by Angela Malson
Nestled in the mountains of western North Carolina, the small eclectic city of Asheville is undeniably forward thinking, with a back to basics sensibility. Home to organic farmers, handcrafted artisans, and street musicians, here southern hospitality has a laid back, modern, sustainable twist.
Asheville has 83,000 residents living in its city limits with another 400,000 residents in four surrounding counties, yet it remains a quaint Appalachian town. Locals find the lay of downtown familiar and easy to traverse with the vibe friendly, local, green, culturally rich, and ever abundant with fun. There is a strong base of street performers, festivals, outdoor music and art venues, as well as ongoing workshops that teach healthy and sustainable ways.
Asheville was the first city on the East Coast to commit to green construction on all new municipal buildings to LEED Gold Standards, and has been named as one of the “Happiest Places to Live” in Geography of Bliss. Green businesses and organic restaurants line the streets, community gardens abound, and residents and visitors alike can find a local farmer’s market nearly everyday of the week during growing season.
Farm-to-Table restaurants are everywhere, and the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP) helps create and expand local food markets to preserve agricultural heritage and provide access to fresh, healthy food for all. ASAP’s Annual Local Food Guide is a staple community resource, whether looking for a local CSA to join, list of family farms, or apple orchards to visit. A major source of conversation and community here is reconnecting people with their food. Asheville is known for southern home style menu selections, with a local and organic emphasis that bridges old with new, forward- thinking with back to the land living. That’s right, organic grits with raw tupelo honey, and grass-fed burgers on handmade bread. Whether it’s a local bakery or vintage boutique, there is a commitment to “Asheville Grown – Buy it Local” – a true testament that this community truly supports one another, and does it effectively.
So, while some think of Asheville as a hippie haven, or artist’s mountain retreat, every walk of life coalesces here to bring about a harmony of progressive vision that works together. Community based groups and businesses work to provide for the people by the people, all weaving the fabric of small town with modern intentional community. As soon as we visited Asheville, we felt this vibe, small town enough so you run into people you know just walking down the street, but socially conscious in it’s way of conducting business and promoting community. Supporting local means that you are not only supporting local families and farms, you are supporting a healthier community and environment for all. It’s what this small, southern, progressive city is doing, and it’s what is spurring positive conscious change across the world.