EmPOWERing Mountain Food Systems

What is Empowering Mountain Food Systems?

EmPOWERing Mountain Food Systems (EMFS) is a three-year project focused on bringing expanded opportunities & capacity to food and farm businesses across the southwestern NC region.

Programs focus on the seven counties of Western North Carolina (Jackson, Macon, Haywood, Swain, Cherokee, Clay, and Graham) and is based at the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Cooperative Extension Office in Cherokee through a partnership between the Center for Environmental Farming Systems and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Cooperative Extension.

The program, funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission, brings together producers, food businesses, schools, and regional partners to increase business opportunities that support the expansion of the food supply chain. Diverse program elements focus on leveraging regional collaboration to enhance the local food economy, including infrastructure development, marketing, business assistance, land matching, training, and other resources to support food & farm entrepreneurs.

The initiative is focusing on several priority areas over the next three years, including promoting job creation and infrastructure development, providing business development and training, and growing local food entrepreneurs. A comprehensive food system assessment, directed by Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, was completed in November 2019 and highlighted the regional need for increased training, local food promotion programs, farmer cooperatives, and other EMFS focus areas.

Workforce development and technical training are provided through the Mountain Food & Farm Apprenticeship Program, a collaborative partnership between EMFS and Haywood Community College, Southwestern Community College, Tri-County Community College, and Western Carolina University.

Find food & farm help and resources in WNC

Important message regarding EMFS operations during the COVID-19 pandemic: EMFS is closely monitoring national and state guidance regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. However, we want to assure WNC farmers and food businesses that we are still operating to provide assistance during these challenging times. While our team is following best practices for self-quarantine, restricted travel, and postponed in-person trainings and meetings, we are still working remotely and are continuing to provide services to those currently involved in our intake process as well as those who may need our services in the coming months. EMFS is still offering paid apprenticeships; scholarship funds for future professional development opportunities; assistance in securing grant and loan funds for area businesses; and providing consulting services to help food and farm businesses in the region thrive even in uncertain times. Our partners in the NC Small Business Center Network and Cooperative Extension are also still providing services remotely. We encourage you to contact us using the intake form, to sign up for our mailing list, and to follow us on Facebook for additional updates.

Accessing Emergency Resources due to Coronavirus Impacts on Your Food or Farm Business

Please find more information and updates on the CEFS COVID-19 Portal.

For farmers: If you do not have a registered Farm Tax ID, the time to get it is now. Your Farm Tax ID makes you eligible for numerous programs; if you track your losses due to COVID-19 this number is required for eligibility to access recovery funds. To learn more about getting a Farm Tax ID, contact your local FSA office.