WNC AgOptions Press Releases

    2021 Grantees

    The 2021 WNC AgOptions Grantees have been announced! Check back soon for a press release and more information on this year's recipients!

    2021 Grant Cycle CLOSED

    The 2021 WNC AgOptions grant cycle is closed.   Please check back in early February for the list of the 2021 grantees!


in the News 2010

Roadside produce stand on honor system

While produce stands are a roadside fixture in the High Country, Springhouse Farm in Vilas has a built-in advantage. Springhouse Farm has a new self-service, around the clock produce stand funded by WNC AgOptions. – Watauga Democrat, June 14, 2010

Green and fuzzy: Moss gardening offers year-round rewards

Leucobryum, Hypnum, Thuidium unless you work in an herbarium, these names may not be familiar to you. So, to clue you in (and perhaps help you out if you’re ever on Jeopardy!), these are all types of bryophytes. Still confused? We’re talking mosses here. – Mountain Xpress, June 2, 2010

Small Miracles

Sometimes you have to look beyond the obvious to enjoy nature’s gifts. They hide in unexpected places, waiting for the patient observer to discover them. Take Leslie Henry’s backyard, for example.Welcome to the moss garden. – Carolina Home + Garden, Spring 2010

Carolina grower ‘hopping’ into new crop

When Van Burnette wanted a drought-resistant crop to try on his 6-acre farm near Black Mountain, N.C., he decided on hops. The problem is, no one really know much about how the essential beer ingredient will grow in North Carolina, much less whether burgeoning interest in local brews and home brewing will translate into a sustainable market. – Southeast Farm Press, April 7, 2010

WNC AgOptions Awards 2010 Farm Diversification Projects: 3 Watauga County Farms Receive Grants

The WNC Agricultural Options Program awarded 42 farmers seed grants totaling $225,000 last month to assist them in completing farm diversification projects. – High Country Press, March 25, 2010

To bee or not to bee? For Marion man, it’s no question: AgOptions grant will help with Russian honeybee project

There’s been a lot of buzz about the decline of the honeybee population in the past few years. Bees face a lot of pressures in North America, including parasites, drought and invasions by Africanized honeybees. – The McDowell News, March 23, 2010

Three area farmers receive grants from Agricultural Options Program for WNC

Three local farmers were among the latest grant recipients in the WNC Agricultural Options Program. “The program itself is designed to keep farmers in active production and viable in a more sustainable future,” said N.C. Cooperative Extension Service Agent Meghan Baker. – Watauga Democrat, March 15, 2010

Dig It! Extension grants help local farmers grow

The WNC Agricultural Options Program recently awarded 42 farmers the seed money they need to complete a variety of diversification projects. This year’s recipients, who are sharing a total pot of $225,000, are selling locally raised meats at the WNC Farmers Market in Asheville. – Mountain Xpress, March 10, 2010

Farmers receive $225,000 in grants

Tambra and Will Buford started a goat farm in Edneyville six years ago, planning to sell goat meat, then switching to goat’s milk. The Bufords sell soaps, lotions and cheeses made from the milk. Their Vineyard’s Edge farm was recently awarded a Grant Award: $6,000 grant to help build a cheese factory. – BlueRidgeNow.com Times News Online, March 9, 2010

in the News 2009

Hopping along: Hops farming comes to WNC

Cowzilla may be the only local hops lover who didn’t make an appearance at the inaugural Hops Farm Tour. The huge feral cow, christened Cowzilla by Julie Jensen, co-owner of Echo View at Landfair Farm in Weaverville, may have been intimidated by the more than 100 growers, home brewers and beer lovers… – Mountain Xpress, September 30, 2009

Diversifying farm operations with AgOptions grant funding

There is help for farmers who want to diversify their farms. Grants totaling $225,000 are available to WNC farmers who are diversifying or expanding their operations in 2010. WNC Agricultural Options, which will award approximately 45 farmers in 17 counties and the Cherokee Reservation… – Yancey Common Times Journal, August 26, 2009.

Hops: A future cash crop?

Van Burnette’s land has been in his family for 200 years, and has been operating as farmland for a century. His ancestors were some of the first settlers in Swannanoa Valley. Today, Burnette is a pioneer in his own right, as one of the first [modern] farmers in Western North Carolina to commercially grow hops, an ingredient for beer. -Black Mountain News, August 20, 2009.

Keeping the family farm intact: Alumna’s savvy management, conservation strategies keep her on Cloud 9.

Janet Peterson lives on Cloud 9, literally. After a 31-year teaching career in Buncombe County schools, Peterson ’76 (Literature/ K-9 Education) has returned to her family’s farming roots, and transformed her late parents’ 200-acre Fairview farm, Cloud 9. -UNC Asheville Magazine, Spring/Summer 2009.

