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Nice to 'mead' you

NEWLAND — Mead at its simplest is an alcoholic drink created by fermenting honey diluted with water.

The drink is ancient, with variations produced all over the world. It also makes up a very small portion of the alcoholic beverage industry, but that small portion is expanding.

One local entrepreneur is taking a serious look at opening her own meadery in Newland. Christy Hemenway is the owner of Gold Star Honeybees, which she founded in 2007. Currently based out of Spruce Pine, Gold Star sells honeybees and beekeeping supplies online, as well as books and classes among other services. Hemenway advocates natural beekeeping as part of her business.

Hemenway has been combing Western North Carolina for a location to start up her own meadery, and after running into repeated challenges in other counties, has taken an interest to an undisclosed location in Newland.

Hemenway hails from Maine. She picked up and moved to North Carolina more than a year ago after a chain of frustrating attempts to find housing in Maine convinced her to seek out a change in scenery.

Hemenway initially looked at the Asheville area and ended up in Spruce Pine. The idea to start a meadery began when she made the move to the area with her husband.

“I’ve probably looked in a dozen counties,” Hemenway said.

Hemenway has been creating homemade pilot batches as she looks for a location, and has a lot experience with mead, having a number of friends involved in making mead.

“When I was in Maine, I was a member of a group of motorcycle riding folks, and most of them were mead makers,” Hemenway said.

She has encountered a large variety of mead, which can be made with a number of different ingredients, varying alcohol content and sweetness ranging from extremely dry to very sweet.

She began creating a good base mead with only diluted honey and yeast, and has branched out to more complex varieties.

“Even if you just took [diluted honey] and set it outside, there’s enough yeast wild in the air that it would actually make mead on its own,” Hemenway said. “You wouldn’t have any control over it, but it would do it. It’s that natural of a process.”

Hemenway said she is hopeful, if not pathologically optimistic, to open her meadery by Valentine’s Day next year.

Hemenway added she hopes to support nonprofits with the business.

Run Amok Mead has an Instagram account for those curious about Hemenway’s mead-making exploits. Those curious can click to

Dobson comments on Medicaid, report

GREENSBORO — Research funded by the Cone Health Foundation and the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust claims North Carolina would gain billions in business as a result of Medicaid expansion over three years and add 37,000 jobs as a result.

The report notes Avery County would be projected to gain 58 jobs and economic growth of $7.8 million.

A press release summarizing the report notes that North Carolina is one of 14 states which have not expanded Medicaid, and that state residents pay for Medicaid expansion in other states via federal taxes. It also notes North Carolina has an uninsured rate above the national average and nearly a million uninsured people in the state between the ages of 19 and 64.

Medicaid expansion is part of the Affordable Care Act, previous U.S. President Barack Obama’s signature piece of legislation.

The report was released two days before Democratic Governor Roy Cooper’s veto of the state budget.

Dr. Laura Gerald, president of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, said the job creation potential would be a mix of health care jobs and new jobs added in other sectors to support the growth of health care jobs.

“There’s also a job effect that’s created when more money flows into a community,” Gerald said.

Gerald added the research used widely accepted standardized methodology.

Gerald said the research is not making a political argument about how the state would go about Medicaid expansion.

“The thing about Medicaid expansion is it takes people who are currently uninsured and gives them insurance, so in Avery County that estimate is that 1,407 more people would be able to enroll in Medicaid,” Gerald said. “So in terms of the access to care that it gives them, they now have insurance that generally has very low copays and out-of-pocket expenses, and very high acceptability among health care providers.”

Gerald noted in other states that have expanded Medicaid, access to health care improves for people with Medicaid, notably for opioid addiction treatment, and allows people to receive preventative care and treatment earlier, rather than showing up to an emergency room for far more expensive treatment.

“That’s a very costly way to deliver care,” Gerald said.

State Rep. Josh Dobson (R-McDowell), who represents Avery and is a chair on the House Appropriations Committee.

Dobson said he does not support Medicaid expansion in its purest form. Rather, he is a primary sponsor on HB 655, a bill that would cover the 10 percent of Medicaid expansion not covered by the federal government with an assessment on hospitals, and would require a more substantial, though low premium for the recipients.

Dobson said Medicaid expansion will not be in the budget, but the bill would attempt to close the coverage gap that Medicaid expansion covers without incurring additional expenses for the state.

He noted it would take seven Democrats to join Republicans in the House to override the governor’s veto. Dobson added the Senate has publicly opposed closing the coverage gap.

“I believe a bill would pass the House if we could get it to the floor,” Dobson said. “And we’re still working on that.”