Biz briefs: March 24

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 24, 2019

Chamber group returns from Tuscany

The Rowan County Chamber of Commerce hosted a trip to Tuscany with 19 participants.

The Rowan travelers were joined by chamber of commerce groups from Palm Springs, California; Portland, Oregon; and Aiken, South Carolina. There were more than 80 total participants in the Aventura Tuscany tour, said Elaine Spalding, Rowan chamber president.

The highlights of the trip included a full-day guided tour of Florence; an excursion to Pisa and Lucca, including the Leaning Tower, Duomo and the Baptistery; a tour of Siena and a visit to the U.S. National Cemetery outside Florence; and a visit to San Gimignano and the Chianti region, including wine tasting and an optional extension tour of Rome.

Spalding and her husband, Keyth Kahrs, led the trip. Other travelers included Amie Morgan Baudoin, Doris Bullock, Ginger Camp, Mike and Pam Crowell, Terry and Yvonne Etheridge, Chris and Diane Etheridge, Seth Heno, Elaine Howle, Ken and Debbie Kahrs, Robert and Debbie Powell, Helen Roberts, and Joyce Yates.

The chamber’s next international trip is to Greece on Oct. 5-13. The trip will include a nine-day, seven-night air and land package from Charlotte to Athens; first-class hotel accommodations; 20 meals including seven breakfasts, six lunches and seven dinners; day trips; and airfare.

The early-bird price is $3,099 per person if reservations are made by March 29.

For details and reservations, contact Spalding at or 704-633-4221

Reservations can also be made online at with code B002382.

Big Elm Ministries receives donation from Food Lion Feeds

Big Elm Ministries received $2,000 from the Food Lion Feeds Charitable Foundation to help feed local residents. The gift will be used to purchase food for the group’s food bank.

“We so appreciate the Food Lion organization for helping us, through this generous gift to feed the hungry and to make a difference for our community,” said Rebecca Barnes, Big Elm Ministries director.

Big Elm Ministries is an outreach of Kannapolis Church of God in partnership with the Faith Community Health Ministry program of Atrium Health. Its mission is to restore hope and provide opportunities for those in need by addressing basic needs such as food, shelter, clothing and health.

Established in 2001, the Food Lion Feeds Charitable Foundation provides financial support for programs and organizations dedicated to feeding the hungry in the communities it serves. Since its inception, the foundation has awarded more than $12 million in grants.

Faison farmer named NC Small Business Person of the Year

Steven Ceccarelli, the owner of Farm Fresh Produce Inc. in Faison, has been named the 2019 SBA North Carolina Small Business Person of the Year.

Linda McMahon, administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, announced the winners from the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam. Each winner was invited to attend ceremonies in Washington on May 5-6 to receive their awards.

During the ceremonies, SBA will announce the 2019 National Small Business Person of the Year from among the 53 state and territory winners.   

“National Small Business Week gives us the opportunity to recognize the outstanding achievements of small business owners like Steven Ceccarelli who create jobs, grow our economy, and give back to the community in so many ways,” said Lynn Douthett, director of SBA’s North Carolina office.

Ceccarelli, a Canadian immigrant and naturalized U.S. citizen, is the sole owner and primary manager of Farm Fresh Produce. Before opening the business, he worked in his family’s wholesale produce business in Canada after earning the Canadian equivalent of an associate degree in business management and statistics.

In 2004, Ceccarelli emigrated to the U.S. as an export consultant for a Mississippi firm that wanted to start exporting sweet potatoes. He advised small growers who lacked technical export skills. After four years in Mississippi, he moved to Faison to work for Southern Produce, where his primary responsibilities centered on export markets.

Ceccarelli started Farm Fresh Produce in 2010 as a produce marketing company with six employees and corporate offices in Faison. In 2016, with a SBA loan through the Self-Help Ventures Fund and third-party lender PNC Bank, the company converted a 20,000-square-foot building into packing facilities and built a curing barn on its 44-acre site.

Farm Fresh Produce had $23 million in sales last year, with about 95 percent of that in sweet potatoes. The company now has 80 employees and operates two sweet potato curing, packing and storage facilities.

Three Rivers Land Trust undergoing 5-year reaccreditation

The Land Trust Alliance’s accreditation commission awards accreditation to land trusts meeting national quality standards for protecting important natural places and working lands. 

Three Rivers Land Trust is undergoing a five-year accreditation renewal.

The accreditation commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance, conducts an extensive review of each applicant’s policies and programs.

Three Rivers has served the lower Yadkin-Pee Dee region since 1995, conserving land and historic landmarks in a 10-county region. Its mission is to work with property owners to conserve natural areas, rural landscapes, family farms, and historic landscapes in central North Carolina.

The commission invites written comments related to how Three Rivers complies with national standards. They can be submitted by May 1 through any of the following methods:

• Online at

• Email to

• Fax to 518-587-3183.

• By mail to Land Trust Accreditation Commission, Attention: Public Comments, 36 Phila St., Suite 2, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866.

To learn more about Three Rivers Land Trust, contact Michael Nye Fulk, associate director, at 704-647-0302 or