Preserving Traditions

…the North Carolina Cooperative Extension also supports local farmers. It promotes a program called Western North Carolina Agricultural Options (AgOptions), funded by the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission. The program awards grants to farmers to help them expand or diversify…
-Mission-Based Investor: A Publication of Community Capital Management, Inc., Spring 2009

The Farm Girls

Maybe it’s a woman thing, to be able to feed your family. Maybe it’s the state of the economy or the world. but I have this incessant drive to learn how to do this,” Lauren Meijia tells me. – Western North Carolina Woman, August 2009

Ingle’s offering farm fresh local produce

Ingles Markets is turning into a local farmer’s market of sorts. The Asheville-based grocery store chain last month began carrying strawberries from Kaleb Rathbone’s Fines Creek farm in its Waynesville, Canton and Hazlewood stores. – Asheville Citizen Times, July 2, 2009

Ingle’s markets offer Haywood County produce

It started quietly enough, but it’s big news for Haywood County farmers. Thanks to Ingles Markets, shoppers can once again buy Haywood County produce in Haywood County grocery stores. – Waynesville Enterprise Mountaineer, June 19, 2009

WNC AgOptions announced

Farmers diversify, try local markets to remain viable. Nearly 50 farmers in the mountain region recently received funding totaling $225,000 from Western North Carolina Agricultural Options to demonstrate ways to enhance farm businesses. – Mitchell News Journal, June 2009

WNC AgOptions awards funding to Local Farmers

Farmers diversify, try local markets to remain viable. Nearly 50 farmers in the mountain region recently received funding totaling $225,000 from Western North Carolina Agricultural Options to demonstrate ways to enhance farm businesses . – High Country Press , April 2, 2009

Four Yancey farmers get grants to diversify farms, expands local markets

Four Yancey farmers are among the nearly 50 in the mountain region that recently received funding totaling $225,000 from Western North Carolina Options to demonstrate ways to enhance farm businesses. – Yancey Times Journal, April 8, 2009

in the News 2008

North Carolina vegetable growers carry on the Cherokee Tradition

Harold Long is full-blooded Cherokee Indian and proud of his heritage. Through his well-known Cherokee pottery and his extensive traditional Cherokee vegetable varieties, Long is doing his part to carry on Cherokee traditions. – Southeast Farm Press, Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Four Local Farms Win Grant Money From AgOptions

Four Jackson County farms have been awarded AgOptions grants to expand and diversify their operations. Vera Guise, Mike Creason, George Frady and Doug and Renee Lambrecht were awarded the funds earlier this month. The awards range from $2,500 to $5,000. – Sylva Herald, October 23, 2008

Tar Heel Growers find Niche with Organics

Amanda Sizemore grew up on a dairy farm in Fletcher, N.C. After graduating with a degree in horticulture from Clemson University, she set out on a career of helping farmers, first with the USDA, then the North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension System. – Southeast Farm Press, Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Local Farmers Revive Sorghum-Syrup Production

Sorghum syrup once flowed like creek water in the Southern Appalachians, and there are signs that this ultimate slow food  may be flowing again. With help from the state, several local farmers have revved up production of the rich, old-fashioned syrup. – Mountain Xpress, August 15, 2008

Cleaning up land: Goats fill unique niche in plant control

When Ron and Cheryl Searcy returned to their family farm near Horse Shoe, N.C., they had a number of crop and livestock options in mind – none of them involved goats. – Southeast Farm Press, Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Recovering from drought: Restoring stream banks a big step

Western North Carolina was among the Southeast’s hardest hit areas by drought in 2006-2007. Thanks to some forward thinking stream restoration work the rains that have somewhat alleviated the drought didn’t go to waste. – Farm Press, Wednesday, October 1, 2008

jones_andrew_hannahGood News

“This program has been a blessing and an education. I had no idea of any resources other than the few farmers in the area. The resources provided by this grant have been excellent!”

“This grant has allowed me to transition from small-scale ‘hobby’ farming to a production/income producing level. I have been able to turn overgrown unused land into pasture for my goat production.”

Andrew Jones, 2008 Grant Recipient
– Clay County

Press Release Archives

Awards for 2010 farm diversification projects announced

The WNC Agricultural Options Program awarded 42 farmers seed grants totaling $225,000 last month to assist them in completing farm diversification projects. This year’s grantees are selling Appalachian Grown meats at the WNC Farmers Market at Asheville; creating alternative markets for established strawberry, trout and edible landscaping enterprises; and introducing innovative crops to the region such as milkweed for sale to butterfly farmers and mosses for landscapers.

WNC Farmers Eligble for Funds

2008 – Awards totaling $675,000 over a three-year period will be granted to western NC farmers. The grant will be provided by the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, which will partner with Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) and the WNC Agricultural Options program to accept applications and monitor the recipients’ projects. Current and former tobacco growers are the primary audience for the program; however, any farmers living in tobacco dependent communities are eligible.

Area Farmers Get Grants for New Ventures

2008 – The Western North Carolina Agricultural Options Program recently awarded $5,000 to 23 area farmers and $2,500 to 14 farmers who are diversifying or expanding their operations. The grants offer incentive for farmers to try new ventures — encouraging the sustainability of their operation, as well as demonstrating new methods to the larger agriculture community. Published March 2008

BERRIES: The Next Cash Crop? Madison Couple Look to the Sweet Fruits

2005 – When it comes to cash crops in the mountains, for decades it’s been hard to beat burley tobacco. But Pam Zimmerman — armed with three acres of berries — is giving it a shot. – Asheville Citizen-Times, June 20, 2005.