At a century-old farm in Stokes County, a grower plans to make chips from tomatoes that otherwise would be wasted. A couple from Kenly will build an animal barn to expand the livestock operation that’s part of their agritourism business. And a Mount Olive father-daughter team are turning an old tobacco greenhouse into a microgreens operation.
These and 24 other projects were recently announced as winners of 2018 North Carolina AgVentures cost-share grants. The grants are designed to strengthen agriculturally dependent families and communities, and they are awarded to farm operators who have innovative plans to diversify, expand, or implement new production, marketing or distribution strategies.
NC State Extension administers the grant program with funding from N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission. Farmers in 18 counties – Duplin, Edgecombe, Forsyth, Greene, Guilford, Harnett, Johnston, Lenoir, Martin, Nash, Pitt, Rockingham, Sampson, Stokes, Surry, Wayne, Wilson and Yadkin – were eligible to apply for grants up to $10,000.
The N.C. Cooperative Extension Center in Stokes County received a community grant to set up a mobile poultry processing unit to be shared by small poultry producers in Stokes and surrounding counties.
In addition to awarding grants to individual farms, N.C. AgVentures also awarded three community grants for collaborative projects benefiting three or more farms.
“There was a time when the small farm was going by the wayside, and that was hurting local economies,” said Jacqueline Miller, who coordinates the program. “The goal with this grant program is to help these businesses thrive and become stronger, and if a grant helps one business — and we do consider farms businesses — do better and grow, then the whole community benefits.”
William Upchurch, executive director of the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, agreed.
“By supporting creativeness on the farm and keeping that farming opportunity moving forward, we see a trickle-down effect in terms of how many people out there can benefit,” he said. “Farmers and farm communities put a lot of faith and trust in Extension, and if Extension agents are there to help guide that farmer to try an innovative technique and bring it to success, then you can look at the program as a way to make a lasting impact.”
To learn more about N.C. AgVentures and the impact it has on family farms and communities, visit https://agventures.ces.ncsu.edu/.