classes taught in our commercial kitchen and other venues, as well as other food-related classes taught in both indoor and outdoor classroom settings.
The third part of the project includes special events such as the Appalachian Dinner Series, Cherokee Days at Stecoah, Country Fair and other special events that will focus on our mountain traditions and will kindle a renewed interest in local foods and foodways. Both the classes and events will be planned to help attract and keep cultural/heritage and agri-tourists in the local area. The results of the project will be an increase in local entrepreneurship, new growth in tourism as a sustainable revenue source and continued support for the agricultural community.