Whatever it takes: The benefits of talking to local farmers

Molly Nicholie, photo courtesy of ASAP

Editor’s note: For our fall Nonprofit issue, we invited local nonprofit leaders to reflect on the successes and challenges of operating a 501(c)(3) in Western North Carolina. 

Molly Nicholie is the executive director of Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project. The nonprofit links local farmers to markets and supporters and helps build healthy communities through connections to local food.

Xpress: Describe the feeling you get when you have a meaningful interaction with an area farmer whose products you enjoy? What does it mean to understand exactly where your tomatoes come from?

Food is often a mundane part of our day to day, but being able to have a personal interaction or friendship with the farmer makes it personal. It leads to a lot more gratitude or appreciation for the food we eat and how our community is knit together.

What was the greatest challenge ASAP faced in 2023 and why? 

Like many organizations and businesses, ASAP faced challenges around staff transition and capacity, both internally and across partnerships. Onboarding new staff and building relationships takes time and thoughtfulness. From farmer support agencies to early childhood educators, everyone is dealing with challenges and reduced bandwidth. The good news is that we have a very solid and committed team so we can focus on evolving opportunities to collaborate and continue our impactful work across the region.

How would you pitch a farmers market to someone who has never been?

Many first-time market shoppers can find the experience overwhelming or intimidating, so I would offer the suggestion of walking around the market first to get a sense of what’s available and make a plan for what you want to buy. Then lead with curiosity and talk to farmers — ask questions about how they like to cook or prepare foods. If prices aren’t posted, ask. And bring a friend. You can get a treat together and catch up, in addition to trying something new and getting some of your shopping done.

What new initiatives does ASAP have planned for 2024?

I’m excited to head into 2024 with ASAP’s continued core resources and programming for farmers, buyers, educators and community, while also expanding popular initiatives like our Farm Fresh Produce Prescription and Double SNAP for Fruits and Vegetables.


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