Agricultural economic development will put us to work

Published 11:06 pm Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Clang the County Bells!  We have an ag econ development director for Polk County. And geez, do I like this person. I like her local food philosophy, her experience, her eloquent authenticity.

Dawn Calton Jordan, we are at your service in the local sustainable food scene.  Please put us to work.

I know TDB ran a county generated press release announcing Dawn Jordan’s interim hire Monday. I would like this opportunity to offer our county a more personable introduction to the farmer and a friend whom I’ve worked closely with over the past five years.

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Dawn’s involvement with sustainable ag-related business is how we first met:  at a Chamber After-Hours where she was launching her heritage poultry and organic produce-based farm, Restoration Farm, after having completed her first round of business planning services with Mountain BizWorks.

Mountain BizWorks were the co-sponsors of that particular After Hours and had asked the Polk ag community would they be interested in further business training for farmers.  The answer was “Yes!” and a dozen or so local folks with small businesses helped form CABA: a community alliance for ag-related businesses in Polk County.

From that moment, Dawn and I ran into one another on a weekly basis here and there and would laugh, noting our destiny to work together with what grew into hundreds of others through our beloved Agricultural Development Center.

It’s clear by now the thousands of people, groups, and organizations that dove in and participated together in bringing the ag center to what it is today:  Dawn was right alongside in nearly every step of that process: in the county’s first PolkFresh Farm Tour and ag center Farm to Fork Supper, expanding farmers markets, business training classes, and special events.

Dawn also agreed to sit on the advisory committee for the start-up of the Mill Spring Farm Store and was one of its very first vendors and volunteers. She works to strengthen WNC local food system with Mountain BizWorks, ASAP, Advantage West, Cooperative Extension and Polk Soil and Water Conservation, among others.  She attends Slow Food gatherings and fundraisers, and runs a retreat center with sustainable living education workshops and mission-based projects along the river-side property of her farm in Green Creek.

I gave Jo Ann Miksa-Blackwell, director, FARE of the Carolinas at Mountain BizWorks a phone call for this column and her shout out to Dawn and us all is that business training, coaching and lending for farmers is a model that MBW delivers all throughout WNC based primarily on the work that began in Polk County and she looks forward to furthering that partnership with Soil and Water and the Mill Spring Ag Center.

Lee Mink of LEAP Farm who was instrumental in keeping the spirits of many of alive during this rocky but forward moving transition in ag econ development directors shared with me, “A few days after Lynn Sprague’s resignation, I went and talked to Dawn Jordan and said, “Why don’t you be the next ag-econ director.

You will be accepted more broadly across this county than anyone else I know here right now, due to your generational history in farming and your vast community involvement from Day 1.  I think Dawn Jordan is the best person to be accepted across all genres and she can bring a calm and a settle that nurture’s the focus we need to move forward.

Let’s all support Dawn Jordan, across all our varying communities and lets’ stay united with an eye on the prize toward continued sustainable agricultural economic development for Polk County.