Leadership change coming to local food organization
After more than two decades serving farmers and the local food community, Charlie Jackson will retire as executive director of the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project.
Jackson will retire at the end of April 2022, and on Jan. 1, Molly Nicholie — who currently co-directs the organization with Jackson — will become ASAP’s executive director. Jackson will shift to a strategic advisor role, working part-time to assist in the transition.
“Charlie is a pioneer in developing a local food economy — first in his far-sighted response to changes in agriculture, but also in his vision for local food as integral to healthy communities and his quick and innovative responses to crises like COVID-19,” said Brian Asbill, president of ASAP’s board of directors.
Jackson founded the organization that became ASAP in the mid-1990s, anticipating dramatic changes coming to agriculture with the end of tobacco as a dominant crop. A group of farmers, agricultural support professionals and community stakeholders formed to address these challenges, launching a local food campaign in 2000 to raise awareness about agriculture, educate consumers about the benefits of buying local food and create viable market alternatives for farmers in the region. ASAP officially incorporated in 2002, and its programs now include local food and farm promotions, farmer and farmers market support, grower-buyer connections, the Local Food Guide, Appalachian Grown certification and branding, Asheville City Market, Farm Tour, Business of Farming Conference, Local Food Research Center and Growing Minds Farm to School.
In 2017, Jackson’s efforts earned him a place in the Western North Carolina Agricultural Hall of Fame.
Nicholie has worked at ASAP for 16 years and was named co-director with Jackson in January 2021. She began her tenure with ASAP as part of Growing Minds, and in 2013, became program director for the Local Food Campaign. Her experience at ASAP and in the farming community ensures continuity of organizational culture, agency services and institutional knowledge.
“We couldn’t be more excited for the future of ASAP under Molly’s continued leadership,” said Carrie Keller, who will serve as president of the board beginning in 2022. “Molly has firsthand, boots-on-the-ground experience in each of ASAP’s programs — as well as experience as a farmer and classroom teacher. I couldn’t imagine someone better suited for the job.”