If you are a farmer in the far west counties of North Carolina who has been waiting for the right time financially to jump into a new adventure on your operation, then the WNC Ag Options Grant might be just what you need to help get you started.

Due to some recent inquiries, I thought this might be a good time to cover what exactly this grant is, who can apply and when they should apply.

The mission of WNC AgOptions is to “build sustainable farming communities in our mountain region by providing resources directly to farmers who are diversifying or expanding their operations” according to their website.

The site also states that the ultimate “goal of WNC AgOptions is to protect mountain farmland by assisting the longevity of farm enterprises and encouraging groups of farmers to solve logistical challenges in the local agricultural system”.

Therefore, if a farmer lives in Watauga, Caldwell, Burke or Cleveland County or any county west of these, and has an idea of a way to diversify, expand and/or sustain their operation, they may be eligible to apply for this grant. Applications can be made for either $3,000 or $6,000 awards.

Hopeful recipients can apply for an AgOptions Grant as soon as applications post on wncagoption.org. This usually happens at least a couple months prior to the “Intent to Apply” deadline, which is in October each year with the final application deadline being in November. I would encourage potential applicants to plan ahead and have a working relationship with your respective Extension Agent. This can be very beneficial to you when it comes time to fill out an application.

I also want to take this opportunity to congratulate all of our grant recipients from Jackson and Swain counties. Specifically concerning livestock, I want to congratulate Watkins Family Farm. 

They are just one of several farms that received AgOptions grant funding for the 2020 cycle in Jackson and Swain counties. Watkins Family Farm received funding for a goat project to help implement production practices and handling/management equipment that will help diversify and sustain their farm. There will be more to come later about other AgOptions grant recipients and their projects.

Producers who are interested in applying for this grant or have questions about this and/or other opportunities can find out more information by going to wncagoptions.org or by contacting me at the Jackson County Cooperative Extension Office at 586-4009 or the Swain County Cooperative Extension Office at 488-3848 or by email at kendra_norton@ncsu.edu.

Kendra Fortner is the livestock agent for the N.C. Cooperative Extension of Jackson and Swain counties.