Molly Nicholie came to Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project in 2005, hired for a one-year project in the Growing Minds Farm to School program.
“I was the school ‘garden lady,’ hired for a project at Hazelwood Elementary in Haywood County,” Nicholie recalls. “I was at the school every day to work with teachers to integrate local food and farm connections into their curriculum, do field trips and take kids out into the garden we grew there.”
Her temporary stint evolved into a 16-year career and counting. Over the previous eight years, Nicholie has served as the nonprofit’s program director for its Local Food Campaign. And at the start of 2022, she will assume the role of ASAP’s executive director, replacing founder Charlie Jackson. The two have served as co-directors throughout 2021, which both believe will ensure a smooth transition.
Nothing has steeled Nicholie more for the leadership role, however, than the roller coaster the organization has been on since March 2020.
“Through the pandemic, our focus was on figuring out how to support farmers to continue selling products and connect them with community members,” she says. “The resilience everyone showed was incredible and inspiring.”
Come April, ASAP plans to bring back its Asheville City Market to downtown with a likely return to North Market Street. The Saturday gatherings relocated to the A-B Tech campus at the start of COVID-19 and was rebranded as ASAP Farmers Market. The current market will continue to operate at the campus each Saturday through March.
“We have been having lots of conversations and partnership building with the city, county and downtown businesses,” Nicholie reports. “It will be wonderful to be back downtown, which is the ideal location for residents and visitors to see the connection Asheville has to our farms in the region and experience our sense of place. It is very exciting to be planning for what’s next.”
To learn more about ASAP, visit avl.mx/b0y.
In other ASAP news, Emily Jackson, founder and director of Growing Minds for nearly 20 years, is also retiring the end of 2021. Jennifer Trippe will be assuming the role of program director. Trippe is a registered dietitian and nonprofit professional with over a decade of experience building programs and partnerships that address hunger’s impact on health.
Mother Earth Food, a food delivery service working with over 300 local and regional farmers and food artisans, is the recipient of a $750,000 grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Local Food Promotion Program — the largest of four awarded in the state and one of the largest in the grant’s history.
“We are thrilled about the support this grant brings to local farmers and food artisans,” says CEO Janelle Tatum. The money, to be released over the next three years, will fund the Mother Earth Food Hub Expansion project.
According to a recent press release, the expansion project will help the company’s 301 current (and 50 additional) local and regional farmers and food artisans gain or maintain access to existing and new retail and wholesale customers.
“Through this grant, we hope to double our purchasing power to our farmers and local producers, who are the backbone of our community,” Tatum states in the press release.
For the third consecutive year, Bounty & Soul — the Black Mountain-based nonprofit that connects people in need to nutritious food, health and wellness education — is the recipient of a $30,000 Impact Grant from WNC Bridge Foundation. The grant will be used to strengthen the organization’s three main programs: Produce to the People, Farmers Alliance and Rooted in Health.
According to Ali Casparian, Bounty & Soul’s executive director, the nonprofit distributed approximately 1 million pounds of food to nearly 90,000 people with the support of over 19,000 volunteer hours in 2021. “We are deeply grateful to WNC Bridge Foundation for their investment in our programs and our community,” Casparian says.
In 2022, Bounty & Soul will be rolling out a hybrid model of distribution that will include pre-made box pickups for clients who want the convenience of drive-thru services, as well as an open-air famers market where people can safely select their produce.
Time to stop wondering where in the world 2021 went and crack open the 2022 calendar. Circle the weekends of June 23-26, Aug. 4-7 and Sept. 8-11 for the Summer of Chow Chow 2022 trifecta.
The Asheville Culinary Festival made a smashing debut in September 2019, was COVID-canceled in 2020 and pandemic-pivoted in 2021 with a series of dinners, demonstrations and workshops from June through September. The comeback followed what organizers pointed out was a difficult 18 months for the food, beverage and farming industries, and during continued stresses from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The 2021 Summer of Chow Chow supported our mission, highlighting the region’s many food and beverage businesses and makers,” says Chow Chow Executive Director Rebecca Lynch. “Through intentional programming, Chow Chow 2021 was more than a beautiful meal; it brought food for thought as each event engaged with conversations on issues including food justice and food insecurity, racial justice, climate change and resilient agriculture.”
Planning is well underway for 2022, continues Lynch. “Our schedule for 2022 will include fun, delicious, immersive, meaningful and educational events that celebrate and enrich the unique foodways of Southern Appalachia, while continuing to foster dialogue about issues that impact our community. We believe that food is universal and that there is power in gathering people together around a table for the exchange of knowledge and dialogue.”
For video of 2021 events and updated Chow Chow 2022 programming, visit avl.mx/6gm.
Asheville Mountain Kitchen is now taking registration for their Kids Cooking Camp taking place Thursday, Dec. 30, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Instructor Ofri Hirsch says featured dishes will depend on dietary preferences of the participants, who should be in the 8-14 age group. The class will take place in her kitchen at 332 E. Sondley Drive.
For more information and to enroll, visit avl.mx/b08.
On the AIR
The Asheville Independent Restaurant Association has resumed its popular AIR passport program, grounded by the pandemic in 2021. Fifty participating restaurants will offer BOGO (buy one, get one) meals through the pocket-sized passport. Priced at $65, all proceeds go to AIR’s efforts to support and promote independent restaurants in Buncombe County. Orders can be made online, or the passport can be purchased in time for stocking stuffing at the Visitor Center Asheville Shop, 36 Montford Ave.
For participating restaurants and to purchase, visit avl.mx/b09.