Farmers get a helping hand with diversification grants

28 Western North Carolina farmers received nearly $150,000 total in grants to help diversify their farm businesses. The money was awarded by WNC AgOptions grant program, which is funded through the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission.

Most of the awards were $6,000, given to farmers undertaking projects that are unique to their counties or innovative for agriculture nationwide. Joe Ward, one of the recipients, in Jackson County is establishing a no-till planting system in an area where few farmers use this method. In no-till fields, soil erosion and runoff are decreased.

A grant also helped sustain several significant farms, such as a Bethel Valley farm that has been in the family Joseph Cathey for more than 200 years. Grants include:

• Macon County, $6,000 to Rabbit Creek Bee Company for pollination services.

• Haywood County, $3,000 to Walnut Cove Farms Sustainable for vegetable production.

• Swain County, $6,000 to Balltown Bee Farm Pizza Love for a mobile pizza-making oven.

• Swain County, $6,000 to Van Winkle Farm for shiitake and goldenseal production.

• Jackson County, $6,000 to Ward Farm for a customized Kinze row planting system.

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