Grants help mountain region’s farms succeed

WNC AgOptions intent to apply deadline Oct. 12; application deadline Nov. 16

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Program Contact: Jennifer Ferre, (828) 333-4277,;
or the local N.C. Cooperative Extension Agriculture Agent

Media Contact: Megan Riley, (828) 333-4151,

MARSHALL — Mountain farms will soon benefit from N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission’s recent funding of WNC Agricultural Options. With support from the Commission, WNC AgOptions will award area farmers a new round of Grant Award: $3,000 and Grant Award: $6,000 grants, for a total of $145,000. WNC AgOptions is accepting applications until November 16.

WNC AgOptions, a program of N.C. Cooperative Extension and WNC Communities, continues its nine-year history of helping farmers diversify their businesses. “I am excited that the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission funded this program again this year,” said Ross Young, Madison County Extension Director and WNC AgOptions steering committee leader. “There is no doubt that agriculture in Western North Carolina has become stronger because of WNC AgOptions and we expect the 2013 program to continue with outstanding applications from farmers hoping to keep their farms strong in these ever-changing times.”

WNC AgOptions awards farmers who propose diversification projects that buncombe salmons4will help their businesses grow and succeed. The seed money offsets the risk of trying something new and gives farmers the chance to demonstrate new farming techniques and marketing tactics to the agricultural community.

Applications are available at and at local Cooperative Extension Centers. Interested applicants should contact their local Extension Agents by October 12 to notify them that they intend to apply. The application postmark deadline is November 16.

One recent WNC AgOptions recipient, Wildwood Herbal in Buncombe County, is harvesting tilapia from a new sustainably designed aquaponics system and will include fish in CSA shares this fall. Another 2012 recipient, David Hughes in Mitchell County, is transitioning entirely from tobacco to potatoes. He is thrilled with the results of his project, as soils in his county often produce at least twice the yield that is expected for potatoes. In part due to the publicity of her grant project, Donna Gains of High Mountain Meadows Farm in Clay County is already taking calls from customers requesting goat cheese even before the completion of her new creamery, due to open this fall.

“The innovative ideas which farmers undertake, the opportunity to showcase these ideas to whole communities, and the proven and continuing success of the WNC AgOptions program are key reasons why our board chose to fund this great project for another year,” said Bill Teague, Chairman of the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission.

mitchell hughes1Eligible farms are in: Avery, Buncombe, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Swain, Transylvania, Watauga and Yancey counties as well as the Cherokee Indian Reservation. The WNC AgOptions steering committee strongly encourages eligible farmers who have never received grant funding to apply.

The administrator of WNC AgOptions is WNC Communities, a non-profit organization that has roots as far back as 1947 and hands in the development of such influential regional projects as the N.C. Arboretum, the WNC Agricultural Center, and, most recently, the WNC Regional Livestock Center. WNC Communities is dedicated to providing a unique forum for leaders in western North Carolina to carry out innovative programs to improve the quality of life for rural communities and to enhance the agriculture economy

Members of the WNC AgOptions steering committee include: representatives from N.C. Cooperative Extension, N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services–Marketing Division, WNC Communities, Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project and other leaders in agribusiness. RAFI-USA’s Tobacco Communities Reinvestment Fund manages a similar grant program for farmers in the Piedmont, Central and Coastal regions of North Carolina.

For more information, see the following: WNC Agricultural Options:; N.C. Cooperative Extension Centers:; N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission:; WNC Communities:

 Pictured above: Seth Salmon at Wildwood Herbal in Buncombe County; David Hughes’ potato farm in Mitchell County