Grants to boost local agricultural system available

Published 3:33 pm Thursday, August 5, 2010

WNC AgOptions program is continuing its grant effort for individual farm businesses in 2011. The program will award approximately 40 grants ranging from $3,000 to $9,000 for farm diversification projects. Since 2004, WNC AgOptions has administered more than 250 grants in 17 counties and the Cherokee Indian Reservation to mountain farmers diversifying or expanding their operations. Polk County has been included in the program since 2009.

The North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission has supported WNC AgOptions since 2003. Over the past few years, the farmers in western North Carolina have developed very innovative projects and have shown that their ideas can generate some great results, said William Upchurch, executive director of the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission.

Applications are available at or at county Cooperative Extension Centers. The postmark deadline of November 22 is earlier than previous years, and the 2011 grant cycle is from January to November. Interested applicants should contact their local Cooperative Extension Agents by November 1 to express their intent to apply.

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Priority will be given to projects that provide demonstration to other farmers and encourage the economic sustainability of cooperating farm businesses. Applicants should extensively research the logistics, markets, expenses and timelines for their projects.

Individual farm business projects awarded in 2010 include: a produce packaging facility for improving sales to local grocery chains, a propagation house for food and medicinal plants, hops production for steep terrains, a maple syrup finishing cooker, and no-till production of specialty winter squash.

The ultimate goal of WNC AgOptions is to preserve farmland by improving the long term sustainability of farm enterprises. For more information, see the following websites: N.C. Cooperative Extension Centers:; Family Farm Innovation Fund:; Tobacco Communities Reinvestment Fund, RAFI-USA:; N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission: