OSMRE / VISTA Team Projects

Smoky Mountain Center

Heather Buckner

OSMRE / VISTA: Heather Buckner
Supervisor: Mary Katherine Ogle / Sean Ogle
Address: 99 Tree House Ln, Burnsville, North Carolina 28714
County: Yancey
Voice Telephone: 865-856-7539
Email: maryoglesmc@gmail.com
Web site: www.smokymountaincorps.wordpress.com
Congressional District: 11th
Bureau: Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE)


The mission of the Smoky Mountain Center is to build future leaders in conservation and sustainability by engaging young adults in direct service to communities and natural spaces, while fostering the principles of sustainable living, environmental stewardship, and active citizenship in the Southeast.

About the Surrounding Community

In the early 1900s, the railroad transformed Yancey County’s economy from an agricultural-based town into a mining community. According to the USDA Economic Research Services Your Food Environment Atlas, There was a 2% decrease in the total number of grocery stores in Western North Carolina Counties between 2007 and 2009. In Yancey County specifically, the number of grocery stores was five in 2007 and 3 in 2009. According to the same source, while the total number of fast food restaurants in Western North Carolina decreased by 4% between 2007 and 2009, the Yancey County number of fast food restaurants rose from six to eight over the same period. Due in part to the limits and high costs of food, 20.1% of the residents in Yancey County live below the national poverty line, and the per capita income is 31.79% below the national level.

Project Overview

The OSMRE/VISTA assists in Smoky Mountain Center’s (SMC) revitalization efforts to alleviate poverty by providing the local community with education and resources on food and energy independence. SMC manages an on-site sustainability center and farm to showcase sustainable systems such as solar, gray-water, methane digesters, composting, and others for the educational benefit of the local community. The OSMRE/VISTA builds partnerships with local non-profits, community members, farmers, and schools to develop community gardens, living-classroom gardens, farm-to-school cafeteria programs, and farmer training programs. In addition to encouraging sustainable agriculture, the project researches ways to implement affordable energy improvement; develops weatherization and renewable energy assistance programs; and researches additional practices used to confront energy consumption issues.

Sponsors and Partners

Conservation Legacy