Applications available for 2012 WNC AgOptions farm grants

Intent to apply deadline November 16; Application deadline December 1

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 1, 2011

Grant applicants should contact: Jennifer Ferre, (828) 333-4277, admin@wncagoptions.org;

Or their local Cooperative Extension Agriculture Agent

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

MARSHALL — WNC Agricultural Options will award a total of $150,000 to approximately 35 farm businesses and farmer-led groups in 2012.  Funded exclusively by the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, WNC AgOptions continues its eight-year history of advancing the mountain region’s diverse agriculture system. 

“Successful farming in today’s environment requires taking on challenges,” said Ross Young, Madison County Extension Director and WNC AgOptions steering committee leader. “New crops, new farming systems and new marketing strategies all increase the potential of a farm’s success but also increases risk. The WNC AgOptions program helps this region’s farmers balance that risk by providing financial assistance as well as hands-on guidance with a new venture. The goal of this program is to discover farming practices that are innovative and have the potential of helping other farmers in the future.”

avery marketGrants of $3,000 and $6,000 will be awarded to individual farmers proposing diversification projects that boost economic viability of their businesses. Awards of $10,000 will go to three farmer-led groups working to solve processing, packaging, marketing and other distribution needs of the local agriculture system.

Applications for the two grant opportunities are available at www.wncagoptions.org and at the local Cooperative Extension Centers. Interested applicants must contact their local Extension Agents by November 16 to notify them that they intend to apply. The application postmark deadline is December 1.

Recent recipients of WNC AgOptions community grants created systems and undertook promotional campaigns to market produce and products directly to customers. Individual farm businesses responded to the growing demand for healthily raised poultry products, purchased equipment to receive Good Agricultural Practices certification, added crops to their vegetable operations to ensure steady income flow, built grade B inspected goat milk parlors, and expanded their vineyards and wineries. Several recipients used the grants to expand their businesses so they can become full-time farmers.

“We have been a partner and supporter of the WNC AgOptions program for several years,” said Bill Teague, Chairman of the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission. “Farmers in western North Carolina have proven over and over again that they are full of innovative ideas on how to sustain their operations and stay in business.”anthony cole

In partnership with 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 of life for rural communities and to enhance the agriculture economy.

“WNC Communities has a rich history of collaboration with N.C. Cooperative Extension and N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, and we are delighted to have the opportunity to serve local farmers by bringing these resources to them in support of their innovative farm practices,” said L.T. Ward, Vice President of WNC Communities. “The farmers’ successes will boost the local agriculture economy and increase the potential for success in farming in the mountain region.”

Eligible farms are in: Avery, Buncombe, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Swain, Transylvania, Watauga and Yancey counties as well as the Cherokee Indian Reservation.

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 Agricultural 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.

Pictured above: 2011 recipients Avery County Farmers Market (left photo); Anthony Cole, Buncombe County (right photo).

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