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2023 WNC AgOptions Grant Guidelines:

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.

WNC AgOptions is funded 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 NC 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. Non-profits and corporately-owned farms are not eligible. WNC AgOptions awards grants to a variety of farm operations, including: fruits & vegetables, livestock, nurseries, agritourism, beekeeping and value-added processing. Farm businesses that add value and/or sell products that are made from items produced or grown on the applicant’s farm are eligible to apply. While agriculture is a varied and diverse industry that can be defined in many ways, WNC AgOptions funds 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 funds 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 NC 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, obtaining appropriate insurance; 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 2022 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 to apply:

  1. Attend an informational session (optional:). As soon as the 2023 application has been released, WNC Communities will conduct informational sessions in Western North Carolina. Click HERE for a list of upcoming information sessions. Although not required, attendance does provide helpful information and gives applicants the ability to ask questions and potentially prepare a stronger application.
  2. Meet the Intent to Apply deadline. By October 14, talk to your local NC Cooperative Extension agent about the project you intend to apply for to receive assistance on developing your project proposal. If your agent is familiar with your farm and operation, a phone call may suffice. If you have not worked closely with your agent before, they may need to make a visit to your farm so they can better assist you with your project. Those who do not meet the Intent to Apply deadline will not receive all points possible in the review process.
  3. Submit your application. Prior to completing your application, review the Grant Writing Tips on the WNC AgOptions website: https://wncagoptions.org/grant-writing-tips/. Applications must be received by November 18, 2022. Only one application per farm will be accepted. If sending a hard copy, make sure your application reaches WNC Communities by November 18 by 5:00 p.m. Completed applications should be mailed or hand delivered to WNC Communities (a drop box is located next to the mailbox) to the address on the following page. A traceable/trackable mailing method is suggested. If emailing, see Email Requirements below.

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 and VII (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, November 18, 2022.
  • Email application to agoptions@wnccommunities.org. Please include the words
    2023 WNC AgOptions Application
    in the subject line.

How are applications reviewed? Projects are ranked via a numeric scoring system. 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 9, 2023 through December 31, 2023.

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.

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 2023 cycle, at which point a second allotment will be released. Recipients receive a third and final payment upon completion of the grant requirements.

Procedures and Timeline for WNC AgOptions Proposals

  • October 14, 2022: Intent to Apply Deadline. All applicants must contact their county Cooperative Extension Agent by this date to discuss their projects.
  • November 18, 2022: 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.
  • December 5 and 6, 2022: WNC AgOptions representatives may contact finalists for phone interviews if additional information is required.
  • The week of January 9, 2023: Letters of acceptance or regrets will be mailed to all applicants.
  • Thursday, February 2, 2023: Recipients are required to attend a one-day orientation/educational workshop. Details will be mailed with acceptance notification.

Requirements of 2023 WNC AgOptions Grant Recipients:

  1. Recipients must attend the WNC AgOptions orientation and will receive their first allotment of the grant there.
  2. Recipients must provide a financial contribution of 10% or more of their total grant award towards their total project budget.
  3. 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.
  4. Recipients must submit a business plan to WNC AgOptions by June 30, 2023 to receive their second allotment of grant funds.
  5. A WNC AgOptions representative will visit each of the recipients’ farms at least once to discuss progress on the projects.
  6. Recipients must provide receipts, 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 December 31, 2023 to receive the final $500 allotment.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Recipients must be available via mail and/or phone calls throughout the year. Email access is very helpful.
  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 2023 and future years.