WNC AgOptions: Grants for Family Farms in 2023

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WNC AgOptions intent to apply deadline Oct. 14; Application deadline Nov. 18.

WNC Agricultural Options is now accepting grant applications from farmers diversifying or expanding their businesses. With funding from the N.C. Tobacco Trust
Fund Commission, WNC AgOptions is distributing a total of $220,000 to western North Carolina farmers in 2023. The application deadline is Nov. 18.

WNC AgOptions helps offset farmers’ risk of trying new ventures and expanding their farms with $4,000 and $8,000 grants.

Renea's Elderberries

2021 grant recipient, Renea Winchester of Butterfly Cove Botanicals.
Medicinal Herb Expansion
Grant Award: $6,000

The N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission has supported the mountain region throughout major changes in agriculture, ensuring farmers continue farming. “We are extremely impressed with the innovation and resourcefulness that western North Carolina farmers exhibit as they improve production efficiencies and continually advance their operations through diversifying and enhancing current operations,” said Bill Teague, Chairman of the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund
Commission. “With support from our Board, we continue to build on the long tradition of agricultural excellence in western NC.”

Applicants must contact their Cooperative Extension agents by Oct. 14 to set up an appointment to discuss their projects. Applications are available online or at local 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 $3.5 million to farmers in western North Carolina who are diversifying their operations. Over the years, AgOptions recipients have used their grant awards to strengthen their farm businesses, making them better positioned to face unexpected challenges, such as the pandemic and recent weather-related disasters. “WNC farms have experienced many challenges in recent years including severe weather events, rising production costs, labor shortages, and supply chain disruptions,” said Karen Blaedow, Commercial Vegetable and Small Fruit Agent, N.C. Cooperative Extension and WNC AgOptions Steering Committee Chair. “By financially supporting projects that increase profitability and sustainability, the WNC AgOptions program is building small family farm resilience to better secure our agriculture community for the future.”

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 participate in information sessions, the first of which will be held this Wednesday, September 7th from 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. in the auditorium at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center in Mills River. Other scheduled sessions are planned on September 19th in Waynesville, September 22nd in Boone and Murphy, October 6th in Newland, October 10th in Shelby and October 11th in Bryson City. Check the WNC AgOptions
website for more information on specific times and locations.

The administrator of WNC AgOptions is WNC Communities, a non-profit organization that has been improving agriculture in the region since 1949. 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 Jennifer Ferre, Executive Director of WNC Communities. “We are grateful to the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission and North Carolina legislators for their support for nearly 20 years.”

Members of the WNC AgOptions steering committee include: representatives from N.C. Cooperative Extension, N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services–Marketing Division, WNC Communities, Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project and other leaders in agribusiness.

For more information, see the following: WNC Agricultural OptionsN.C. Cooperative Extension Centers; N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission; WNC Communities.