Guaranteed funding for farm grants for next two years

WNC AgOptions intent to apply deadline Oct. 24, 2014; application deadline Nov. 21, 2014; Farmers can also apply in fall 2015.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday October 3, 2014

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

Or the local N.C. Cooperative Extension Agriculture Agent

 ASHEVILLE, N.C.—Western North Carolina farmers now have the chance to apply for farm diversification grants two separate times in the next two years. The N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission recently funded WNC Agricultural Options through 2016, guaranteeing that WNC farmers will receive a total of $340,000 in small grants in the next two application cycles.

WNC AgOptions awards farmers who are diversifying or expanding their operations Grant Award: $3,000 and Grant Award: $6,000 grants to offset the risk of trying a new venture. “A two year funding cycle is a true blessing to the WNC AgOptions program,” said Ross Young, Madison County Extension Director and WNC AgOptions steering committee leader. “Not only will the program run smoother and more efficiently, but also farmers will have the assurance of knowing grants will be available for at least the next two years.

“The WNC AgOptions program is an excellent example of grant funds providing direct support to those who need it most,” Young continued. “Our farmers are arguably the most important people in our society. I sincerely appreciate the Commission’s interest in supporting western North Carolina agriculture.”

TTFClogosmThe Commission has helped the mountain region cope with changes in the agricultural industry, ensuring farmers continue farming. “Farmers in western North Carolina have proven time and time again that they are very innovative, resourceful and creative in how they produce and market their products,” said Bill Teague, Chairman of the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission. “Our board is committed to the success of farmers in the targeted counties and we know these grants will encourage many successful projects.”

The upcoming application deadline is Nov. 21. All applicants should contact their Cooperative Extension Agents by Oct. 24 to set up an appointment to discuss their projects. Applications are available at and at local Cooperative Extension Centers. Farmers can also apply for grants in the fall of 2015—the application deadline is yet to be determined.

Since 2004, WNC AgOptions has distributed nearly $1.8 million to farmers in western North Carolina who are diversifying or expanding their operations. Returns on initial investments are often immediate, as new income typically matches the size of the grants in the first year of the projects. Income continues to increase year after year, often doubling by the third year of the projects.

Joseph and Tara Cathey of Walnut Cove Farms in Haywood County said recently that their 2013 catheygrant was the catalyst they needed to grow their Community Supported Agriculture membership to 20 people. The expansion led to on-farm events drawing more than 100 people. They are holding a “Farm-To-Mug” event October 16, featuring local musicians and three local breweries’ craft beers, each made with Walnut Cove hops.

English CheeseEnglish Dairy Farm in McDowell County, who added cheese-making to their dairy with the help of a 2012 WNC AgOptions grant, sells out of English Farmstead Cheese at their farm store almost every weekend and are highlighted at local grocery stores, such as Katuah Market in Asheville. They are on the N.C. Department’s “Got to Be NC” program and official members of the WNC Cheese Trail.

Of the 42 members of Southern Appalachian Family Farms in the far western part of the region, 16 are past or present WNC AgOptions recipients. SAFF, a 2011 community grant recipient, started the Hayesville Evening Harvest Market, which has been an overwhelming success, according to organizers.

WNC AgOptions offers grants to farmers in the following counties/units: Avery, Buncombe, Burke, Caldwell, Cherokee, Clay, Cleveland, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Swain, Transylvania, Watauga and Yancey counties as well as the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Interested farmers who live outside of this coverage area should contact RAFI-USA’s Tobacco Communities Reinvestment Fund, also exclusively funded by the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission. See

The administrator of WNC AgOptions is WNC Communities, a non-profit organization that has been improving agriculture in the region since 1947. WNC Communities provides 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 administrator for WNC AgOptions,” said L.T. Ward, Vice President of WNC Communities. “We are grateful to the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission and North Carolina legislators for their support throughout the past eleven years. We are extremely pleased the Commission has made a two year commitment, which is confirmation of their confidence in the success of this important and effective program.”


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