In 2014, the Agricultural Reinvestment Fund awarded grants to 20 farmers and collaborative groups to carry out entrepreneurial and innovative projects in agriculture. The grant projects vary greatly from ‘hog tractors’ for pastured pork production to a greenhouse for winter-grown cut flowers. The grants were possible by generous support from the NC Tobacco Trust Fund Commission. The projects increased the success of farm businesses in North Carolina in addition to serving as demonstrations of entrepreneurship and innovation for farmers both across the state and the country.
2014 Agricultural Reinvestment Fund Grantees
Palomo Farms, Fayetteville, NC
Palomo Farms is a blueberry operation run by Luciano Alvarado and his family in Sampson County. Luciano acquired harvesting bins and packaging materials designed for blueberries that would greatly expand his capacity for selling wholesale fresh blueberries. Palomo Farms also acquired a used conveyer machine to assist with the packaging. They held a demonstration on the farm to show small and beginning farmers how they could utilize used equipment to be financially successful. The used conveyer machine was relatively inexpensive but helped tremendously in post-harvest processing the blueberries. During this demonstration, Alvarado also held a workshop for farmers in the area on how to care for and propagate blueberry cuttings. The farmers at the workshop learned how to develop new plants on their farm by using cuttings.
Curtis Cummings is transitioning from conventional tobacco to organic vegetable production. He felt compelled to stop growing a commodity crop and start growing fresh vegetables for his rural community in Sampson County. With the grant award, he was able to purchase organic seeds and inputs. He also constructed a cold storage unit for his vegetable crop. Curtis is adding to the small but growing numbers of organic vegetable producers in Sampson County and markets his produce to the Clinton Farmers Market and the Feast Down East marketing cooperative in eastern North Carolina.
James Dunn operates a small-scale vegetable farm in Wake County. He was awarded a grant to build a mobile farmers market stand to sell his produce throughout the county. James hoped that the stand could be a place where the youth could learn about agriculture and marketing by helping him operate the stand.
Cypress Hall Farms, Louisburg, NC
A Marine Corps veteran, Robert Elliott inherited his family’s farm and developed a sustainable, small scale farming operation. His focus is on pasture raised poultry, particularly chickens and turkeys. The equipment required to process the birds into a saleable meat product was a major limiting factor to his operation. He was awarded a grant to expand his poultry processing equipment. With bigger processing equipment, Elliott could handle many more birds, in particular larger birds like turkeys. He found that turkeys were a very successful product to offer, but because they are larger birds, they are difficult to process with smaller equipment. He has reached out to over 300 individuals through on-farm demonstrations and over 250 customers who demand his pasture-raised poultry products.
Vincent renovated a covered trailer into a mobile refrigerated storage unit. The storage unit helps him keep his produce fresh by immediately putting it into cool storage after harvest. The unit is mobile so that it can be taken to the fields where fresh produce is being harvested. Vincent can now expand his operation because of his increased capacity to store fresh produce harvested directly from the field.
He hopes that with the cool storage unit he can apply for GAP certification which would make him more attractive to buyers of his produce and ensure that he is cultivating his crops in the safest and most environmentally sustainable way possible. Vincent will provide fresh produce to farmers markets in Fayetteville and hopes to sell to employees and military personnel at nearby Fort Bragg.
Minka Farm, Efland, NC
Kim Harry developed a sustainable, low cost feed source for her egg laying duck flock. By utilizing food scraps that would otherwise be thrown in the landfill, Kim bred black soldier fly larvae using the waste as a food source and habitat in a special device called a BioPod. The larvae is an excellent source of nutrition, rich in protein, for ducks and other fowl that naturally feed on insects as a major source of food. In addition to the larvae, Kim would experiment with pelletizing the larvae in a mixture with black sunflower seeds. The sunflowers could be a protein rich feed supplement that can be easily cultivated on the farm. Kim is working toward greatly reducing her feed costs as a result of this project.
Webster Irving of Rockingham County was given a grant to install a wood-fired water heating stove that could be used to provide bottom heat in his greenhouse. Webster’s project uses a renewable source of energy to heat his greenhouse from the bottom. Heating from the bottom encourages greater root propagation for nursery plants. Irving will be able to increase his production of nursery trees grown in his renewably heated greenhouse. Irving hopes to produce 10,000 nursery cuttings by the summer of 2015.
Hulan began producing his own sprouted grain to feed his goats on the farm. He purchased a small unit that only requires 15 amperages of power, can be set up anywhere, and is highly transportable. He immediately began using the machine; trying out oats, wheat, corn seeds, and other combinations of sprouts to see what works best for his operation. So far, he has had the best success with sprouted oats. They germinate the most consistently and the goats seem to like it much more than the others. Hulan was able to immediately set up his sprouted grain machine on the farm and started feeding his goats fresh sprouted grain within a few days. The sprouted grain system helped Johnston cut expenses in his operation by not having to hay. He can use his land more intensively while still providing the goats a more nutritious source of food.
Pickett Farm, Beulaville, NC
Beth Kahn at Pickett Farm constructed their own self-designed hog tractors. The tractors are covered mobile pens that can house hogs but can be moved in a pasture rotation system. The tractors allowed Beth to raise her hogs on pasture while minimizing damage to the forage and optimizing grazing. Pickett Farm was able to share their system with almost 500 farmers and consumers through outreach events, workshops, and social media. The hog tractors will allow them to increase hog production while maximizing efficient pasture use.
Double T Farm, Garner, NC
Thomas Kumpf of Johnston County is developing alternative soil amendments for their 10 acre organic vegetable farm that was previously used to cultivate conventional tobacco. The soil on the farm is exhausted from being in heavy mechanized farming and using chemical based fertilizers for many years. Thomas wanted to create amendments based on organic materials to add structure and nutrients back into the farm. Double-T farm is the only small-scale, organic vegetable farm in their area of Johnston County. They hoped to be an inspiration for a change toward organic production in their rural community by expanding production on this previously conventional farm.
