Primary data for this analysis was derived from original grant requests, site visits, telephone and email communication, and a three page survey administered in the late winter and early spring of 2006. Surveys on 68 projects and 74 grants were returned.
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The primary cash crop for many of our mountain communities has been burley tobacco for many years. The continuing annual decreases in burley tobacco marketing quotas, increasing disease pressure, difficulties in obtaining reliable labor, and uncertainty about the future of the tobacco program is forcing farmers to consider other sources of income to support their families.
The goal of this project is to encourage Western North Carolina farmers who are dependent on tobacco income or farmers who live in tobacco dependent communities to diversify operations by trying new alternative agricultural income opportunities. Farmers will create plans for projects for supplemental sources of agricultural income through inclusion of agricultural tourism ventures and/or a diversified mix of agricultural commodities.
The Agricultural Tourism and Crop Diversification Demonstration Program started as a concept during the late Spring of 2003. Partners brought to the table to discuss state of the western North Carolina mountain farmer included several Agriculture and Community Development Extension Agents, County Extension Directors, North Carolina Department of Agriculture Marketing Division Specialists and the non-profit organization Handmade in America Programming Director.
Benefits will include increased income for farmers from either diversifying their crop or venturing into agriculture tourism. Approximately 40 farmers each year will be funded in order to reduce their dependency on tobacco income by supplementing their farm operation with other enterprises. These 40 farmers will be trained by the Cooperative Extension agents in their local communities (approximately 30 agents involved in program) to learn what other crops are suited for the region and market.