Where’d that food come from?

Perhaps you're wondering, why all of these ads? And what's with the Appalachian Grown logo?

Here's the deal: This year, the Mountain Xpress partnered with the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project in an alliance designed to support our local food scene. We've featured profiles on local farms, updates on regional farmers markets and recipes that help you learn how to cook what you find there. It fits our mission: Local matters.

This year ASAP also began helping Appalachian Grown certified businesses advertise with their new cost-share program. When an Appalachian Grown certified restaurant wants to get the word out about their business in Xpress, for example, ASAP aids them using funding provided by the Golden Leaf Foundation and the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission. This partnership means that restaurants and other food businesses have an even greater incentive to go local, which in turn helps support local farmers. "It's a great way for businesses to align themselves with a publication that's clearly committed to spreading the local food message, and is behind it as well," says Maggie Cramer, ASAP's communications coordinator.

So what exactly does Appalachian Grown mean? It's a program of ASAP's that certifies food and agricultural products grown or raised on farms in Western North Carolina and the Southern Appalachian mountains. Displayed with food and farm products, the Appalachian Grown label helps consumers, retailers, and wholesalers better distinguish and identify truly local agricultural products.

The Appalachian Grown label is a trademark of the ASAP. In order to protect the integrity of the label and the local food market, local producers, food processors, retailers and wholesalers must meet a certain set of standards.

The Appalachian Grown label ensures that the word "local" is not indiscriminately thrown around. That way, says Cramer, when you see the Appalachian Grown label on a restaurant door or food product, "You can be certain that it's local, to the extent that it is directly benefitting the farms in your area."

The numbers tell us that interest and support in local farms is alive, well — and still growing. At this time, around 174 businesses, including food producers and restaurants, are certified, in addition to 431 farms. That's more than 600 entities supporting the local food movement in our area.

Cramer says, "In a short amount of time, so many restaurants have opened up and expressed interest in doing this, even in what's a tough economic time. That speaks to the demand for local, at least in our area — it's a movement that everyone's on board with."

— For more about ASAP, visit asapconnections.org

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