NC AgVentures Awards 27 Grants to Entrepreneurial Producers

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Administered by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, the competitive grant program is funded through the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission. The cost-share grants are awarded for innovative projects aimed at diversifying, expanding or implementing new entrepreneurial plans for farm operations.

Farmers in 18 counties – Martin, Wilson, Pitt, Edgecombe, Nash, Forsyth, Stokes, Surry, Rockingham, Yadkin, Guilford, Sampson, Johnston, Greene, Lenoir, Duplin, Harnett and Wayne – were eligible to apply for grants up to $10,000.

Rooks King Wells from Rose Hill grows 40 acres of organic produce. He will use his grant funds to purchase an agricultural flame weeder.

Justin Strickland from Rural Hall will use the grant funds to expand his beef production sales using e-commerce.

Natalie Sevin from Winston-Salem is a small scale specialty producer that sells vegetables and herbs at two farmers markets in Winston Salem. She will use the grant funds to erect a innovative high tensile slanted fence to discourage the deer.

Paul Johnson from Bunnlevel will use the grant to upgrade old poultry houses to produce a top quality bird in a safe environment.

Charles Tart from Dunn will use the award to purchase a new pea/bean Sheller that will be used for their crops  and customers who bring in unshelled beans.

David Pflugfelder from Lillington raises poultry and pork. With the grant funds he will purchase equipment to expand his pastured raised hogs operation.

Rondal McLamb from Dunn produces and processes grain fed cattle and hogs. He will use the grant funds for a dual chamber high volume vacuum.

Joshua and April Phillips From Kenly will use the grant funds to build an animal barn and expand their livestock for their agritourism business on Sonlight Farms.

Cameron Ennis from Garner will purchase a flatbed truck for hauling watermelons and small grains to market.

William Byrd from Smithfield will purchase equipment to expand his cattle and hay production.

Timmy and Roxie Creech from Kenly plan to purchase irrigation equipment to expand their vegetable crop production.

Richard Barrow from Clayton plans to expand his organic vegetable production and will use the grant funds to purchase a vacuum planter and drip irrigation.

Ricky and Scarlett Joyner are a father daughter team from Mt Olive. They plan to turn an old tobacco greenhouse into a microgreens operation.

Jason Bunting from Oak City received a hemp license, and will use the grant award to convert poultry houses into an indoor year-round hemp production facility.

Stephen Lilley from Williamston will use the grant award to purchase a pull-type spreader to apply “gin trash” on their field to improve yields.

Brenda Sutton and her husband Rex Inman from Reidsville grow specialty mushrooms. They plan to use their grant funds to develop the Fogwood Mushroom Trial through 20 acres of woodland.

Bobby Coltrane from Reidsville plans to expand his production of Day Neutral Strawberries that will provide winter season strawberries on Thanksgiving, Chirstmas and Valentines day.

Jeems Farm in Pinnacle has been in the family for over 100 years and was tobacco land until 1995, when they transitioned to tomatoes. With the grant funds Michelle Masten McKinney will add a processing facility and dehydrator to make tomato chips from over production and tomato seconds.

RomaReady is a new farm on old tobacco land in Pilot Mountain that produces fresh chemical free vegetables for local restaurants. Augusto and Jamie Renzi will use the grant funds to scale up their pilot production of Kalettes, a new vegetable that is a cross between Kale and Brussel sprouts.

Emily Odom and her husband from Goldsboro operate an agritourism farm that produces strawberries in the spring, sunflowers and a CSA in the summer and a corn maze in the fall. With the grant funds they plan to build a better packing facility with a walk in cooler.

The Sanderson farm in Four Oaks encompasses 950 acres of cropland. Over the last three years the farm has gone from having no issues with feral wild hogs to having whole field destroyed overnight. With the grant funds Matthew Sanderson will purchase a Boarbuster Trapping System to help his farm and others in surrounding counties.

Walker Shelton and Thomas Webb from Stantonsburg grew up working on their family’s tobacco farm. In 2014 they started growing cucumbers and in 2016 they added peppers. The grant funds will be used to purchase and set-up a two hundred foot greenhouse that will used for raising quality pepper transplants.

Chad and Brenda Blake from North Wilkesboro will use the grant to convert three tobacco greenhouses for hanging baskets and bedding plants.

In addition to awarding grants to individual farms, NC AgVentures also awarded three Community Grants. Community grants are collaborative projects that benefit three or more farms. The Extension Office in Stokes County received a Community grant to set-up a mobile poultry processing unit that could be shared by small poultry producers in Stokes and surrounding counties.

The Extension Office in Lenoir County received funds to purchase a steamer to sanitize float trays and keep tobacco transplants and vegetable plants healthy. The equipment will be available for farmers to rent.

The Harnett County Extension Office received a Community grant to pursue a research project to see if an Alfalfa/Bermuda mixture can be successfully grown in the Coastal Plains of NC. Alfalfa allows producers to grow their own nitrogen, minimize ash content from soil contamination and save money on expensive protein supplements. The project includes Agents and farmers in Harnett, Johnston and Sampson counties.

The North Carolina General Assembly created the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission in 2000 to lessen the financial impact to farmers and tobacco-related businesses caused by the sharp decline of tobacco in the agricultural economy.