EmPOWERing Mountain Food Systems

Find food & farm help and resources in WNC

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.