2012 WNC AgOptions grantees build region’s diverse agriculture system

Recipients trying new production techniques, reaching consumers directly,

and preserving multi-generational farms.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, January 26, 2012

MILLS RIVER, N.C. — Three farm groups and 23 farmers throughout Western North Carolina were awarded $150,000 in WNC Agricultural Options grants to increase profitability of their diverse farms. They celebrated yesterday at an event at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center in Mills River.

mcdowell_englishThe 2012 recipients are expanding the delivery of healthy vegetables, poultry and meat directly to consumers, demonstrating the viability of medicinal plants and other alternative crops, and experimenting with products such as tilapia, Kalura romaine lettuce and a unique hybrid hazelnut. The grants help sustain such historic farms as a third generation dairy farm in Marion that has sold milk since 1927 and a Haywood County trout farm founded in 1948.

“Western North Carolina is one of the most diverse agriculture regions in the United States,” said Ross Young, Madison County Extension Director and WNC AgOptions steering committee leader. “The WNC AgOptions program has served this region for eight years, contributing to the success and sustainability of agriculture as a leading economic industry.”

The grant program has been funded exclusively by the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission since 2003. “The Commission is very pleased to fund and support the WNC AgOptions program for another year,” said Bill Teague, Chairman of the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission. “We expect to see some unique projects, because WNC farmers have shown they are resourceful, innovative and committed to making their farms successful.”

The three community groups each received $8,000:

  •  The Jackson County Farmer’s Market in Sylva will open a community commercial kitchen for farmers to process, preserve and package foods. Classes in cooking, nutrition and food safety and sanitation will also be offered at the venue;
  •  The Appalachian Botanical Alliance, which aims to demonstrate the viability of medicinal herbs as an alternative crop, will research the quality of locally grown medicinal plants and construct a climate-controlled warehouse and packaging space for growers;
  •  The Independent Small Animal Meat Producers Association will advance the opening of the Foothills Pilot Plant in Marion by supplementing labor and supplies. The plant will process poultry and rabbits for farmers, providing them with a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection stamp that will allow them to reach new markets.

Four individual farm businesses each received $3,000 and 19 received $6,000. This year’s recipients will:

  •  Partner with farmers and food producers throughout the region to create a distribution system for weekly boxes of vegetables and local food products to cooperative members;
  •  Manufacture fresh cheese spreads as a means of diversifying a 3rd generation dairy farm directly across from Linville Caverns, which is the only dairy farm left in the valley north of Marion;
  •  Establish a nut tree orchard in a county where no commercial nut orchards exist;
  •  Create a greenhouse aquaponics system for symbiotic leafy greens and tilapia fish production;
  •  Construct a greenhouse for hydroponic strawberry growing;
  •  Expand the production of an uncommon romaine, Kalura, that is outstanding in all attributes—size, rapid growth, heat tolerance and shelf life;
  •  Grow one acre of yellow onions on land that has been in tobacco since 1890;
  •  Construct an on-site meat processing and storage facility to better meet customer demand for pork, chickens, rabbits and turkeys;
  •  Establish a mobile pollination trailer to transport bees to farms in the Western North Carolina region to help successfully pollinate crops while also producing honey and other bee products;
  •  Improve water quality of rainbow trout ponds with the purchase of an ozone generator, resulting in increased production to satisfy high demand;
  •  Practice Managed Intensive Grazing, a method of rotating cattle and maintaining grass pastures for optimal health of the soil, plants and animals;
  •  Enhance a farm’s capacity to respond to online ordering for home delivery of meats, chickens and vegetables.

“The number of applicants greatly exceeds the number of farms we can award each year,” said Young. “This is unfortunate for those who do not receive funding but validates the importance of this program.”

In partnership with the West District of N.C. Cooperative Extension, WNC Communities will administer WNC AgOptions grants in 2012. WNC Communities is dedicated to providing a unique forum for leaders in western North Carolina to carry out innovative programs to improve the quality ofbuncombe_wilson_front life for rural communities and to enhance the agriculture economy. 

“We are delighted to be a part of this program,” said L.T. Ward, Vice President of WNC Communities. “Collaborating with N.C. State Cooperative Extension to deliver the WNC AgOptions program is consistent with our 62-year history of serving family farmers and supporting efforts to improve the quality of life for families in the mountain region.”

Members of the WNC AgOptions steering committee include: representatives from N.C. Cooperative Extension, N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services–Marketing Division, HandMade in America, Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project and other leaders in agribusiness. WNC AgOptions also works in partnership with RAFI-USA’s Tobacco Communities Reinvestment Fund, which manages a similar grant program for farmers in the Piedmont, Central and Coastal regions of North Carolina.

For more information, see the following: WNC Agricultural Options: www.wncagoptions.org; N.C. Cooperative Extension Centers: www.ces.ncsu.edu; N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission: www.tobaccotrustfund.org; WNC Communities: www.wnccommunities.org; Tobacco Communities Reinvestment Fund, RAFI-USA: www.ncfarmgrants.org.

View the full list of 2012 recipients.

Pictured on the left above: Bill Teague of Leicester, Chairman of N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, awards a $6,000 grant to Susan and Terry English of English Dairy Farm in McDowell County;

Pictured on the right: Hominy Valley Farms-Land and Cattle.


Program Contact: Jennifer Ferre, (828) 333-4277, admin@wncagoptions.org;

Or the local N.C. Cooperative Extension Agriculture Agent

Media Contact: Megan Riley, (828) 333-4151, info@wncagoptions.org

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