A community built around local food producers & farmers...
A year ago it might have been surprising that President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama would choose Asheville, North Carolina for a mini vacation. But now, after Mrs. Obama has put an unprecedented national spotlight on food initiatives, it makes perfect sense that the First Couple will leave this afternoon for a weekend getaway to the small city that bills itself as the world's first Foodtopian Society.
In Asheville, local and heritage foods of Appalachia and the farm to table movement are the centerpiece of community life. For a population of 100,000, Asheville is home to 17 active farmers markets, about 250 restaurants, and seven microbreweries.
The President and First Lady are traveling to Foodtopia on a "mini Air Force One," because the small airport in Asheville doesn't have a runway long enough to accommodate the full-size version. Family friends from Chicago, Dr. Eric Whitaker and his wife, and Marty Nesbitt and his wife, will join the President and First Lady in Foodtopia, according to Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton.
Asheville's town center used to be where farmers brought livestock and produce to be sold or traded in the 1800s, and civic life is vibrant and filled with local music and art, in addition to the foodie focus. The Great Smoky Mountains comestible highlights include locally raised free-range meats, trout caviar, hand-picked blueberries, heirloom apples, sorghum and local honey, artisanal breads and cheeses. The official city website promotes local farmers, artisan food producers and chefs, with the slogan "Prepare for your pilgrimage to the world's only foodtopian society." President Obama last visited Asheville in October of 2008, less then a month before Election Day. He stopped in at 12 Bones Smokehose, in the River Arts District. (Top of post: FLOTUS and POTUS departing Andrews Air Force Base):
The official website for Asheville even has recipes posted. From the Asheville blog:
While the farm-to-table movement is anything but new, taking the idea to an all-out way of life as a community is a little radical. Welcome to the Foodtopian Society, a commitment to societal (and gastronomical) change by Asheville, North Carolina. The Foodtopian Society has gained significant support and momentum as both residents and visitors to the area insist on cuisine that is local and fresh with a twist on regional specialties and indigenous foods of Southern Appalachia...If we are what we eat, Asheville lives what it eats.
The Obamas are staying at Grove Park Inn, which received four diamonds from AAA. The resort also has its own big foodie culture: Each holiday season it hosts the National Gingerbread House Competition. Last year, there were more than 200 entries.
On Sunday, April 25, the President and Vice President will travel to Beckley, West Virginia, to participate in a memorial service for the miners lost in the tragedy at Upper Big Branch mine. President Obama will deliver a eulogy honoring the lives of those who perished and offering his deepest condolences to the loved ones they left behind.
*Photo by Getty. Logo from Asheville's website.