Agricultural Reinvestment Fund: 2017 Year in Review

For Immediate Release: March 6, 2018

CONTACT: Daryn Lane (919) 542-1396 ext 123

2017 grant recipients provide lessons and experiences relevant to and replicable by thousands within the NC agricultural industry

PITTSBORO, N.C.–The Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA (RAFI-USA) announces the impacts of its 2017 Agricultural Reinvestment Fund cost-share grants to 23 individual farmers and three farmer cooperatives. In partnership with the NC Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, this cost-share grant program fueled innovation and growth by funding entrepreneurial projects that earned grant recipients more than $100,000 in income, collectively.

“RAFI-USA values its long-established partnership with the NC Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, which graciously makes the cost-share grant program possible through its generous support,” said Sally Lee, associate director, RAFI-USA. “This dynamic and important partnership has directly led to stirring entrepreneurship and innovation on beginning and small farms, increasing economic activity and growth for themselves, other farmers and their greater community. The NC Tobacco Trust Fund Commission and RAFI-USA are proud of the work past grant recipients have done, and we’re honored to have played a role in creating an environment in which our farmers and their communities thrive.”

Farmers represented in the 26 projects for the 2017 grant cycle spanned central North Carolina to the state’s northeastern counties, from Davie to Northampton. Projects this year included infrastructure for microgreens production, pasture-based multi-species livestock operations and forest-grown products for direct market sales. Traditional row crop, specialty crop and livestock operations were represented.

The 2017 enterprises represented a wide variety of lessons and experiences relevant to and replicable by thousands within the NC agricultural industry.

The Agricultural Reinvestment Fund grant allowed Judy McPherson of Uwharrie Farm in Randolph County to fence in five acres of land to begin pork production on her farm. Prior to receiving the grant, she had raised cows, goats, sheep and chickens, but never pigs.  

“Because of our inexperience we started with just five pigs. We located excess milk from a local farm and two local sources of non-GMO feed composed with grains from NC farms, which we fed to our pigs in addition to food they foraged from the land,” said Judy McPherson of Uwharrie Farm in Randolph County “Three of these pigs were processed for meat and a local store agreed to carry our pork. We kept two sows and learned, much to our surprise, that we could breed these ourselves through artificial insemination. One sow is due to deliver in April, and we plan to breed the other one this month. We are impressed with the impact the pigs had on the land. When managed properly, they can clear land of weeds, add fertility and prepare a nice seed bed for future forages. We are excited to think of the positive impact that pork will have on our farm operation.”

Farmer grantees conducted outreach to share the knowledge gained through a variety of channels, including blog posts, field days for farmers, farm tours open to the public and other events. Information collected throughout the 2017 grant cycle indicates 27,197 farmers and consumers received information about the projects.

Program Impact by the Numbers 2017:

    • 45 Jobs created
    • 207 Jobs sustained
    • 5,722.17 Acres of farmland impacted that was owned or leased
    • 152.83 New acres of farmland added that was directly related to farm projects
    • 27,197 Farmers and consumers received information about projects
    • $144,626.50 Invested by Farmers
    • $108,227.29 Earned by Farmers in 2017 as a result of farm projects

Other grant recipients also shared their experiences and the rewards of their endeavors:

“The grant helped us make our salad greens production way more efficient, which was a big part of why we were able to grow our sales by almost 50% last year. We learned how to grow lettuce and other greens in our hot, humid summer — which meant we were able to fill a gap in the market and find new customers.” Gordon Jenkins , Ten Mothers Farm, Orange County

“Thanks to the Agricultural Reinvestment Fund grant, Cherry Hill Farm’s packing facility can seamlessly run almost any product in 25% of the time that it took us to field-pack/clean produce before.” – Justin Miller, Cherry Hill Farm, Davie County

“We have had a lot of good things happen to our farm because of the investment that RAFI and the Agricultural Reinvestment Fund has made in us.  What stands out the most is that the equipment we purchased, because of our RAFI award, has been used to help NC farmers in need. We were able to help small poultry growers complete their Thanksgiving and Christmas orders.  Without the processing equipment, we would not have been able to help anyone during this time.” – Jon Frank,  Windy Bottoms Farm, Orange County

“The grant made it possible for me to think bigger and better, sooner about expanding my farm business. It also made me get organized and specific, and get the project done as a priority in the midst of many priorities.” – John Campbell, Dinner Bell Farm, Alamance County

About the Agricultural Reinvestment Fund

Founded in 1997 as the Tobacco Communities Reinvestment Fund, the cost-share grant program now called the Agricultural Reinvestment Fund, has funded 600-plus farming projects and distributed more than $6 million in funds to agricultural communities. The Agricultural Reinvestment Fund has helped beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers in historically tobacco-dependent communities scale up their operations to become more economically viable. It has also enabled them to demonstrate new ideas and innovative models for farm profitability to other farmers in their communities.

Click here to read more about 2017 Agricultural Reinvestment Fund projects.

About the Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA

The Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA’s mission is to cultivate markets, policies and communities that sustain thriving, socially just, and environmentally sound family farms. RAFI-USA works nationally and internationally, focusing on North Carolina and the southeastern United States. RAFI is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Pittsboro, North Carolina and incorporated in 1990.


For information about the 2018 grant cycle, visit our website:

For additional information about results of the 2017 grant cycle, contact Daryn Lane at