“Buy local” food campaign chosen for national initiative

It was nearly a year-and-a-half ago that Mountain Partners in Agriculture (a community-based collaborative working to develop sustainable farming and food systems) publicly launched its “Get Fresh, Buy Appalachian” campaign, aimed at encouraging WNC consumers to buy locally grown food. The campaign, part of the organization’s Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, has worked with local restaurants, caterers, grocery stores and tailgate markets to forge links between family farms and local consumers.

Now in its second year, “Get Fresh” has been chosen (along with nine other buy-local campaigns across the country) to be part of a national Buy Local Food Initiative supported by Fires of Hope, a national nonprofit dedicated to promoting a community-based food system that is environmentally, economically and socially sustainable.

“We are excited about participating in this initiative,” says MPIA Director Gary Gumz. Fires of Hope, he explains, works “at the national level to bring together these initiatives from around the country so that we can be learning from each other … rather than trying to reinvent the wheel.”

Fires of Hope’s support will enable MPIA to expand its campaign. One focus, says Gumz, is promoting community-supported-agriculture, in which a consumer buys directly from a farmer throughout the whole growing season.

Program Manager JoAnne Berkenkamp of Fires of Hope said: “We are impressed with MPIA’s contribution to agriculture in Western North Carolina and are pleased to support their efforts to build closer relationships between local farmers and local consumers.” All the participants in the national initiative are tentatively scheduled to meet in Denver at the beginning of May.

Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture — an Amherst, Mass.-based nonprofit that’s also supported by Fires of Hope — will serve as a mentor to all the groups in the national initiative and is helping produce a guide (or what Gumz calls a “toolbox”) for other communities looking to implement buy-local campaigns.

In an independent poll of Amherst-area residents, 78 percent recalled the group’s “Be a Local Hero, Buy Locally Grown” campaign. Of those, 65 percent said the campaign had prompted them to buy locally grown food. And 70 percent of participating farmers reported increased sales after the campaign began.

MPIA has already incorporated lessons learned from CISA into its own project, Gumz explains. “They have been engaged in this type of activity for quite some time, so we picked their brain and got all their good ideas and started moving them into place as best we could with our budgetary limitations.”

The “Get Fresh, Buy Appalachian” campaign and the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project are supported by Fires of Hope, the N.C. Rural Center Civic Ventures Fund, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the North Carolina GoldenLEAF Foundation.

For more information, call 649-9452 or visit the MPIA Web site (

Personalized books for local kids

Imagine if, when you were learning to read, you’d been given a book that was all about you — a book that not only incorporated your name and the names of your two best friends and your kindergarten teacher into the story but that told you how capable and likable you were and helped you make such discoveries as, “I am the only ME here in this whole, great, big, wide world.”

More than 2,300 Asheville and Buncombe County kindergartners will actually receive such customized books (each titled I Like Me) as part of a project spearheaded by the Junior League of Asheville. The hardbound books will be delivered to the 108 local kindergarten classes April 8-12; volunteers will visit classrooms that week and read selected portions of each child’s book.

The project aims to encourage learning, achievement and self-respect in kindergartners while fostering negative attitudes toward drug use and gang activities. Project leader Sally Spiegel explains, “The purpose of the ‘I Like Me’ project is to instill a love of reading and to help children develop healthy concepts of themselves and a sense of responsibility.”

There’s also an ongoing classroom component. Each kindergarten teacher receives a teachers’ guide that suggests ways to incorporate positive attitude-building into the curriculum, including projects for parents that reinforce the classroom work. “We hope parents will support the program and will help their children read and enjoy their books,” says Spiegel.

The “I Like Me” program has been carried out with more than half-a-million children across the U.S. Studies conducted by the University of Tennessee-Martin involving 950 kindergartners from urban and rural schools in Tennessee, Kentucky and Kansas have shown increased reading comprehension and positive self-concept development among participating children. More information about the program is available at the “I Like Me” Web site (

Assorted local businesses and endowments in the region have donated $33,000 in support of the project. They include: the Asheville Citizen-Times, Blue Ridge Bone & Joint, First Citizens Bank, Ingle’s Markets and Beverly-Hanks & Associates, as well as the Peterson Endowment Fund and the Ruth Paddison Charitable Fund (both of which contributed through the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina). The Junior League has also received seed money for continuing the program and is seeking an organization willing to take it over.

For more information or to volunteer, call the Junior League of Asheville at 254-5608.

Rummage sale to support Mothers of Multiples

“It’s definitely a very different ball game to have twins vs. one child,” says Connie Shelley, the mother of 21-month-old Katie and Amie. But Shelley says she’s grateful for the help she’s received from a local nonprofit, Asheville Area Mothers of Multiples.

The group is sponsoring a mega-rummage sale on Saturday April 6, 7 a.m. to noon at the National Guard Armory (191 Brevard Road) in Asheville. Expect to find babies’, children’s and household items, maternity clothes and more. Ten percent of the proceeds will go to Mothers of Multiples; whatever doesn’t sell will be donated to the organization for sale at a future event.

Mothers of Multiples provides support to mothers from the birth of their children through all the stages of their development. The group also assists families in need, promotes awareness about multiple pregnancies/births, and functions as a social network. “It’s nice to get together and [know] everyone’s been through it, … everyone knows the challenges of raising two 2-year-olds at the same time,” Shelley notes.

