Heavy equipment and a garden party

Open garden, open doors: A June 12 garden party and tour will raise money for OpenDoors of Asheville, a program that helps local poor children get access to tutoring and extracurricular activities. photo courtesy of Joe Kiely

Joe and and Kellie Kiely say that opening their home and garden to the public is the least they can do to support OpenDoors of Asheville, a program that helps underprivileged children get access to tutoring and extracurricular activities such as music, dance and sports. “We have never opened up our gardens to the public,” says Joe, who owns more than 8 acres of landscaped mountainside property in north Asheville. “However, given the excellent track record of OpenDoors … to meet the needs of children at risk, we felt it was appropriate.”

OpenDoors provides transportation to tutoring and extracurricular activities, supplies sports equipment, hosts field trips, offers emergency funds and more, its website explains. Its volunteers welcome at-risk kids into their homes and families, helping nurture them in a variety of ways “so they can graduate high school and flourish. We invest in kids so they invest in themselves.”

The program assists kids who are at risk of dropping out of school or who may be exposed to violence at home or in their neighborhoods. Says Joe, “If it takes a garden party to open up people’s eyes to the needs of those less fortunate, it’s the least we could do.”

The Sunday, June 12, event features a tour of the Kielys’ garden ($20) and a performance by the Firecracker Jazz Band ($35 for the garden tour and the band). The garden tour is 3 to 6 p.m.; the band performs soon after. As a bonus, two neighbors will open their gardens as well.
For more information about OpenDoors, visit opendoorsasheville.org.

Program shares equipment costs with agriculture entrepreneurs

Trying to run an agriculture-based business but need some heavy-duty equipment? The North Carolina Value-Added Cost Share program may be able to help.

Last year, Sarah Yancey got help buying a burr mill — a grinder that helps her and partner Chad Oliphant make tempeh at Blue Ridge Food Ventures’ facility in Enka. Meanwhile, Joel Mowrey got a new auger filler for his Smokin’ J’s Fiery Foods business. Based in Candler, Mowrey dried and ground nearly 5,100 pounds of fresh peppers with his smaller, home-owned equipment in 2010; this year, he’ll be able to double that amount.

“There are very few places where farmers can find financial assistance to purchase the specialized equipment they need to add or enhance a value-added enterprise,” says Blake Brown, Hugh C. Kiger Professor in the department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, and member of the N.C. MarketReady team that administers the cost-share program.

A value-added agricultural product is a raw, agricultural commodity that has been changed in some way so that it cannot be returned to its original state — jam made from the raspberries a farmer grows, for example, or stone-ground cornmeal.

“The NCVACS guidelines broaden the definition of value-added beyond the traditional scope,” said Brittany Whitmire, program coordinator for NCVACS. “It also includes nonstandard production methods (such as organic), physical product segregation (keeping genetically modified corn separate from non-GM corn), generating farm-based renewable energy and some locally produced food products.” Examples of projects previously funded include a refrigerated van to transport fresh meat, packaging equipment for sweet potato crackers and a chocolate-coating machine for North Carolina pecans.

The NCVACS program works hand-in-hand with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Value-Added Producer grant by reducing the costs of equipment purchases that are not funded by a federal grant. The 2011 cost share cycle allows value-added producers and processors to apply for equipment cost-share funding. Applicants can seek to purchase new or used equipment with awards that vary from 25 to 50 percent of the total cost, up to $50,000.

Due by August 31, applications for NCVACS 2011 Equipment Cost Share are now available online at http://avl.mx/3i. Guidelines and a list of frequently asked questions can be found on the website. Award recipients will be notified by Oct. 1.

NCVACS is coordinated by N.C. MarketReady, the Cooperative Extension outreach of the N.C. State University Plants for Human Health Institute, located at the N.C. Research Campus. Funded by the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, the cost share program was launched in 2009 and has provided over $696,000 in direct cost share assistance to value-added producers and processors throughout North Carolina. Learn more at plantsforhumanhealth.ncsu.edu.

— Send your farm-and-garden news to mvwilliams@mountainx.com or call 251-1333, ext. 152.

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