Service & Partnerships
for over 70 years
WNC Communities values partnerships and service. Our organization has a long history of working with communities to bring their ideas to action, in order to positively impact the lives of the people they serve.
How it Started
In the late 1940s, two organizations began their efforts to improve life for those living in rural Western North Carolina. The Western North Carolina Associated Communities (WNCAC), founded in 1947, focused on promoting the development of Western North Carolina as a whole by having set up a regional group prepared to speak for, and to work in behalf of the region on matters of regional interest, such as the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Western North Carolina Development Association (WNCDA), founded in 1949 under the original name Asheville Agricultural Development Council (AADC), sought to improve life in rural communities by registering official community clubs and centers across 18 countries and the Qualla Boundary. The people of these communities worked together to bring needed improvements like running water, provide food, clothes, and other support to needy families, and generally create a sense of neighborliness. It is from this initiative that our current WNC Honors Awards began.
In 2000, the two organizations merged to become the Western North Carolina Community Development Association, which in 2003 became WNC Communities.
WNC Communities Programs Through the Years
From their beginnings, these organizations were recognized for their leadership roles in several regional achievements, including: the WNC Farmers Market, the NC Arboretum, the WNC Agricultural Center, the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center, the Mountain Research Station, the Mountain State Fair, and the WNC Regional Livestock Market, as well as upgrading the region’s highway system, helping complete the Blue Ridge Parkway, “Unto These Hills”, and founding the Friends of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Read more below on each of these past initiatives and WNC Communities’ role in them.
“Neither the WNC Livestock Center nor the completion of the DuPont State Recreational Forest visitor center would ever have come to fruition had it not been for the leadership and hands on involvement of WNC Communities,”
-Bill Yarborough, Special Assistant to Commissioner Steve Troxler, (retired) and WNC Communities Board Member.
Today, we work with community development and agricultural partners across Western North Carolina, supporting grassroots initiatives, as well as ongoing programs such as the WNC Honors Awards, George H.V. Cecil Scholarship, WNC Ag Options, and various Agricultural Commissions.
WNC Communities stands ever nimble, and is committed to collaborating with leaders across the mountain region of North Carolina to cultivate the vitality and prosperity of our communities.
Read About Our Role in Past Initiatives:
The WNC Development Association, one of the two predecessors to the current WNC Communities organization, aided in the completion of the NC Arboretum.
The WNC Development Association, one of the two predecessors to the current WNC Communities organization, aided in the completion of the WNC Ag Center. The WNC Ag Hall of Fame, which WNC Communities coordinates, is currently located in the Ag Center.
The WNC Development Association, one of the two predecessors to the current WNC Communities organization, helped to start the NC Mountain State Fair.
The WNC Development Association, one of the two predecessors to the current WNC Communities organization, helped to start the Mountain Research Station.
The Regional Livestock Center in Canton opened in March 2011. WNC Communities worked to organize and manage the construction of the facility, and maintains a working relationship with the Livestock Center. This would not have been possible without the assistance and partnership of the Regional Livestock sponsors: Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, Golden Leaf Foundation, The Rural Center, Appalachian Regional commission, North Carolina ADFP Trust Fund, and International Paper.
“Challenged by livestock producers from the mountain region to reopen the livestock market; and thanks to the support from farmers, area leaders, funding groups, politicians, local business and industries and volunteers, WNC Communities rose to the occasion and created WNC Regional Livestock Center to serve as a market place for their livestock. In the first decade of operation the market sold over one hundred million dollars worth of livestock and put thousands more dollars in the pockets of farmers. It has become a regional agribusiness pillar.”
-L.T. Ward, Vice-President of WNC Communities Board
Read the 2011 report on this project:
The WNC Development Association, one of the two predecessors to the current WNC Communities organization, helped with upgrades to I-26.
