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Unicoi celebrates opening of Mountain Harvest Kitchen, unveils Tanasi Bison carving

Sue Guinn Legg • Updated Aug 11, 2017 at 10:36 PM

UNICOI — A crowd of about 200 people gathered in Unicoi on Friday for a grand-opening celebration at the the town's new Mountain Harvest community kitchen and regional food business incubator.

Honored guests there to help cut the ribbon on the $1.2 million facility included Appalachian Regional Commission Federal Co-Chairman Earl Gohl, former Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner and gubernatorial candidate Randy Boyd, Tennessee Tourism Commissioner Kevin Triplett, and representatives of other federal, state and local agencies that helped secure the grant funding for the project.

In his welcoming remarks, Unicoi Mayor Johnny Lynch tipped his hat to each of the agencies, listing a total of $705,000 in grants invested in the kitchen by the ARC, the United States Department of Agriculture, USDA Rural Development and the federal Economic Development Agency.

Gohl told the crowd the part of his job he loves best is visiting communities like Unicoi that have taken on the challenge of a project in which ARC funding is invested in working families to produce a return for the U.S. taxpayers.

“We are not making grants. We are making investments,” Gohl said. “Appalachia is the next great investment opportunity for America.

“The challenge we have when opportunity collides with investment is to see they are successful … the folks who will come here and use this (kitchen).”

Gohl closed by saying he was thankful to the many people who had driven the kitchen project and looked forward to seeing its results.

Boyd, who is running across the state in his campaign for governor, said a doctor told him exercise is attributed for about 10 percent of a person’s health and diet attributes for 90 percent. “If food comes from this kitchen, we know it will be healthy,” he said.

He said the kitchen will also provide the state with “businesses started up at this little kitchen” and will provide a model that he believes other communities across the state will want to follow.

Triplett said the greatest asset most rural communities have “is our natural beauty, what God gave us.

“Our culture, art, beauty and food are all linked. And all of that is linked to tourism. Tourism connects to business,” he said. “Attracting business is easier when you have a quality of life. Everything is related.”

Triplett closed his remarks by saying “Every project has a cornerstone, the first of which is commitment that the people here today represent.”

Regional and local officials taking part in the kitchen ribbon-cutting included USDA Rural Development Area Director Mary Short, former First Tennessee Development District Executive Director Susan Reid, FTDD Director of Industrial Development and Housing Bill Forrester and state Sen. Rusty Crowe who read a proclamation recognizing the kitchen’s potential to contribute to the state’s economy and the health of its citizens.

The ribbon-cutting festivities also included the unveiling of Tanasi Bison, a carving by Kingsport Carousel artist Joe Pilkenton commissioned by the town with a Creative Placemaking Grant from the Tennessee Arts Commission to illustrate the significant role the buffalo played in the history of Unicoi.

Email Sue Guinn Legg at slegg@johnsoncitypress.com. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/sueleggjcpress.

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