Thursday, January 31, 2013



Program Contact: Jennifer Ferre, (828) 252-4783,;
Or the local N.C. Cooperative Extension Agriculture Agent

Grants boost farm profits, sustain businesses for future generations:
Projects include innovative hydroponic fodder system, micropropagation
lab and no-till equipment

MILLS RIVER, N.C.—Western North Carolina farmers received $148,500 in
WNC Agricultural Options grants to diversify their farm businesses in
the 2013 growing season. The 28 grant recipients celebrated Tuesday at
an event at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension
Center in Mills River. The goal of the farms' projects is to enhance

The WNC AgOptions grant program has been funded exclusively by the
N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission since 2003. "The Commission is very
pleased to fund and support the WNC AgOptions program for another
year," said Bill Teague, Chairman of the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund
Commission. "We expect to see some unique projects, because mountain
farmers have shown they are resourceful, innovative and committed to
making their farms successful."

Six farm businesses received $3,000, one received $4,500, and 21
received $6,000. Many of the farmers are undertaking projects that are
unique to their counties, and some are leading the way in innovative
agriculture nationwide.

Tester Dairy Farm in Watauga County is creating a hydroponic fodder
system, which grows barley, rye and wheat from seed to sprouts in
eight days so that the farmers can feed their cattle high-protein
grasses daily. The fresh palatable feed is proven to enhance animals'
milk production, improve fertility and decrease respiratory issues.
Thomas and Margaret Tester said they are renovating the farm so that
their granddaughter Jessica Lawrence can take it over without the
worries of weather, lease agreements and costs associated with row

South Valley Nursery and Landscaping in Avery County is building a
micropropagation lab so that grant recipient Tyler Buchanan can mass
produce unique plants such as native orchids that are expensive to
propagate using traditional techniques. Tissue culture requires a
significant upfront investment, specialized training and a sterile
environment to be able to produce new plants in vitro (in a test
tube), but payoff can be significant since the demand for these rare
native plants is high.

Joe Ward in Jackson County is establishing a no-till planting system
in an area where few farmers use this method. In no-till fields, soil
erosion and runoff decrease as a network of fibrous and tap roots grow
throughout the soil profile, providing pathways for air and moisture.
This method also creates a good environment for earthworms and
beneficial bacteria, fungi and enzymes, all crucial for healthy crops.

The WNC AgOptions grants help sustain several significant farms, such
as a 65-acre Old Fort property that the ancestors of grant recipient
Alvin Lytle first acquired in the 1850's, as well as a Bethel Valley
farm that has been in the family of grant recipient Joseph Cathey for
more than 200 years. As profits increase, Reems Creek Nursery and
Landscaping will be able to boost employment beyond its current 25
employees while also continuing to preserve the rural quality of Reems
Creek Valley. With the help of the grant, Addison Vineyard, a part of
a fourth generation cattle farm in Leicester, will be on track to
reaching their goal of profitability by the eighth year of wine grape
production in 2016.

The grant projects help many of the grant recipients' achieve their
dreams of passing their farming operations to their children or
grandchildren. Rick Walker, who is building a poultry processing
facility in Cherokee County, named his farm after his four sons,
Ricky, Joseph, Daniel and Joshua, who are ages six and under. "4 Sons
Farm is the name I chose not only because I have four sons, but
because it is for my sons," Walker said. "I began farming to provide
wholesome food for our children, to teach them an ancient and
respected way of life, and to create a business legacy to hand down to

N.C. Cooperative Extension implements the WNC AgOptions program and
works directly with farmers as they complete their projects. "As we
begin our ninth grant cycle, it is very rewarding to look back at all
the successful farm operations and creative enterprises that have
grown from the initial investments," said Ross Young, Madison County
Extension Director and WNC AgOptions steering committee leader. "The
farmers in western North Carolina are the most vital component of the
program. It is their ideas and their dedication to the success of
those ideas that make it all work."

In partnership with N.C. Cooperative Extension, the non-profit
organization WNC Communities administers WNC AgOptions grants. WNC
Communities is dedicated to providing 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

"WNC Communities is delighted to serve as fiscal agent in bringing
these funds to creative and innovative farmers throughout western
North Carolina," said L.T. Ward, Vice President of WNC Communities.
"We are extremely appreciative to N. C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission
for their long standing and continuing commitment to WNC AgOptions and
the farmers of this region."

Members of the WNC AgOptions steering committee include:
representatives from N.C. Cooperative Extension, WNC Communities, N.C.
Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services–Marketing Division,
Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project and other leaders in
agriculture. For more information, see the following: WNC Agricultural
Options:; N.C. Cooperative Extension Centers:; N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission:; WNC Communities:


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