Success Story

Wilkes County farmers increase profits thanks to innovative programs

Agriculture is a top employer in Wilkes County, with 22 percent of the county’s jobs in agriculture, according to John Cothren, Wilkes County N.C. State Agriculture Extension Agent. Wilkes County ranks second in broiler chicken production, second in hay production, and third in all cattle production.

Golden LEAF funds have supported two programs that have helped Wilkes County farmers increase their profits: a genetic improvement program and equipment rental program that have together resulted in 225 equipment rentals, 11,250 animals processed, and 500 acres of farmland supported. Golden LEAF funding leveraged support from the Cattlemen’s Association and Wilkes Economic Development Corporation (EDC).

In August 2013, Wilkes EDC was awarded $45,000, in collaboration with the Cooperative Extension, to support the establishment of a cost-share genetic improvement program to boost the profitability of local cattle producers. The program created a controlled breeding effort that enhances the weight, physical frame, and disposition of calves. This program also included education for producers and the equipment needed to support the project. After the genetic improvement program was so successful, Wilkes EDC applied for and received $63,000 from Golden LEAF in 2019 to assist young farmers who are often challenged with continuing farming due to lack of access to and the high cost of owning equipment required to maintain their farms.

“Producers utilizing the equipment for routine management practices have reported a $25 average increase per animal and $15 per acre totaling $288,750 in potential extra profits for the producers. Agriculture is important in Wilkes County, and this program ensures sustainability for our farmers to continue to grow this sector of our economy. We are grateful for the opportunity to work with Golden LEAF on these programs.”

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