27 communities selected for federal program
The program is designed to help communities looking to capitalize on the growing demand for local foods to:
- Boost economic opportunities for local farmers and businesses, and foster entrepreneurship.
- Improve access to healthy local food, particularly among disadvantaged groups with limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Revitalize downtowns, main street districts, and traditional neighborhoods by supporting farmers markets, food hubs, community gardens, community kitchens, and other kinds of local food enterprises, and by providing people with affordable choices for accessing those amenities, such as walking, biking, or taking transit.
Federal partners are the U.S Department of Agriculture, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Delta Regional Authority (DRA), with support from the White House Rural Council.
The Local Foods, Local Places program will build on the success of previous planning efforts and initiatives that Discover Downtown Middlesboro has been working on for several years.
In 2013 DDM completed a 5-year strategic plan with support from the Appalachian Regional Commission through a Flex-E-Grant administered by the Brushy Fork Institute at Berea College. The plan laid out targeted strategic actions around areas including trail system development, job creation and entrepreneurship, and historic preservation.
Middlesboro and the Cumberland Gap region were invited to participate in the Appalachian Gateway Communities Initiative training in Abingdon, Va. Training was jointly held by The Conservation Fund, Appalachian Regional Commission, National Endowment for the Arts and National Trust for Historic Preservation. It focused on asset-based approaches to revitalization.
The University of Kentucky Department of Landscape Architecture and the National Park Service partnered with DDM in 2014 to develop an award-winning plan for a city wide trail system that connects the downtown to the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park and surrounding neighborhoods. Construction of trails called for in this plan has begun.
Most recently the Selling to the World Initiative was started to help train artisans in entrepreneurship and to sell their work online. Funding for this initiative was provided by the New York Community Trust and involves a partnership with the Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College and the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program.
“Selection as a Local Foods, Local Places winner is a validation of the hard work our organization has done and acknowledges the amazing opportunities ahead for our town and region,” said DDM executive director Isaac Kremer. “Improvements downtown are reaching a critical mass thanks to efforts to convert vacant and underutilized spaces for community use. The Levitt AMP Middlesboro Music Series, pop-up parks we’ve created, and the possibility of new restaurants opening downtown all stand to benefit from this latest win.”
Elements included in DDM’s winning application included plans to create pallet gardens, low-cost mobile food carts, and business strategies for restaurants; a co-op grocery store; and other local food enterprises to employ low-income residents.
A Steering Committee is being formed to help prepare for the upcoming workshop. Specific groups we’re seeking to participate include Agricultural Service Providers, Community Leaders and Elected Officials, Community Groups and Institutions, Funders, Local and Regional Farmers, Health Care Providers, Gardening Groups, Local Food Groups, Local Businesses, and the Media.
The assessment phase involves identifying community issues and opportunities and coordinating partners in preparation for the on-site workshop. This phase lasts about six to eight weeks and involves selecting a local steering committee to guide the project and participate in three or more preparatory calls. The convening phase includes a 1.5 day workshop where the community gathers with the consulting team and federal and state partners to develop a set of goals and an action plan. During the next steps phase, the consulting team works closely with the steering committee to begin preparing the action plan. This phase takes about six to eight weeks and involves reviewing the draft plan, noting any missing pieces, and identifying implementation resources.
A public meeting will be held March 7 at The Palace, 2008 Cumberland Ave. Those wishing to participate should contact Discover Downtown Middlesboro at (606) 248-6155 or via their website at www.downtownmiddlesboro.org.