Success Stories

“Chris Cervini, owner and CEO of Lakeside Produce, said the first $23-million, 50-job phase of the project is set to start harvesting tomatoes in the fall of 2019. The next two phases, also bringing $23 million in investment and 50 jobs each, are scheduled to be brought online in the next six to eight years. Lakeside has sold its produce in North Carolina for years, but with this move, that produce will become local. The greenhouse facility is set to grow both organic and conventional tomatoes and other vegetables on 116 acres off Ladson Road, just outside the town limits of Mills River. Today, Lakeside has conventional and organic greenhouses, warehouses, pack houses, and distribution centers spanning across North America including in Leamington, Ontario, Taylor, Michigan, and McAllen, Texas. The first cycle will be conventional and organic tomatoes that will end up on local store shelves, Cervini said, with a schedule to start harvesting in the first few weeks of November 2019 through August, a schedule that will be repeated year in and year out. Cervini also said that in Ontario, for each ag job created there are six related “spin-off” jobs, whether those are jobs in truck driving or facilities management. He estimated a similar impact in Henderson County. Commissioners Bill Lapsley and Tommy Thompson, speaking at the announcement, expressed excitement for the new project and anxiuosness to see it up and running.Lapsley called it a good return on investment of county tax dollars to AgHC, a private-public partnership that commissioners are very pleased to see producing results that grow the agricultural segment of the county’s economy. Thompson said projects like this one make Henderson County a better place to live, what commissioners always are striving to do. Noting the jobs coming and impacts cited by Cervini, he said that in the next 10 years, hundreds of people in the area would be affected by this new industry. Meeting Cervini and his team at lunch, North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler said it’s exciting to have a company like this moving in, showing how rich the economic climate is. He said his office will be there for support, from agronomists and testing to helping with the state’s regulatory framework. “This is something we can all be proud of,” Mark Williams, AgHC Executive Director said, describing it as “fully a team effort” between municipalities like Hendersonville and Mills River, as well as the county. It comes down to relationships, he said, remarking on the amazing connections within the industry and the incredible network that exists there. Cervini, himself a fourth-generation farmer, said the county has a strong strategy in place to support agriculture, tourism, retirement and more.He said the company has been working on projects in other parts of the country, and even in the town he was born and raised in it can take weeks to get an email response or a call back.That wasn’t the case in Henderson County, he said, where “you make the rubber hit the road. So what you’re doing, you’re all very committed to it, and I can’t thank you enough.””

Lakeside Produce

“Agribusiness Henderson County (AgHC) has been steering a rigorous process to gain a federal designation as an American Viticultural Area (AVA) for local grape and wine producers. As of July 17, 2019, the Treasury Department has approved the designation. The designation will establish approximately 215-square miles as “Crest of the Blue Ridge Henderson County” AVA. The area has 14 commercial vineyards over 70 acres, with several existing vineyards planning to expand by a combined 55 additional acres in the next 5 years. AgHC indicates Henderson County has at least four more wineries on track to open over the next couple of years and in addition, the County has three hard cider producers. An AVA is a grape-growing region having distinguishing features, a name and a delineated boundary. These designations allow vintners and consumers to attribute a given quality, reputation, or other characteristics of a wine made from grapes grown in an area of the wine’s geographic origin. To help with this process, Henderson County’s first two wineries, Burntshirt Vineyards and Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards, researched and engaged Geologist Joseph Forest. Forest has been successful in helping other regions navigate the rigorous process. The establishment of AVAs allows vintners to describe more accurately the origin of their wines to consumers and helps consumers identify wines they may purchase. For a wine to be labeled with an AVA name, at least 85 percent of the wine must be derived from grapes grown within the area represented by that name. Examples of AVAs are Napa and Sonoma Valley in California and Yadkin Valley, here in North Carolina. The distinguishing features of the Crest of the Blue Ridge Henderson County AVA are its climate and elevation. Warm days and cool mountain nights during the growing season, coupled with the right soils and quality water, provides a favorable and unique combination for grape production. Geographically the area straddles the Blue Ridge Escarpment and the Blue Ridge Plateau, which are separated by the Eastern Continental Divide, also known as the Crest of the Blue Ridge. Attaching “Henderson County” to the name specifically identifies the area.   ”

Crest of The Blue Ridge

“Bold Rock Hard Cider was established in 2012 in Virginia and in just three years, opened its Mills River location. Western North Carolina, unsurprisingly, is a great location for the creation of hard apple cider due to its mass production of apples. In fact, this region is one of the best apple growing regions of the world, making the inclusion of local apples in Bold Rock's Carolina Draft and Caroline Apple varieties an obvious choice.  AgHC was instrumental in assisting Bold Rock as they made the move to the Mills River location. Their knowledge of the area and specifically of the Agritourism and Agribusiness world was unmatched and helpful in choosing a site for the tasting and brewing facility. "Mark Williams, Executive Director of AgHC, connected us with the local growers and production facilities to ensure we had an easy transition and access to the raw materials needed for our cider," said Bold Rock Founder John Washburn. At Bold Rock's Mills River location you can have a first-hand hard cider experience. There are free daily tours of the facility and a tasting room for the sampling of any of the eight award-winning varieties of Bold Rock Hard Cider. If a visitor looks up in the tasting room they can view the bottling line overhead. Bold Rock proudly uses natural fruit to give their ciders a refreshing all natural taste. They are excited to further developing the site and take part in the community as good corporate citizens. They are boldly committed to treading lightly on the land that provides for them, and work create as little waste and be as sustainable as possible. ”

