Sweet Grass Farm receives $6,000 grantPublished 6:35pm Friday, February 10, 2012
Owners look to carry on farm’s family heritage
Randy Smith clacks a white plastic bucket against the fencing in his back yard and calls for three calves standing on a distant hill. These three calves, about 8 months old, will soon join the more than 20 other cattle the Smiths have grazing in their pastures.
Randy and Megan Smith, who run Sweet Grass Farm, were recently chosen as recipients of a $6,000 Western North Carolina AgOptions Grant for the second year in a row.
“If it wasn’t for these grant programs,” Randy Smith said, “a lot of people, especially younger people like us, wouldn’t be able to get into agriculture or keep a family farm alive.”
Twenty-three farmers throughout Western North Carolina were awarded a total of $150,000 in WNC Agricultural Options grants to increase the profitability of their diverse farms. The N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission has funded the program exclusively since 2003.
“Western North Carolina is one of the most diverse agriculture regions in the United States,” said Ross Young, Madison County Extension Director and WNC AgOptions steering committee leader. “The number of applicants greatly exceeds the number of farms we can award each year. This is unfortunate for those who do not receive funding but validates the importance of this program.”
The 2012 recipients are expanding the delivery of healthy vegetables, poultry and meat directly to consumers, establishing a mobile pollination trailer to transport bees to farms in the Western North Carolina region to help successfully pollinate crops while also producing honey, experimenting with products such as Kalura romaine lettuce and constructing a greenhouse for hydroponic strawberry growing.
Many of the grants also work to help sustain historic farms like Smith’s Sweet Grass Farm.