In 2015, the Agricultural Reinvestment Fund awarded grants to 20 farmers and collaborative groups to carry out entrepreneurial and innovative projects in agriculture. 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.
2015 Agricultural Reinvestment Fund Grantees
Butch Byrum is renovating and re-opening an historic grist mill in Chowan County. He is transitioning to growing organic corn and will use the mill to produce an organic cornmeal. His grandfather and a close friend in the community originally operated the mill. As a fifth generation cotton farmer, Butch hopes to cultivate and process organic corn and cotton on his multi-generational family farm and looks forward to getting the mill running again at full capacity.
Christopher Fipps, Waterdog Farm
Hurdle Mills, NC
Waterdog is a small farm that specializes in cut flowers, herbs, and loose leaf teas. Chris Fipps has been operating Waterdog Farm with Rickie White since 2010 after they completed an apprenticeship on an incubator farm. They are making improvements to their tea processing facilities that will allow them to scale up tea production and meet the demand in their local markets.
Calyb Hare, Olan Path Farm
Olan Path Farm is a diversified operation run by Calyb Hare, a beginning farmer with more than six years of farm management experience. He has extensive experience working on small-scale, organic farms in the Northeast and a strong educational background in farm business management. He moved back to his family’s land in Chowan County to begin his own sustainable farming operation. Calyb is expanding his CSA operation from 15 members to 35 by making improvements to his infrastructure. He will also offer a local source of heirloom dried beans.
AD Jones is a founding member of the North Carolina Natural Hog Growers Association. AD is setting up an operation and equipment to process non-GMO soybeans into feed. The process will allow them to secure their own non-GMO grown sources of feed for their hogs. It will also produce oil as a by-product. They are actively seeking markets for the oil within a variety of fields and applications from cosmetics to animal care products. This project is beneficial to all members of the hog growing cooperative, particularly those transitioning to non-GMO feed.
James Matthews, Happy Acres Farm
Roanoke Rapids, NC
James is a small farmer in Halifax County who specializes in blueberries and orchard fruits. He wants to establish his farm as an agritourism destination by providing an educational, hands-on experience for all ages. He envisions a farm where he can make sales of fresh produce and provide entertainment like hayrides and farm tours. His grant-funded project is to construct an educational building, a picnic area, four new orchard areas that can will serve as u-pick areas, and a small country store. His project will fill a void for agritourism activities in his region and provide necessary educational opportunities about agriculture for children in the area.
Matthew Moore is a Sampson County farmer who is beginning to transition and diversify his father’s 600-acre farm, which currently produces commodities (corn, wheat, beans). He also currently cultivates 4 acres of blueberries and plans to expand, adding a new revenue stream to his family farm. Irrigation is important in his area of southeast North Carolina for blueberry production and frost protection. He is installing irrigation and improving overall water management for his blueberries.
Abdullah Muhammad is transitioning his family land, formerly used to produce tobacco, into a new meat goat enterprise in order to sustain the farm for his family and his grandchildren. He has identified a strong demand for goat meat in local and regional markets, particularly with consumers who seek Halal meats. He will be building fencing and other structures on the farm that are necessary infrastructure for raising goats.
George O’Neal, Lil’ Farm
George O’ Neal runs Lil’ Farm, a diversified farm operation in Person County. He is expanding his production of value-added products by growing ginger and processing it into both crystallized ginger and ginger syrup. These shelf-stable products will increase his revenue and make the farm more financially sustainable, while meeting the local demand for ginger and ginger products, the majority of which are currently imported. George believes that North Carolina can become known as a state that produces both high-quality ginger and turmeric varieties.
William is a young beginning farmer who breeds and raises hogs for showing and for selling stock. He would like to make improvements to his farm to enhance his hog operation such as building a showing and feeding barn and adding more fencing to the hog pastures.