Bold Rock Hard Cider

“When Hishtil-Israel began the process of establishing a US operation, three things were of paramount importance….location, infrastructure and partnership. LOCATION…They quickly recognized that Henderson County, in the mountains of North Carolina, would meet all their needs for location, being within a day’s drive to all the Eastern U.S., having a mild climate, very suitable for production and an abundance of high quality water. Finding a specific site was accomplished through AgHC playing the role of a realtor, but without the cost of commissions. INFRASTRUCTURE…The community’s long history as agricultural hub provided the infrastructure the company was seeking, giving them comfort and confidence of having plenty of ag-related businesses as neighbors, along with industry support and readily services available. Additionally, all needs for public utilities needed were in place or made available. PARTNERSHIP…Finding the right domestic partner was Hishtil’s first objective in establishing operations in the U.S. as a new joint venture. Through established industry relationships, AgHC served as the architect in bringing on board TriEst Ag Group, which also lead to the inclusion SIS/Centro Seia, an Italian partner who had dealings with both the American and Israeli companies. So, Tri-Hishtil was formed and the “new” company with over 50 years of experience begin the U.S. venture in the Mills River community of Henderson County, NC. The companies of three separate countries was not the only partnership, but Tri-Hishtil also established a healthy partnership with AgHC and the rest of the local agricultural and business community.”


“The most important part about Flat Rock Ciderworks and what co-founder Jim Sparks wants you to know is that every part of the cider is produced in Henderson County with raw materials grown here.  AgHC was instrumental in connecting the original partners and helping to organize much of the operation, which now includes the downtown tap room. AgHC also connected the original partners and helped organize much of the operation. Mark Williams helped to identify the property where Flat Rock Ciderworks operates along with  their sister company 4J’s Produce & Apples.  AgHC even assisted with contacting the seller who did not have the property publicly listed. AgHC also refers growers for raw product and storage and helps Flat Rock Ciderworks to find additional wholesale customers. The culmination of the success of the cider industry in Henderson County will be demonstrated through a cider festival (Apple Country Cider Jam), which AgHC is helping to create to bring additional attention and customers to the area. Since its inception in 2013, Flat Rock Ciderworks now has 250 points of distribution. You can find Flat Rock Ciderworks cider in its tasting room, located downtown, at any of its restaurant partners and at downtown events such as the summer series Rhythm and Brews. 4J's Produce & Apples serves as a storage, marketing and distribution company for other area growers as well.”

Flat Rock Ciderworks

“Bitwater Farms is not the usual type of facility that one would expect, especially from a company that identifies itself as a farm. What one should expect to see upon a visit to Bitwater Farms is more along the lines of a research facility. What do they farm, you might ask? Crickets, and lots of them. Bitwater Farms is in the business of raising crickets in an effort to create a more sustainable livestock feed. But livestock is not the only focus, Bitwater Farms sells about 80 percent of its crickets as premium livestock feed and the other 20 percent goes to chefs who feature the insects on their menu. Crickets, though seemingly exotic food are an extremely high source of protein, especially considering their size. Bitwater Farms isn't the only place the sees a future in crickets though. In the 2013 Food and Agriculture Organization report "Edible Insects: Future Prospects for Food and Feed Security," insect protein was recommended as one of the most sustainable forms of animal protein available. Bitwater Farms focuses on three different sizes of cricket habitats known as M1, M2 and M3, which produce different amounts of crickets per harvest. M3s are considered the most profitable of the habitats as they can produce up to a ton of crickets per harvest cycle (about 6-8 weeks). Human-grade crickets sell for about $15 per half-pound sack while feed crickets sell for around $1-2 per pound. Raising healthy and clean crickets is of the utmost importance at Bitwater Farms, if any contamination occurs such as crickets spilling onto the ground during transportation, the contaminated insects are donated as bait. The crickets are kept in containers that are temperature and humidity monitored via computers.  As this unique sector of agriculture expands there will be an ever-growing need for new technology to help this new brand of farmer succeed. Bitwater Farms aims to be at the forefront of this farming frontier. Researchers at Bitwater Farms work to develop new technology that is tested on Bitwater Farms' own product to ensure functionality. The development and use of this new technology further demonstrates Bitwater Farms' position as a leader in the agricultural industry. ”

Bitwater Farms