Six Food and Farming grants totaling $121,500 were recently approved that support a sustainable local food system, maximize opportunities for farmers and food entrepreneurs and support the sustainability and profitability of WNC Farms. CFWNC also works to address food insecurity and healthy eating. With these grants, the Foundation has invested more than $550,879 in this funding focus area.
Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) received $34,500 for its Incubator Farm, launched in 2014, that serves beginning and limited resource farmers. The Farm currently hosts two businesses, and SAHC expects to select additional participants this year. The USDA awarded $100,000 to SAHC for 2015 in part to support continued growth and to develop a region-wide Farmers Training Program in coordination with Organic Growers School (see below) and WNC FarmLink. CFWNC funds will purchase equipment and infrastructure that the farmers need now in order to succeed and to facilitate on-site training for others. The Dogwood Charitable Endowment Fund and an anonymous fund partnered with CFWNC to support this grant.
The Organic Growers School received $15,000 to support the development of a comprehensive, regionally-informed farmer training curriculum tailored to maximize economic possibilities for WNC farmers. The proposed program, Farm Pathways: Access to Land, Livelihood, and Learning, will cover all facets of whole-farm business planning—from fiscal management and marketing to sustainable production—and will pull together best practices and training components of regional organizations into a one-stop "school-and-field" educational program. An anonymous fund partnered with CFWNC to support this grant.
"While there are many good training resources for farmers, the region lacks a coordinated, one-stop program that is responsive to the multi-level needs of agricultural entrepreneurs," said Senior Program Officer Tim Richards. "This effort is a great opportunity to develop a collaborative region-wide program that will significantly support success and preserve working farmland."
The Land of Sky Regional Council (LOSRC) requests $25,000 to support the "Growing Our Food and Farming" component of the Scaling WNC AgriVentures project. This effort builds on work of the WNC AgriVentures project, scheduled to end in September 2015. AdvantageWest applied for $500,000 over three years from the Economic Development Administration, and CFWNC funds will be part of the required first-year match. LOSRC, in partnership with Southwestern Commission and UNCA's National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center, will complete asset mapping and multi-media tools and host workshops to further develop the agricultural value-chain.
The Southwestern NC Resource Conservation and Development Council ( the "Council") received $22,500 to support a project to introduce "high tunnel" production as an economic opportunity for family farms. High tunnels are specialized greenhouses—plastic hooped structures in fields. USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service is funding the installation of high tunnels (55 to date and potentially 100 by 2016) in Clay, Cherokee, Graham and other far west counties. CFWNC funds will support an interagency effort to provide training and technical assistance in commercial production, marketing and business management necessary to maximize the economic benefit for the small-farm families participating in the program. In addition to assistance to the producers, the project will coordinate identification of markets and connect growers to direct sales or commercial distributors. The Dr. Robert J. and Kimberly S. Reynolds Fund and an anonymous fund partnered with CFWNC to support this grant
Toe River Aggregation Center Training Organization Regional (TRACTOR) received $20,000 to secure new markets and expand its core group of larger growers to increase the volume of produce aggregated and distributed through the food hub in Burnsville. Ingles has been working with TRACTOR since fall 2012. These deliveries require significant volumes of specific produce consistently aggregated, and this requires food hub staffing to support production planning and follow-up quality control with growers. January through June is a critical time during which grower recruitment, production planning, and market expansion must occur. Revenue from produce sales, however, is not available until July-October; grant funding will support necessary additional staff. The Cabochon Fund and the Brown Family Fund partnered with CFWNC to support this grant.
Mountain Valleys Resource Conservation and Development Council (MVRCDC) received $4,500 to research and define a grazing strategy for reclaiming and regenerating mountain pastureland. The grazing strategy, while unique in our region, has its origins in pre-fertilizer practices. Many part-time farmers use small cow-calf production to supplement their income and to take advantage of Present Use Value Tax strategies. High cattle prices and the opening of the WNC Livestock Auction facility in Canton have recently revitalized interest in livestock production by small farmers; however, mountain topography limits hay production and uninformed grazing negatively affects streams. This project would support efforts originating in Madison County to help prospective or practicing livestock producers acquire access to underutilized land. MVRCDC will coordinate the programs with NC Cooperative Extension, WNC FarmLink, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy and the U.S. Forest Service.