Applications must be received at the WNC Communities office by November 17.
WNC Agricultural Options is now accepting grant applications from farmers diversifying or expanding their businesses. With funding from the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, WNC AgOptions is distributing a total of $229,000 to western North Carolina farmers in 2018. This amount is the most the WNC AgOptions has awarded since 2011. The application deadline is Nov. 17.
With priority given to farmers with tobacco history, WNC AgOptions helps offset farmers’ risk of trying new ventures and expanding their farms with $3,000 and $6,000 grants. “The WNC AgOptions program is an excellent example of grant funds providing direct support to those who need it most,” said Ross Young, Madison County Extension Director and WNC AgOptions steering committee leader. “Our farmers are arguably the most important people in our society. I sincerely appreciate the Commission’s interest in supporting western North Carolina agriculture.”
The Commission has supported the mountain region throughout major changes in agriculture, ensuring farmers continue farming. “Farmers in western North Carolina have proven time and time again that they are very innovative, resourceful and creative in how they produce and market their products,” said Bill Teague, Chairman of the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission. “Our board is committed to the success of farmers in the targeted counties and we know these grants will encourage many successful projects.”
Applicants should contact their Cooperative Extension agents by Oct. 13 to set up an appointment to discuss their projects. Applications are available at www.wncagoptions.org or at local Cooperative Extension centers. Extension agents remain a resource for farmers throughout the year as they complete their projects.
Since 2004, WNC AgOptions has awarded more than $2.3 million to farmers. Grants often pay for a simple improvement that makes a big difference, such as the addition of a high tunnel at Trosly Farm in Avery County this year. The new high tunnel has allowed Amos and Kaci Nidiffer to double vegetable production and expand their growing season, which is critical for a farm located in a high altitude with a short growing season. As a result of their grant, Trosly Farm has increased its Community Supported Agriculture membership and now has the means to grow year-round.
Evan Chender in Buncombe County used his 2017 AgOptions grant to purchase a BCS brand walk-behind tractor. As a result, Evan has expanded from 800 square feet to more than an acre, doubling the size of his operation and income. Evan grows specialty greens, herbs, edible flowers and unique vegetable varieties and sells to approximately ten restaurants in Asheville.
WNC AgOptions offers grants to farmers in the following counties/units: Avery, Buncombe, Burke, Caldwell, Cherokee, Clay, Cleveland, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Swain, Transylvania, Watauga and Yancey counties as well as the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
Applicants are encouraged to attend information sessions, which will be held throughout the region through September. The first of these sessions will take place from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Aug. 24 at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center. Check the WNC AgOptions website for dates and locations of other upcoming sessions, or call Project Coordinator Jennifer Ferre at (828) 252-4783.
The administrator of WNC AgOptions is WNC Communities, a non-profit organization that has been improving agriculture in the region since 1947. WNC Communities provides a unique forum for leaders in western North Carolina to carry out innovative programs to improve the quality of life for rural communities and to enhance the agriculture economy. “WNC Communities is honored to be the administrator of this annual funding opportunity designed to support farmers in their quest to try new techniques or implement innovative farming practices,” said Linda Lamp, Executive Director of WNC Communities. “We are grateful to the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission and North Carolina legislators for their support for 12 years.”
Members of the WNC AgOptions steering committee include: representatives from N.C. Cooperative Extension, N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services–Marketing Division, WNC Communities, Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project and other leaders in agribusiness. 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.