Grants boost farm profits, sustain businesses
for future generations

Projects include innovative hydroponic fodder system,
micropropagation lab and no-till equipment

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, January 30, 2013

MILLS RIVER, NC — Western North Carolina farmers received $148,500 in WNC Agricultural Options grants to diversify their farm businesses in the 2013 growing season. The 28 grant recipients celebrated Tuesday at an event at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center in Mills River. The goal of the farms’ projects is to enhance profitability.

 The WNC AgOptions grant program has been funded exclusively by the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission since 2003. “The Commission is very pleased to fund and support the WNC AgOptions program for another year,” said Bill Teague, Chairman of the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission. “We expect to see some unique projects, because mountain farmers have shown they are resourceful, innovative and committed to making their farms successful.”

Six farm businesses received $3,000, one received $4,500, and 21 received $6,000. Many of the farmers are undertaking projects that are unique to their counties, and some are leading the way in innovative agriculture nationwide.

watauga tester
Bill Teague of Leicester, Chairman of N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, awards Jessica Lawrence of Tester Dairy Farm in Watauga County a grant to start a hydroponic fodder system.

South Valley Nursery and Landscaping in Avery County is building a micropropagation lab so that grant recipient Tyler Buchanan can mass produce unique plants such as native orchids that are expensive to propagate using traditional techniques. Tissue culture requires a significant upfront investment, specialized training and a sterile environment to be able to produce new plants in vitro (in a test tube), but payoff can be significant since the demand for these rare native plants is high.

Joe Ward in Jackson County is establishing a no-till planting system in an area where few farmers use this method. In no-till fields, soil erosion and runoff decrease as a network of fibrous and tap roots grow throughout the soil profile, providing pathways for air and moisture. This method also creates a good environment for earthworms and beneficial bacteria, fungi and enzymes, all crucial for healthy crops.

Addison Vineyard in Buncombe County

The grant projects help many of the grant recipients’ achieve their dreams of passing their farming operations to their children or grandchildren. Rick Walker, who is building a poultry processing facility in Cherokee County, named his farm after his four sons, Ricky, Joseph, Daniel and Joshua, who are ages six and under. “4 Sons Farm is the name I chose not only because I have four sons, but because it is for my sons,” Walker said. “I began farming to provide wholesome food for our children, to teach them an ancient and respected way of life, and to create a business legacy to hand down to them.”

N.C. Cooperative Extension implements the WNC AgOptions program and works directly with farmers as they complete their projects. “As we begin our ninth grant cycle, it is very rewarding to look back at all the successful farm operations and creative enterprises that have grown from the initial investments,” said Ross Young, Madison County Extension Director and WNC AgOptions steering committee leader. “The farmers in western North Carolina are the most vital component of the program. It is their ideas and their dedication to the success of those ideas that make it all work.”

In partnership with N.C. Cooperative Extension, the non-profit organization WNC Communities administers WNC AgOptions grants. 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.

“WNC Communities is delighted to serve as fiscal agent in bringing these funds to creative and innovative farmers throughout western North Carolina,” said L.T. Ward, Vice President of WNC Communities. “We are extremely appreciative to N. C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission for their long standing and continuing commitment to WNC AgOptions and the farmers of this region.”

Members of the WNC AgOptions steering committee include: representatives from N.C. Cooperative Extension, WNC Communities, N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services–Marketing Division, Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project and other leaders in agriculture. For more information, see the following: WNC Agricultural Options:; N.C. Cooperative Extension Centers:; N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission:; WNC Communities:

View the full list of 2013 WNC AgOptions recipients.

Program Contact: Jennifer Ferre, (828) 252-4783,;

Or the local N.C. Cooperative Extension Agriculture Agent

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