The grants, which individually totaled $3,000 or $6,000, funded a variety of projects. Jessica and Aron Wher of Graham County’s Wehrloom Honey, for example, will use their grant to help their mead — a honey-based wine — gain a national customer base and incorporate the meadery into their retail and education center.
Eight recipients anticipate hiring additional workers due to this year’s grant, and half of the awarded farms are already full-fledged businesses supporting at least one full-time farmer. By the end of the season, at least three additional farmers are expected to be full-time.
The awardees include the Dennis Francis Farm in Haywood County, which was awarded $6,000 for a seed drill for hay and pasture regeneration, and Breedlove Family Farms in Swain County, which was awarded $6,000 for goat handling equipment.
WNC AgOptions aims to help farmers carry out their innovative agricultural ideas through grants and has awarded 491 farm projects more than $2.3 million since 2004. The program is funded by the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, which has pledged $239,000 for 2018 awards.