US (NC): Expansion and innovation showcased in 2022 Farm Grants

Recipients of 2022 farm grants reflect the strength of the agricultural system in western North Carolina by growing their farm businesses and demonstrating innovative agricultural projects. After two years of adapting to accommodate new COVID-19 realities, farm businesses have embraced innovative ideas and are expanding operations in response to increased demand for locally sourced farm products. More than half of the awarded farms are for expansion projects, while innovative ventures demonstrate the creative ways farmers are adapting to meet the needs of their customers. Forty-one farm businesses in western North Carolina were awarded a total of $320,000 in WNC AgOptions cost-share grants in 2022.

The N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission awarded WNC Communities a three-year grant for the WNC AgOptions program to provide nearly three-quarters of a million dollars to family farms in WNC through 2024. “The WNC AgOptions program has proven success stories,” said Bill Teague, Chairman of the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission. “We continue to be amazed at how these producers utilize these funds to ensure their family farms grow and remain profitable, even in the face of a global pandemic.”

As the past two years have challenged farm businesses to rethink their operations, their customers have also discovered the importance of local family farms in supplying farm products. The majority of this year’s grantees have seen incredible growth in demand for their products and will use their grants to upgrade equipment, add infrastructure, expand herds and increase production. “Right now we are being called to expand our operation as we have both an increase in demand and a lot of people reaching out asking for work.” said Rand Gifford of Greenshine Farms in Madison County.

Greenshine Farms plans to increase production of their organic produce operation by tenfold by significantly upgrading production equipment to support regenerative growing practices. “The demand for fresh, local organically grown produce was already very strong and I anticipate it will be even greater in the coming years,” he added, also noting that one of his goals is to hire five new employees to assist with the expansion. Since 2004, WNC AgOptions has awarded over 600 farm projects more than $3.5 million.

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