High Country

2008 is the second year that Scott Paquin, owner of Firefly Farm in Yancey County, has received an AgOptions grant. In 2006 he broadly diversified his organic vegetable farm with the grant. This year, he will be adding natural grass-fed beef cattle to his operation, including raising a heritage breed of cattle, Devon, to promote agri-tourism on his farm.

“It’s been nice to have something there to help us along as we have incrementally grown the farm,” Paquin said about the AgOptions grant. “We’ve been able to see tangible returns on the investment of the grant. It truly is seed money that allows us to see a project grow.”

In addition to the added income, cattle on his farm give Paquin a sense of nostalgia. “We had cattle when I was real young — 8-years-old,” he said. “I always appreciate the type of energy animals give to a farm.”

For Chad Calhoun in Mitchell County, the AgOptions grant is helping him keep the farming tradition alive in his family. “I have been involved in farming my entire life,” he said. “I grew up with my grandfather as a farmer. I would love to continue the tradition with my family.”

U-Pick strawberries, which he’ll establish with help from the grant, are a crop his two daughters are interested in helping grow. He will be transitioning away from tobacco, which he has grown since 1993.

Along with Paquin and Calhoun, six other AgOptions recipients are in the High Country:

  • In Avery County, Rebecca Daniels, a third-generation fraser fir grower and sheep farmer, is working with her son, Logan Burleson, 16, to establish a greenhouse operation for wine grapevines. They will sell to wine grape growers across the region.
  • In Mitchell County, Cynthia Sharpe and Dwain Swing, owners of OakMoon Creamery, will improve their creamery facilities so they can produce raw milk products.
  • In Mitchell County, Ronnie Sparks, a lifetime farmer, will transition his burley tobacco farm into boxwood production.
  • In Watauga County, Marshall Shipp and his son Carl will increase their bee hives, selling beekeeping supplies, honey, candles and skin-care products.
  • In Yancey County, Nicole Del Coqlano and Gaelen Corozine of Green Toe Ground will offer a winter share to their Community Supported Agriculture members. They will store root crops for winter and construct high tunnels to grow tender crops in the cool weather.
  • In Yancey County, Robin Smith, owner of Bee Log Berries & Produce, will install a greenhouse so she can increase the production of transplants to meet her growing demands.