Although there are still a significant number of farms in the southern Appalachians, the number of those farms that are economically viable is decreasing. The pressure the region has felt in the past few decades to give up farming altogether has been intense. Large scale farms in the mid-west, Florida and California are producing the vast majority of our food in the U.S. today because of the economics of production. Small farmers have been unable to compete on a cost basis, which has led to the small farm being seen as a viable option only for those farmers who also have off-farm jobs.
A major goal for this Center is to demonstrate to the people of the region that farmers do have viable options to off-farm jobs when they diversify and utilize the whole farm, including woodlots. Products this region can produce can compete with large-scale farms on the basis of quality. The heirloom market is a flower in the bud stage, just waiting to blossom. We want to use our skills and information base (developed over many decades) to bring to the forefront the importance of quality heirloom fruits and vegetables. It is our hope that this Center will go far toward making mountain agriculture sustainable.
Another goal of the Center is to educate old and young alike in the appropriate techniques of seed saving, cultural practices, food preparation, food preservation and entreprenuership.
We assist in:
Identifying, collecting and sustaining family and community heiroom seeds and plants and coordinating the activities of growers of heirloom fruits and vegetables.
Training young people (including high school and college students) during the main growing season to collect, grow, promote and develop markets for a wide variety of heirloom fruits and vegetables.
Making Appalachian counties become more self sufficient in food production by working to develop more farmers' markets which feature high quality heirloom fruits and vegetables.
Training owners of small woodlots in the effective use of less intrusive logging practices and in the use of one-person sawmills and solar kilns so that such owners' wood products have more value added at their points of origin.
Hosting a seed exchange for all interested persons on the first Saturday of October each year