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Cleveland County Kitchen showcases local produce
Blanton (right) talks with Beth Bruno, a horticultural therapist at the Shelby Life Enrichment Center. Bruno is the "farmer" for the June 2018 edition of Cleveland County Kitchen. Microgreens are the featured crop.

If you enjoy visiting the farmers' market but are often stumped about what to do with some of the fresh fruits and vegetables offered there, there's a great but largely unknown resource in our county.
Cleveland County Kitchen is a collaborative effort between N.C. Cooperative Extension (NCCE) and Cleveland Community College (CCC) that showcases local farmers and local foods. It is comprised of a monthly cable television show produced by CCC and a research-based companion fact sheet produced by NCCE. The resources provide a farm-to-table guide to help consumers learn about the importance of eating more fruits and vegetables and incorporating them into delicious, nutritious meals.
"Our goal is to educate citizens from Cleveland County and beyond about the importance of local foods to our economy, health, environment and quality of life," says Debra Blanton, program host.
The idea for Cleveland County Kitchen began back in 2013 when Blanton, newly retired from the county's Board of Elections, decided to grow a 2-acre vineyard of muscadines. She quickly realized that there was a huge disconnect between local farmers and residents. In 2014, Blanton approached Greg Tillman of Cleveland Community College about doing a food education show for CCC's television station. He agreed that it was a great idea, but the college did not have the kitchen facilities needed for such a show. He suggested they check with the NCCE. There they met Nancy Abasiekong, who became the show's nutritionist. They also discovered that NCCE had the technical expertise and a demonstration kitchen that would serve as the perfect set for the new program.
"Cleveland County Kitchen" debuted in November 2014, and a new episode has been produced every month since then.
"Every month we feature something that is currently in season as the focus of the show," says Blanton.
Each 30-minute episode is divided into three segments. For the first segment, Blanton visits with an area farmer to discuss how the crop is grown. The second part of the show features Abasiekong, who explains the nutritional value of the food, as well as how to select, care for and preserve the produce item. Then in the final segment, the show moves to the kitchen to demonstrate how to cook the featured food.
"We usually show two or three different recipes and give ideas for how to use the food in creative ways," says Blanton. The featured recipes and care and preservation tips are all included on an accompanying fact sheet, available for download on the Cleveland County Kitchen site,
www. clevelandcountykitchen.org. Shows can be accessed from that web site, and they also air on the CCC television channel, Access 19, beginning on the third Sunday of every month, running 2-3 times each day for the next week. The show can also be viewed on the C19TV website, www.C19.TV.
For more information about the Cleveland County Kitchen program, call the Cleveland County Extension Center at 704-482-4365 or visit the the show's web site,
www. clevelandcountykitchen.org.

By April Hoyle Shauf

Special to Community First Media

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