Thank you for your interest in the WNC Agricultural Options Program

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.

*Eligible applicants must reside and project must be located in the West District of NC Cooperative Extension Service, which encompasses the following 22 counties/areas: 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.

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;
  • 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 qualifying letters of support from additional cooperators, which can include purchasers, advisors, consultants, agricultural specialists, other granting agencies or loan officers (see details in application);
  • Have NOT received funding from WNC AgOptions from 2004 to 2021 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 agritourism 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 24, 2022 through November 30, 2022.

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: $4000 or $8000. 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 $4000 would require a project budget of at least $4400 and a $8000 award request would require a budget of at least $8800. Please note: Grant awards for the WNC AgOptions’ 2022 cycle are contingent upon the availability of funds to WNC Communities to fund this project.

How is the grant money distributed? All recipients are required to attend a grantee orientation, where they will receive their first allotment of funds. All recipients are also required to submit a business plan during the course of the 2022 cycle, at which point a second allotment will be released. Recipients receive a third and final payment upon completion of the grant requirements.

When are applications due? Applications must be received by December 17, 2021.  Emailed applications will be accepted – see email requirements below. Only one application per farm will be accepted. If sending a hard copy, make sure your application reaches WNC Communities by December 17 by 5:00 p.m. 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 application documents, including attachments, must be in PDF format.
  • All sections of application must be submitted; including SECTIONS VI, VII and VIII (scans are acceptable). If awarded, you will need to provide originals before any money is dispersed.
  • Application should be in a single PDF file if possible. If file is too big, additional attachments can be sent as one document and the application as a separate document.
  • Emailed applications must be received by NOON on Friday, December 17, 2021.
  • Email application to
  • Please include the words 2022 WNC AgOptions Application in the subject line.


Procedures and Timeline for WNC AgOptions Proposals

  • November 12, 2021: Intent to Apply Deadline. All applicants should contact their county Cooperative Extension Agents to set up an appointment to discuss their projects.
  • December 17, 2021: 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.
  • January 3 and 4, 2022: WNC AgOptions representatives may contact finalists for phone interviews if additional information is required.
  • The week of January 24, 2022: Letters of acceptance or regrets will be mailed to all applicants.
  • Thursday, February 17, 2022: Recipients are required to attend a one-day program orientation/educational workshop. Details will be mailed with acceptance notification.


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