By Dave Russell
WNC Farm to Table, a new nonprofit seeking to help farmers find customers and customers find farmers, is one step closer to opening its doors. The organization actually has doors now, Director Lisa McBride said.
Participating farmers will soon be able to log onto wncfarmtotable.org and list what they have ready to go to market. Consumers, both household and restaurants, would then take a look at what is available and place an order.
Producers would deliver to WNC Farm to Table at 513 Mill St. in Sylva, the former home of the Paper Mill Lounge. Consumers would be notified and bring home fresh, locally grown produce, meats, cheeses, etc.
WNC Farm to Table acts as the “middle man” between the two, but in this case the middle man makes little to no profit. The mission is “to provide local food to both consumers and to wholesale and increase the market for farmers and producers,” McBride said.
“Instead of just going to farmers markets or having to network with every restaurant, it simplifies the ordering system for consumers and the farmers,” she said. “The idea is to not have high markups so that you can make the food more affordable and keep the money in the producer’s pockets.”
McBride is working through the process of qualifying to accept EBT payments and hopes to open soon.
“I’m hoping to be open at the end of February or early March when growing season basically starts,” she said. “I just have to do inspections from the N.C. Department of Agriculture and possibly the health department. I’ll find out from them what I need to do to get the refrigeration in. I’ll go ahead and start using it as an office in January, I just won’t have the refrigeration up and running.”
McBride sees getting the keys to a building as a big step because it moves WNC Farm to Table from an idea to something folks can touch.
“It’s actually becoming real. It’s not just the intangible idea of me delivering food in my car,” she said. “This is actually a tangible point that in the upcoming months I can open it to the public.”
McBride will eventually hire a part-time assistant, and hopes to assemble a team of volunteers. The board of directors is set to meet in January, she said.
Delivery to consumers is on the horizon, she said.
Soaps, crafts and other non-food items often present at farmers market might soon be available.
Alcohol is off the table, but hemp products might be included in the future.