By Scott Nicholson

Watauga Democrat, February 2011

The Watauga County Farmers Market and six local farms received funding in the latest round of WNC AgOptions grants for farm diversification.
The farmers market received $18,000 for a site analysis and expansion as the market looks for a new home. This is the last year of a contract to hold the market at the Horn in the West grounds in Boone and the market is trying to lease property from Watauga County for 2012.

The proposed new site is at the county Human Services Complex, though county commissioners are seeking more than the $1 per year offered by the market.

Farmers market and local agricultural officials are also exploring buying a property on Boone’s southern gateway entrance to serve as a permanent educational site as well as market, though it could take years to pull an offer together.

Jimmy and Sheila Greene were awarded Grant Award: $6,000 for marketing of their community-supported agriculture program delivering homegrown local meat. Ryan Norris was awarded Grant Award: $6,000 for goat leasing for weed control as well as meat production.

Robert Johnson received $3,000 for harvest equipment for a small-scale vineyard, Todd Nolt received $3,000 for raspberry production, Jill Nickclaw received $3,000 for microgreen production and Charles Church received $3,000 to expand his vegetable crops.

The Avery County Farmers Tailgate Marketing Association received $5,000 for a promotional campaign, and Avery farmers Amos Nidiffer and Grady Bob Johnson Jr. each received $6,000 for poultry, bees, and berry production.

More than 50 farmers and agriculture groups statewide received grants totaling $326,000 this year to assist with farm diversification, marketing and crop distribution. The grants are distributed by the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service through the N.C. tobacco settlement trust fund.

The program was originally intended to help tobacco farmers make the transition to other crops but has also been used to expand farm viability and local foods.