WNC AgOptions Farm Grant Program Now Accepting Proposals
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Western North Carolina farmers now have the opportunity to apply for farm diversification grants over the next three years. The N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission recently funded WNC Agricultural Options, providing $648,000 to the program to distribute as cost-share grants to WNC farmers through 2021. With $216,000 available in 2019, farmers have until Nov. 19, 2018, to submit their applications.
WNC AgOptions helps offset farmers’ risk of trying new ventures with $3,000 and $6,000 grants. “The WNC AgOptions program is an excellent example of grant funds providing direct support to those who need it most,” said Ross Young, Madison County Extension Director and WNC AgOptions steering committee leader. “Our farmers are arguably the most important people in our society. I sincerely appreciate the Commission’s interest in supporting western North Carolina agriculture.”
The Commission has supported the mountain region throughout major changes in agriculture, ensuring farmers continue farming. “Farmers in western North Carolina have proven time and time again that they are very innovative, resourceful and creative in how they produce and market their products,” said Bill Teague, Chairman of the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission. “Our board is committed to the success of farmers in the targeted counties and we know these grants will encourage many successful projects.”
Applicants should contact their Cooperative Extension Agents by Oct. 19 to set up an appointment to discuss their projects. Applications are available at the WNC AgOptions website or at local N.C. Cooperative Extension Centers. Extension Agents remain a resource for farmers throughout the year as they complete their projects.
Since 2004, WNC AgOptions has distributed more than $2.8 million to farmers in western North Carolina who are diversifying their operations. Returns on initial investments are often immediate, as new income typically matches the size of the grants in the first year of the projects. Income continues to increase year after year, often doubling by the third year of the projects.
WNC AgOptions offers grants to farmers in the following counties/units: Avery, Buncombe, Burke, Caldwell, Cherokee, Clay, Cleveland, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Swain, Transylvania, Watauga, and Yancey Counties, as well as the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
Applicants are encouraged to attend information sessions, which will be held throughout the region in the next two weeks, with one to take place from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, October 11, 2018, at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center (455 Research Drive Mills River, NC 28759). Check the WNC AgOptions website for dates and locations of upcoming regional sessions or call Project Coordinator Jennifer Ferre at (828) 252-4783.
The administrator of WNC AgOptions is WNC Communities, a non-profit organization that has been improving agriculture in the region since 1947. WNC Communities provides a unique forum for leaders in western North Carolina to carry out innovative programs to improve the quality of life for rural communities and to enhance the agriculture economy. WNC Communities is honored to be the administrator of this annual funding opportunity designed to support farmers in their quest to try new techniques or implement innovative farming practices,” said L.T. Ward, Vice president of WNC Communities. “We are grateful to the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission and North Carolina legislators for their support for the last fourteen years.”