WNC Agricultural Options 2021 Application for Individual Farm Businesses


Thank you for your interest in the WNC Agricultural Options Program. WNC AgOptions builds sustainable farming communities in our mountain region by providing resources directly to farmers who are diversifying or expanding their operations. Funded projects offer demonstration of alternative farm income to transitioning tobacco growers.

WNC AgOptions is exclusively supported by the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission and works in partnership with WNC Communities. For more information on the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, visit: http://www.tobaccotrustfund.org/

Members of the WNC AgOptions steering committee include: representatives from the N.C. Cooperative Extension, N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project and other agricultural business leaders.

Who should apply? Applicants are residents of North Carolina who demonstrate the economic viability of farms in Western North Carolina. Support is provided to individual farmers/farms that are diversifying or expanding their operations to increase farm income and encourage the sustainability of the farm businesses. The farm must be one in which the family holds the financial responsibility, takes the risks, and provides the majority of the management decisions for the farm business. WNC AgOptions awards grants to a variety of farm operations, including: fruits & vegetables, livestock, nurseries, agritourism, beekeeping and value-added processing. While agriculture is a varied and diverse industry that can be defined in many ways, WNC AgOptions favors applicants who operate a business and manage land for the purpose of producing crops for harvest and sale.  Any funding requests should be for items directly related to the growing and harvesting of crops for sale, including livestock. WNC AgOptions also favors agritourism operations that are for the purpose of inviting the public on farm to increase sales of farm products.

Current employees and their spouses of N.C. Cooperative Extension, NCSU, NCA&T, NCDA&CS, WNC Communities; members of the WNC AgOptions Steering Committee and their spouses; board members of WNC Communities and their spouses are not eligible to receive WNC AgOptions grants.

Priority will be given to applicants who:

  • Are diversifying or expanding their operations so that they remain sustainable for this and future generations;
  • Currently or previously grew tobacco in North Carolina, particularly during or after 1997;
  • Show they follow typical procedures of a legitimate farm business, such as acquiring a NC Department of Revenue Tax Exemption number, having a Farm Service Agency farm number; and filing a Schedule F or equivalent Schedule C (or equivalent) with the Internal Revenue Service;
  • Generate more than one-half of their household income from crops or products produced on farm;
  • Have sufficient experience and expertise to accomplish the projects and/or have identified the proper cooperators to supplement gaps in their skills and abilities;
  • Actively participate in grower associations or other commodity group meetings;
  • Have sufficiently researched the production methods, markets, expenses and timeline for their projects;
  • Are proposing projects that demonstrate successful farming practices, methods, and/or markets to the agriculture community;
  • Exhibit working relationships with their local Cooperative Extension Agents;
  • Have included two quality letters of support from additional cooperators, which can include purchasers, advisors, consultants, agricultural specialists, other granting agencies or loan officers;
  • Have NOT received funding from WNC AgOptions from 2004 to 2020 and have NOT received funding from the Tobacco Communities Reinvestment Fund offered through RAFI, USA from 2009-2011. Recipients who have previously received a total of three WNC AgOptions/RAFI grants are not eligible for a fourth.

Farmers who do not meet all of these criteria are still encouraged to apply.

How are applications reviewed? Projects are ranked via a numeric scoring system based on the strength of the answers in the application. Approximately 25 leaders in the agriculture field throughout Western North Carolina participate in the review process, and a team of reviewers score each application. The WNC AgOptions Steering Committee uses these scores as the primary guide in determining final grant recipients.

How can the grant be spent? Suitable expenses are those associated with the production and marketing of diversified farm enterprises and agri-tourism endeavors. Examples include, but are not limited to: seeds, fertilizer, plants, amendments, livestock, trainings, advertisements, packaging, fences, signage, facilities, supplies, tools and specialized equipment. Items that cannot be funded by the award include: farmer labor, pre-existing farm debt, and expenses that are dated outside of the grant period from January 4, 2021 through November 30, 2021.

Funds must be used as stated in the applicant’s proposal. Use of funds inconsistent with the proposal will result in forfeiture of award and repayment of funds.

 How much is awarded? The amount of award can be: $3,000 or $6,000

WNC AgOptions will provide cash awards to projects with budgets that are at least 10% higher than the amount of the award request. An award request of $3000 would require a project budget of at least $3300 and a $6000 award request would require a budget of at least $6600.

The $6,000 awards are only available for farmers who write a business plan for their project. Plans are due June 30, 2021.

All grant recipients will be required to attend a new recipient orientation and are encouraged to attend at least one WNC AgOptions workshop on local agriculture updates, business planning education, and new marketing opportunity information.

It is the intent to award grants throughout a 22-county/unit area, which encompasses the following: Avery, Buncombe, Burke, Caldwell, Clay, Cherokee, Cleveland, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (projects on tribal land), Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Swain, Transylvania, Watauga and Yancey. Each county/unit will host at least one recipient in 2021 if one or more qualifying applications (i.e. earning sufficient points to qualify for a grant) are submitted from each county/unit.

When are applications due? Proposals must be received by November 20, 2020.  Emailed applications will be accepted. See email requirements below. Only one application per farm will be accepted. If sending a hard copy, make your application reaches WNC Communities by November 20, 2020. A traceable/trackable mailing method is suggested. Completed applications should be mailed or hand delivered (a drop box is located next to the mailbox) to:

WNC AgOptions Project Coordinator

WNC Communities

594 Brevard Rd.

Asheville, NC 28806

 Email Requirements:

  • All proposal documents, including attachments, must be in PDF format.
  • All sections of application must be submitted; including SECTIONS VI, VII and Letters of Support (scans are acceptable). If awarded, you will need to provide originals before any money is dispersed.
  • Proposal to be in a single PDF file if possible. If file is too big, the attachments can be sent as one document and the application as a separate document.
  • Emailed applications must be received by NOON on November 20, 2020.
  • Email application to agoptions@wnccommunities.org

Tips for writing a successful proposal:

  1. Plan and research your topic and market thoroughly. Review the WNC AgOptions website at https://wncagoptions.org to gather ideas.
  2. Arrange an appointment with an N.C. Cooperative Extension Agent by the October 23, 2020 Intent to Apply deadline and receive assistance on developing your project proposal. Those who do not meet the Intent to Apply deadline may not receive all points possible from reviewers.
  3. Include two quality letters of support from partners or cooperators who will help you complete your goals. (You are welcome to submit more than two letters, but you will only receive points for two). Please include original signed letters with your application.
  4. Write the proposal as if the reader is not familiar with your particular type of farming operation. Be as concise yet thorough as possible.

Procedures and Timeline for WNC AgOptions Proposals

  • OCTOBER 23, 2020: Intent to Apply Deadline. All applicants should contact their county Cooperative Extension Agents to set up an appointment to discuss their projects.
  • NOVEMBER 20, 2020 Application deadline – mailed applications must be received by this date. Email must be received by NOON. Applications that are received after the due date or have incomplete information will not be considered for review.
  • Week of November 30 : WNC AgOptions representatives may contact finalists for phone interviews if additional information is required to determine the grant recipients.
  • The week of January 4, 2021: Letters of acceptance or regrets will be mailed to all applicants.
  • Week of February 1, 2021: Recipients are required to attend a one-day program orientation/educational workshop. Details will be mailed with acceptance notification.
  • June 30, 2021: Business plans, required for $6,000 recipients, are due.
  • November 30, 2021: Receipts for project expenses, final income and expense reports, and surveys are due. All grant funds must be spent by this date.

Requirements of 2021 WNC AgOptions Grant Recipients:

  1. Recipients must reside in and projects must be located within the 22-county/unit area, which encompasses the following: Avery, Buncombe, Burke, Caldwell, Clay, Cherokee, Cleveland, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (on tribal land), Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Swain, Transylvania, Watauga and Yancey.
  2. Recipient must be a family farm—one in which the family holds the financial responsibility, takes the risks, and provides the majority of the management decisions for the farm business.
  3. Recipients must provide a financial contribution of 10% or more of their total grant award towards their total project budget.
  4. Recipients must keep accurate production and financial records on the project and supply a copy of those records at the completion of the project. Copies of receipts for project expenditures will be required. Recipients’ project expenditures must be at least 10% higher than their award amount.
  5. Recipients must be available via mail and/or phone calls throughout the year. Email access is very helpful.
  6. Recipients must attend the WNC AgOptions orientation and will receive their first allotment of the grant there.
  7. A WNC AgOptions representative will visit each of the recipients’ farms at least once to discuss progress on the projects.
  8. The $6,000 recipients must submit business plans for their project to the WNC AgOptions Project Coordinator by June 30, 2021 to receive the next $2,000 allotment.
  9. Recipients must complete final income and expense reports, a North Carolina state compliance reporting form, plus a survey that provides feedback about the program and results of their project, by November 30, 2021 to receive the final $500 allotment.
  10. Recipients will recognize WNC AgOptions and the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission as the funders/supporters of the project in all materials/marketing/advertising used to promote the project (WNC AgOptions will provide appropriate logos, usage guide and yard sign).
  11. WNC AgOptions will include the recipients’ projects in public relations, outreach, demonstration and education in 2021 and future years.
  12. 2021 WNC AgOptions recipients cannot participate in any other NC TTFC funded cost share program the within the calendar year.


       Download in WORD       Download in PDF


Applicants should direct all questions regarding this application to:

 WNC AgOptions Coordinator

(828) 252-4783



To watch in an informational presentation, click on the below link for details.