Donna Latimer, Conetoe Family Life Center
Donna Latimer and the Conetoe Family Life Center launched their pilot project for training the youth in their community in growing and marketing fresh vegetables. They were hugely successful in their project, increasing production and markets in eastern Carolina. The CFLC was able to redesign their website and show documentation of their activities which helped them in securing two other stores for marketing produce. The group also met with key partners and developed relationships with USDA officials at the federal level as a result of outreach activities and on-farm demonstrations. The project has gained major visibility for being an example of community food sustainability and an agricultural training program for youth. The CFLC trained approximately 40 youth in the agri-business training camp from May to August. The group has also been able to increase their income of select vegetable crops by 50%. They increased their production of beehives and identified additional markets for honey and wax sales in addition to renting the hives to other farmers for pollination.
Homer Marshall of Sampson County increased his production and distribution of organic vegetables to his community. His primary focus in the project was to increase access to fresh, high quality produce for eastern North Carolina. He was able to restore a building that now serves as a distribution point for produce that he and several other farmers cultivate in the county. He also constructed a high tunnel greenhouse, allowing him to increase his production capacity on the farm. The farmers hope that working together to produce a larger supply of vegetables will make them more attractive to bigger buyers like grocery stores and regional wholesale produce distributors. Marshall also organized two county wide community meetings to stress the importance of healthy living and improving the local economy by supporting local producers. His community greatly benefited from the knowledge gained at these outreach events and Homer was able to increase his consumer base as well.
Massey Creek Farms, Madison, NC
Garland McCollum operates Massey Creek Farm in Rockingham County. A former conventional tobacco and hog grower, Garland decided to transition to a pastured livestock, direct marketing operation as a means to escape debt that had mounted from contracts with large-scale, conventional production. He is working toward establishing hydroponic fodder production for his laying hens. The hydroponic fodder system would allow him to expand his ability to feed his livestock with on-farm resources by using a soil-less system and season extension through indoor growing.
Sunset Farms, Burlington, NC
Christopher Murray of Sunset Farm in Alamance County was able to invest in a new system that would help him achieve greater on-farm soil fertility and more efficient management of his crops. Chris acquired a flail mower and a disk harrow that he uses to chop and plow under crop residue left in the field. This practice of reusing the crop residue in the fields establishes a greater soil structure as it adds carbon and organic matter that are essential to a closed-loop fertility system. The project has generated a lot of interest in small on-farm organic fertility management as Chris has held several demonstrations. The added infrastructure on Sunset Farm has allowed Chris to utilize his labor more efficiently and therefore getting more value out of his crops. The soil will continue to benefit from this new method that Chris has adopted to his farm, leading to longer term increases in yield and crop quality.
Judy Pickett converted her family farm into a space where families and children could learn about farm life and find wholesome, outdoor entertainment. Judy used the funds to reconstruct barns and other structures on her farm to house small animals. She was also able to design and install a corn maze and children’s play area with a garden. The community response to her project was very strong and she had a successful turnout of for the opening event in September 2014 and has since had more than 2,500 customers. Judy and her husband Gene are using the agri-tourism project to transition away from tobacco production and to engage with their community to revitalize an interest in agriculture in the children. Judy and Gene are excited about the new agri-tourism endeavor and plan for it to continue to grow.
Caroline Tuttle Lineberry
Caroline Tuttle Lineberry of Rockingham County was awarded $8,000 to repair an old tobacco barn on their farm and convert it into an education center. Their property is still a working farm with various crops but they are starting to diversify their business by hosting educational and agritourism activities on the farm. Several part time employees were hired to help with the renovation of the barn. The Tuttle Farm welcomed about 5,000 people from the end of September through the end of October during their peak season of agri-tourism activities.
Deep Run, NC
Woody and Kelly Tyndall run Oakwood Farms, a multi-generational farm in Lenoir County that is attempting to return to more “ecologically sound farming practices”. Oakwood Farm was given a grant to increase production and capacity for a pasture raised, heritage breed hog operation. Woody and Kelly increased cropland to grow their own non-GMO feed for their hogs. They also dug a well to supply their hogs with a reliable source of drinking water. They hope to cut their feed costs in half over time while selling a high quality, non-GMO product.
Bluebird Meadows, Hurdle Mills, NC
Alice White received a grant to construct a greenhouse for raising high-value cut flowers in the winter. There is a premium for cut flowers in the winter due to lack of supply. Alice was able to construct a greenhouse larger than she had expected and greatly increased her farm income from cut flowers. Bluebird Meadows also participated in a farm tour demonstrating the use of greenhouses in cut flower production. Alice also plans on publishing an article on growing cut flowers in the winter.
Roy Williams was given a grant to fund his vegetable production expansion project. Roy used the funding to install drip irrigation on his farm in order to provide sufficient water to his vegetables while being efficient with his water usage. He also purchased plastic and fertilizer to ensure good crop growth. He hopes to continue to grow his fresh vegetables operation, marketing to local food hubs and farmers markets, and eventually expanding into grocery stores and wholesale.
Cerro Gordo, NC
The Worley’s converted their old tobacco greenhouses into an aquaponics operation. They are using this system to utilize their old tobacco infrastructure, diversify their operation, and enter newly emerging alternative markets. The aquaponics system will allow them to simultaneously grow a diverse array of vegetables and fish in a symbiotic relationship that requires no soil and light external nutrient inputs. The project generated a lot of interest in the local community surrounding the Worley farm. The Worleys invited about 40 community members to attend an outreach event to learn more about the aquaponics system and many others have learned about their system through being customers buying their produce.