“Agriculture is a big part of Haywood and Western North Carolina,” said Tina Masciarelli, project coordinator for the Buy Haywood initiative. “Support of these farmers by buying high-quality local produce keeps farms viable and preserves access to fresh foods, and also protects the farmland, rural character and heritage of the region.”
At its most basic level, Buy Haywood is a marketing effort to get people to purchase local farm goods and products made from those goods (see accompanying story). On a larger scale, it is about connecting different parts of the economy for mutual benefits and is part of an effort to preserve what’s left of a rural lifestyle.
Buy Haywood is managed by the Haywood County Economic Development Commission. Working collaboratively is one of the main objectives of the EDC. Executive Director Mark Clasby points to three key elements for local economic development: working with existing businesses by also helping small ones expand; recruiting new businesses to come to the county; and promoting new businesses that are just getting off the ground.
“I think Haywood is ahead of the curve,” he said. “So many communities don’t have the collaboration we have here, and many people don’t realize how unique we are. If people are going to go into business, we want to try and help you because it can be challenging.”
Ron Leatherwood, former Board Chairman for the Haywood Chamber of Commerce, sees the productivity but also notes there’s still more to be done.
“Public awareness needs to grow, and I don’t think we’ve reached the apex yet, but there are pockets of participants,” he said.
Leatherwood, who is part owner of Clark and Leatherwood Construction, feels the “Buy Haywood” program is just the beginning for the county. It’s a great start, and something each resident needs to recognize, nurture and share.
“To me, if you’re doing business with your neighbor, it just builds a stronger bond throughout the community,” he said.
Besides being a project coordinator for Buy Haywood, Masciarelli is the CEO/founder of SOFIOL Press in Waynesville. She supports reinvesting back in the county. To her, it’s individual acts in small communities that plant the seeds of restoring wealth into the American dream.
“Supporting a living economy — where power resides locally — creates a framework for long-term economic viability that is highly adaptive and self-reliant,” she said.
For 2013, Buy Haywood is looking to host a series of cooking demonstrations by local chefs that will feature locally grown fruits and vegetables. There are also plans to create a Buy Haywood sticker (to be placed on every product from participating businesses), and the fourth edition of the Haywood County farm map will soon be available.
Though consumer confidence can take time, Leatherwood sees the market returning. It may not be as fast of a rebound as some had hoped, but the uptick is noticeable — that in itself creates opportunities for people to invest in larger items and reinvest in their own backyard.
“This is what a small, rural community is and should be; it’s what Haywood County is, which is a great place to live and do business,” he said.
Want to know more?
Information about the “Buy Haywood” initiative can be found at www.buyhaywood.com or by calling 828.734.9574. The marketing development office is located at 144 Industrial Park Drive in Waynesville.