Agriculture is a top industry in North Carolina. The mission of Golden LEAF is to increase economic opportunity in North Carolina’s rural, economically distressed, and tobacco-dependent communities. Golden LEAF views agriculture projects as an economic development engine. Golden LEAF supports agriculture by funding projects that support the development of new crops, expanded markets for agriculture products, scientific research, training for farmers, cost-effective techniques, and value-added agricultural enterprises.
Some of the ways Golden LEAF measures the success of an agriculture project is through tracking the number of participants at agricultural trainings, new publications directed towards farmers, and the monthly use of agricultural facilities that benefit farmers. Other outcomes of agriculture projects include jobs, revenue growth, new agricultural business formations, economic output, changes in agricultural practices; acres in production; and new crops/ products grown or produced.
Learn more about some of Golden LEAF’s agriculture projects funded over the past year below.
Golden LEAF’s agriculture priority area is able to assist with development of shared-use facilities to help increase farmer’s sales, by providing value-added services and/or a common location for storing and marketing products.
In February 2023, the Golden LEAF Board of Directors awarded $250,000 through the Open Grants Program to Feast Down East, Inc. located in New Hanover and Pender counties. Funding will provide partial vehicle costs, refrigeration and other equipment, renovations, and related costs to expand cold storage and distribution facilities that would increase regional farmer services and outreach into Bladen, Columbus, Duplin, Onslow, Robeson, and Sampson counties from locations in New Hanover and Pender counties.
Ashe County was awarded $500,000 in Open Grants Program funding in December 2022 by the Golden LEAF Board to support construction of a multi-purpose agricultural center. This space will allow area cattle farmers to aggregate and market their livestock locally in a manner that would attract larger buyers, reduce costs, and bring higher prices. The facility will also support local Christmas tree growers, the local high school animal science program, which has no dedicated facility for hands-on experience, and can host special livestock sales, demonstrations, and 4-H livestock judging in its demonstration ring with seating.
Through the Community-Based Grants Initiative, the Golden LEAF Board awarded $304,000 at the April 2022 Board meeting to Madison County Cooperative Extension to expand and upgrade the Madison Extension Value-Added Center and Inspected Kitchen located at the Madison County Extension Office. The center educates and trains farmers to increase farm profitability and expand farm businesses and provides a space for agricultural entrepreneurs and businesses to create value-added agricultural products. The facility offers access to shared use equipment, climate-controlled storage, an inspected kitchen, and a loading dock for large shipments and bulk orders.
In August 2022, the Golden LEAF Board awarded $199,300 through the Open Grants Program to the North Carolina Coastal Federation to create a shared aquaculture hub facility in Carteret County. The aquaculture hub will support new and existing local oyster and clam growers. The goals of the hub are to increase income for shellfish farmers and create high-quality jobs. The hub will provide growers with a dock for improved access to the water, product refrigeration, storage, grading and loading equipment, and an aggregation site for distributors.
Workforce training is another way Golden LEAF supports the growth of the agriculture industry.
At the February 2023 Board meeting, the Golden LEAF Board awarded $199,997 in Open Grants Program funding to North Carolina State University to support faculty salaries, interpreters, travel, materials, and printing costs to develop and implement required, position-specific, food safety training programs targeting small- and medium-sized food manufacturing and processing business in rural N.C. The training program provides farmers and manufacturers with the most up-to-date knowledge on industry standards regarding the handling of food.
The Golden LEAF Board awarded $1 million through the Community-Based Grants Initiative at its April 2022 meeting to Blue Ridge Community College to expand its agriculture programs to meet an emerging need among local growers. Over 100 farmers in this high-altitude region currently use an automated growing system within a greenhouse structure. There are 70 local unfilled positions requiring skills in this method, with an expectation that demand for this skill set will increase significantly over the next few years.
Pungo Christian Academy Future Farmers of America (FFA) was awarded $46,575 in August 2022 to purchase tools and equipment to support the expansion of its FFA agricultural programs to include welding, carpentry, and auto mechanics. Approximately 65% of PCA students return home to pursue careers in agriculture. High school students will have the opportunity to learn these skill sets that will prepare them for the workforce and lay the groundwork for continued education. PCA will collaborate with Beaufort County Community College (BCCC) to offer stackable credentials to students who will be able to earn BCCC credit in welding, carpentry, or auto mechanics by the end of their senior year. In addition, students are expected to participate in hands-on learning through internships with local employers.
To learn more about Golden LEAF’s Agriculture Priority Area, click here.