Snow Camp, NC
Stephen Sifford is a livestock farmer in Alamance County. He grew up on a dairy farm and now raises beef cattle. His project is to establish a meat rabbit operation primarily for direct sales to local markets. He has found that rabbit meat has become a popular product for local consumers as a low-fat meat with high protein content. Stephen is setting up the infrastructure for rabbit production including cages and a watering system.
Ron Simmons is establishing a custom meat shop on his family farm in rural Duplin County. The Simmons family farm raises pasture-based, hormone-free hogs in addition to eggs and seasonal produce. Ron will establish a store on the farm as an area for customers to come and purchase custom cuts of meat. He has pursued a meat handlers license and an Animal Welfare Approved certification. The meat shop will allow them to directly market their meats from the farm while offering the local community humanely raised, high-quality meat.
Rich Square, NC
The Tillery farm is a multi-generational family farm making the transition from primarily producing commodity crops to supplying fresh foods to local and regional markets. The family farm now focuses partly on shiitake mushroom production. James and his son, Julius, are building a barn to better store and process their fresh produce and shiitake mushrooms. It will incorporate space for on-farm cooling and storage, equipment protection, and a computer monitoring system. This infrastructure will also contribute to their efforts to attain GAP certification. The family hopes that their project can be an example for other Northampton County farmers as a way to diversify their operations.
Max is a fourth-generation family farmer growing cotton, hay, silage, corn, and other commodity crops. He transitioned from tobacco to cattle in 2008. In order to more economically process and store hay, he is setting up infrastructure for wrapping the bales. The bale wrapper will add weight to his cattle faster while making hay $35 cheaper per bale to produce with an increased herd size.
Russ Vollmer, Vollmer Farm
Russ Vollmer is a full-time farmer from a long lineage of tobacco farmers in Franklin County. He uses his farm to educate school groups on agriculture and rural life. Russ hopes to expand the farm’s existing fall educational activities and to add new spring tours for school groups. Thanks to the grant, he is currently expanding his on-farm education infrastructure.
Justin Walker, Double J Farms
Justin is a young farmer who wants to retrofit a trailer to construct a mobile market stand to serve Caswell and surrounding counties. Currently, his community is struggling to get a farmer’s market off the ground and there is a dearth of locally-produced fresh produce available. Justin plans to build a mobile market that will allow him to sell his produce to locals. He grew up on the farm helping his grandfather from a very young age and inherited the operation when the grandfather passed away. He plans to carry the farm into the future through direct markets and organic production.
Theodore Williams is a hog grower affiliated with the NC Natural Hog Growers Association. He is installing more storage bins for grain on his farm. The extra storage will allow him to keep separate non-GMO corn for feed. This will allow hog growers to feed a verified source of non-GMO feed to the animals. His grant-funded project is part of a long-term effort to maintain non-GMO status.
Wendy Woolard, Autryville’s Buzz Apiary and Hydroponics
Wendy and Jeffrey Woolard are beginning farmers who operate a small hydroponic and apiary business in Autryville, NC. They are focusing on producing fresh produce that can be grown hydroponically, primarily lettuces, tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers. They are primarily producing for local markets, including farm-to-fork restaurants in the nearby Fayetteville area. Their grant-funded project consists mainly of constructing raised beds and improving their infrastructure to expand production. They are also experimenting with two hydroponic growing methods and documenting what they learn.
James West and other hog farmers with the NC Natural Hog Growers Association (NCNHGA) are conducting breeding trials to develop an ideal breed that produces both high-quality meat and has good ‘mothering instincts.’ This project is part of the NCNHGA’s overall plan to maintain existing markets, increase production, and secure greater marketing advantages.
Jeremiah Jones is coordinating the NC Natural Hog Growers Association in conducting their tests of growing non-GMO seed, primarily corn and soy. The testing will help verify that their feed sources are non-GMO and allow them to attain a market advantage.
Patrick Mateer, Seal The Seasons
Seal the Seasons is a small food business focused on using the flash-freezing method to process local produce for supplying local and regional markets. The funded grant project includes three farmers and plans to expand to include more farms over the coming year.