The organization now serves more than 50 members — including some in Henderson and other outlying counties. Most have twins (although two moms have triplets), and many have babies or very young kids (the time when parents need the most help, Shelley explains). “A lot of people join when they first find out they’re going to have twins or triplets — for moral support, the encouragement, ideas and doctor recommendations,” she adds.

The group’s monthly meetings usually include an educational component (on such subjects as safety issues, CPR, saving money for college, or efficient ways to do laundry and housework); members also get together for potlucks, monthly or bimonthly play groups and the occasional moms-only night out. A monthly newsletter announces birthdays, spotlights club members and shares useful info. Group members often visit new moms in the hospital or when they first return home (bringing prepared meals with them to help tide the new multiple-family over).

The networking, notes Shelley, is invaluable. “Somebody in the group might have a kid with disabilities or complications during pregnancy. It’s really nice, because most of the people in the group know each other and they can say, ‘Well, so-and-so had the same problem,’ [and] we can put the two in touch with each other … just to brainstorm and share ideas and physicians’ names and where they got help from.”

Shelley has her own advice for prospective mothers of multiples: “Usually I [allow] an extra half-hour wherever I go — especially when they’re real little, everybody stops you in the mall.”

For more information, call Jenny Mottershead at 298-8743 or visit the group’s Web site (

“Sale” away with a good book

If summertime evokes visions of lying in a hammock (or sunbathing by the pool) with a good book, then take note: Pack Library is having its Spring Fiction Fling book sale the weekend of April 5-7 ( 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2-5 p.m. on Sunday). Stock up on bargain hardback biographies and novels as well as assorted paperbacks. Prices start at 50 cents, and all books remaining will be half-price on Sunday. The sale is sponsored by the Friends of the Library.

For more information, call 255-5203.

Mall exhibit showcases Chimney Rock Park history

When Dr. Lucius B. Morse first rode his horse through Hickory Nut George in 1900, he was captivated by its rugged beauty and the towering monolith known as Chimney Rock. Soon he was hatching a plan that would shape the rest of his life as well as those of his twin older brothers, Hiram and Asahel. Morse firmly believed that the gorge could be developed in a way that would preserve its natural beauty while making it more accessible to the rest of the world.

Eventually, those efforts included buying more than 1,000 acres; constructing bridges and roads for easier access; damming the Rocky Broad River to create Lake Lure; building the park’s entrance gates, the Cliff Dwellers Inn, the Pavilion, the 26-story elevator (blasted out of solid rock) and the Sky Lounge up top; and laying out five hiking trails. These developments and many others will be showcased in “Chimney Rock Park — Then and Now,” a large-scale historical exhibit on display at the Asheville Mall through Thursday, April 18. The exhibit is part of Chimney Rock’s yearlong centennial celebration.

About 150 photographs are on display, including dozens of black-and-white images from the early 1900s, modern photos by some of Asheville’s top photographers, and winning entries from last season’s Centennial Photo Contest. In addition, a collection of brochures, souvenirs and memorabilia showcases the park’s changing face through the years.

For more information or to receive a brochure about centennial events, call (800) 277-9611 or visit the park’s Web site (

Calling all actors (and techies)

The members of the Western North Carolina Theatre League are hoping that a little bit of cooperation will go a long way.

The league, a loose association of regional theater companies, is hosting a series of “unified” or general auditions next week — with room for nearly 400 people to strut their stuff for the directors of 14 theater companies, says audition coordinator Ellen Pfirrmann.

Unified auditions are a first for the league, which has struggled to define itself. For now, members are working on specific projects without getting bogged down with crafting a mission statement or electing officers.

“This association has been tried a couple of different times in the last five years, but it’s always fallen apart,” notes Pfirrmann. “So we’re trying to take it a little bit slow and accomplish something this time.”

Auditions will take place on Wednesday April 10 (5-9:30 p.m.) and Saturday April 13 (7:30 a.m.-noon and 1:30-6 p.m.) at Asheville Community Theatre (35 Walnut St.).

Auditioners (who should be at least 16 years old) are asked to present 90 seconds of material (and 16 bars of a song for musical theater) and to bring along 15 copies of a photo or head shot, plus a resume. Folks interested in technical theater can drop off a resume at the theater on audition days.

To preregister, e-mail or mail photos and resumes to Bravo Company, P.O. Box 478, Black Mountain, NC 28752.

For details, call Pfirrmann at (828) 655-1878.

A farewell song

On a sad note, singer/multi-instrumentalist David Sheek of local rock band 99 Years succumbed to a massive heart attack early on Saturday March 23, just after a show at Hannah Flanagan’s in Hendersonville.

The talented Sheek finished the band’s last set and had just shared a laugh with the audience immediately before his heart attack, said Melissa Webb (whose husband, Taylor, was one of Sheek’s bandmates).

“Music was his life,” she recalled. “This man literally died with his boots on. … If we could all pick and choose our time — if we could all be as lucky as David was, it would be a pretty remarkable thing.”

The 30-year rock veteran’s credits include sharing stages with Molly Hatchet and Fog Hat. Sheek was a North Carolina native.

For more information about Sheek, his work and an upcoming memorial service, log onto

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