In 2011, when the state of North Carolina settled a lawsuit against the Tennessee Valley Authority, the funds were disbursed to numerous projects across the region. It is through a portion of this funding that WNC Communities was able to complete a visitor’s center in the DuPont State Forest. The TVA settlement funds also led to the creation of the Hemlock Restoration Initiative. Read more about the Aleen Steinberg Visitor Center here, and the Hemlock Restoration Initiative here. The visitor center welcomes people to the popular 10,400 acre state forest and provides space for education programs.
“When the state of NC won a lawsuit for environmental damage due to coal fired power plants, the NC General Assembly needed a Dept to both develop an equitable plan of uses for the money as well as develop a plan to distribute fairly the funds for Western NC needs. The NC General Assembly chose the NC Dept of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS). NCDA&CS went to their long time non profit partner WNCC and together they made a plan that benefited agriculture and forestry interests in WNC. It worked well, was timely, efficient, and every penny accounted for. The trust in this long time partnership can not be overstated.”
-Bill Yarborough, Special Assistant to Commissioner Steve Troxler, Retired.
The WNC Development Association, one of the two predecessors to the current WNC Communities organization, helped to start the WNC Farmers Market.
Thanks to our built-in network of grassroots volunteers and partner organizations, WNC Communities was able to jump into action after various emergencies affected the region.
Immediate Needs for Farmers
After Tropical Storm Fred flooded Western North Carolina in August of 2021, our local farmers needed immediate assistance in order to recover from the disaster and continue farming. Due to the operating investment from Dogwood Health Trust, WNC Communities was able to keep farmers in business by providing critical resources; thus sustaining the regional food system and supporting a robust economy in. WNC Communities worked with partner agencies throughout WNC to expedite this process and get funds in the hands of farmers most in need.
“Immediate disaster grant funds have been/are wonderfully helpful to the ag community as the funds were disbursed quickly…as opposed to possibly years later…which provided working capital for targeted need. The part that sometimes gets lost from the larger public is the loss of income for the year following a disaster event which puts a stranglehold on being able to fund needed repairs to get the production unit back on line. This program has provided a direct and positive impact on the farm to maintain food security for the larger consumer population that has already forgotten the storms of August. This farm is deeply thankful for the assistance this program has provided.”
-Buncombe County Farmer
Farmers to Families USDA Food Boxes
WNC Communities helped coordinate the delivery of emergency food assistance as COVID-19 impacted the region in 2020. As part of the USDA Farmers to Family food box program, WNC Communities assisted Baptists on Mission in delivering badly needed food supplies to rural communities in WNC. Our organization engaged community center volunteers to help distribute more than 50,000 food boxes over eight months to 22 communities (including the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and four other organizations) in 7 counties. The last mile delivery of fresh produce, milk and other food items to rural communities made a huge impact during the early days of the pandemic. WNC Communities performed this service as part of our mission, relying on support from Dogwood Health Trust to assist with a portion of transportation costs.
Emergency Food Distribution
During the early days of COVID-19, WNC Communities established an online “pop-up” shop to manage the distribution of affordable protein sources, such as fresh chicken and whole hogs. Due to a surplus of chicken from farms in eastern NC, boxes of fresh chicken were made available for sale at extremely cheap prices. WNC Communities helped develop an online reservation system for communities and individuals to order boxes of fresh chicken, as well as live hogs, for purchase and pickup. WNC Communities also was able to subsidize the cost of food staples to select communities with members in extreme need. These programs were made possible by a grant from the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina and support from Dogwood Health Trust.
Photo slideshow: An early WNC Honors Awards ceremony, youth livestock show, community volunteers helping with home upgrades, North Hominy Community Center welcoming judges, community volunteers gardening, Calico Cat award at the WNC Honors Awards, the WNC Community Development Association, volunteers distributing food boxes, WNC Communities staff on visit to Yellowhill Community Club, Junior Beef show in 2021, Hemlock Restoration Initiative field crew, recipients of the George H.V. Cecil Journey Scholarship in 2023.