In 2013, RAFI’s Tobacco Communities Reinvestment Fund awarded 24 grants to farmers and farmer cooperatives to embark on or complete a variety of innovative projects. These grants are made possible through the support of the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission. Like all of our grantees, these farmers will share their experiences with other farmers, spreading new ideas for revitalizing rural economies. See a complete, detailed list below.
2013 TCRF Grantees
Michelle Bernard Spellcast Farm, Lincolnton, NC Spellcast Farm is a diversified farm that began in 2008. The farm currently sells at the Charlotte farmer’s market: pastured rabbit, pastured chicken, eggs, grass-fed goat meat and beef. With her TCRF grant, Michelle has put in a level acre of land into production to grow a mixture of cover crops, herbs and native grasses that the rabbits can graze, with some of it being used to grow vegetable crops for market. Brian Rollins River Bend Nursery, Lincolnton, NC Brian is passionate about food, from farming to crafting artisan, wood-fired pizzas. Brian’s own crops include winter squash, assorted carrots, multiple varieties of greens, beets, asparagus, melons, etc. In addition, the farm has approximately 2,000 shitake mushroom logs and a small oyster mushroom production. With grant monies, Rollins enhanced his food business by planting 7 acres of winter wheat to craft his own bread and crust, baked the wood-fired oven he built at the farm. Cindy Digh Clearview Farms, Lincolnton, NC Cindy expanded the production of her farm’s pastured poultry operation by building onto an existing brooder house and upgrading a poultry processing facility to accommodate a more permanent production. These upgrades allow the farm to grow additional birds (chicken and turkeys) and more variety of breeds, while providing a safer environment to work in and allowing the farm to expand its entire operation. Barbara Joyce Stoneville, NC Barbara has started blueberry plants adapted specifically to where she farms in North Carolina. She used her funding to root the cuttings from Rabbiteye blueberry plants in a covered propagation house with a mist system. They will grow in one-gallon pots for a year and then be sold in local markets. Elise Bortz Elysian Fields Farm, Cedar Grove, NC Elise has built an environmentally controlled storage unit for Elysian Fields Farm’s onion crop. The highly insulated unit maintains 50-55 degrees F with RH (Relative Humidity) of 60-70%, with the use of a window air conditioner. This allows for the best conditions to maximize onion storage, which in turn helps the farm maximize profit. George F Smith, Jr. Smith Farms, Gibsonville, NC George installed solar collectors on his current wood-fired boiler system, which he previously used for his tobacco greenhouse. The low-cost, solar-energy method maximizes his vegetable production by heating the boiler water as well as the 750-gallon water storage tank inside the greenhouse, for a well-rounded heat. What was normally wasted heat during daylight is now for nighttime heating. Larry Martin Mt. Olive, NC Larry, a former tobacco farmer, bought a greenhouse to raise his early transplants using a floating tray system. He sells them to area farms, supplementing his income during the months when the farm produces less and income is lower. Randy Lewis Ran-Lew Dairy, Snow Camp, NC Randy is a born and bred family farmer who says he believes in “smaller and better.” With his grant, he has enhanced the production of locally produced dairy products and sells them to specialty grocery stores, farmers’ markets and restaurants. His farm used the funding to produce organic and homemade butter at their creamery, along with plain and flavored skim milk yogurt, as well as pasteurize the milk on site. VJ Switzer Rural Hall, NC VJ is the only African American farm within 50 miles of his home. He has used the grant funding to convert an old, stick-style tobacco barn into a modern roadside market with a vintage feel, with plans to sell his produce 9 months out of the year. Ryan and Alicia Butler Green Button Farm, Bahama, NC Green Button Farm is building an on-farm air chilling facility for pasture raised and farm processed poultry. The new facility will prevent the farm from imposing unnecessary miles on the bird by shipping it to another location to process. Most farmers are not using an innovative rack system in an air cool room like the Butlers. Joann Gallagher Castlemaine Farm, Liberty, NC Joann has expanded her farm business to include year-round production of specialty vegetables, so she can work and sell all year. The grant helps with the cost of a high tunnel, a necessary component to keeping a farm going all year. Neill Lindley Lindale Farms, Snow Camp, NC Internal parasites are the biggest health challenge facing naturally raised goats in the Southeast. Neill is testing a solution to this problem by implementing and evaluating the range of organically permissible methods for a comprehensive Integrated Parasite Management Program. This includes selection and breeding, rotational and multispecies grazing, dry lot feeding during times of highest parasite pressure, pasture grazing during lower parasite pressure, alternative forages and forest browsing, and more. Natalie Relyea Relyea’s Produce, Walstonburg, NC With a growing customer base for fresh shelled green and speckled butterbeans, Natalie is using her funding to achieve proper storage and processing through a commercial butterbean shelling system She is selling her beans by the gallon, retail and wholesale, at Relyea’s Produce roadside stand right on the farm. Jeff Adcock Adcock’s Nursery, Fuquay Varina, NC Jeff turned his family’s tobacco farm into a tree nursery, using a TCRF grant to develop a machine that will efficiently and safely remove the outer inch of the root ball from container grown trees. The success of this program would increase marketability of container grown trees in the Southeast, especially when so many cities are starting to band container trees for this exact problem. Derek Fox Fox Farm, Taylorsville, NC Fox Farm is located in Alexander County, a county ranked 11th in North Carolina cattle production. But there is currently no livestock market where farmers can easily and accessibly sell or load cattle into truck load lots. Derek plans to offer such a facility that would allow farmers to group cattle together to compile a superior group of cattle to market. Larry G. Smith Smith Farms, Stoneville, NC Larry is producing organic, hydroponic micro-greens in a controlled environment to implement year-round production, to produce more and to supply the local market. Larry has an insulated barn with a cement floor where he is testing its control on the environment in a way that is economical, utilizing hydroponics and LED grow lighting to maximize production year-round. Karen Coleman Kenly, NC Karen wants to raise her own family on her father’s farm in Wilson County. To sustain her dream and the farm, she started a 15-week summer CSA, beginning with a strawberry crop. But it’s not just any CSA. Karen has set up an online portal for selling, so customers can choose what they want in their box every week from their home computer before picking it up at the farm. Karen’s CSA boxes also include recipes highlighting her local produce. Ronnie Cooper Fleetwood, NC Ronnie has used the grant to increase his on-farm sorghum cane production while investing in an agritourism model. Ronnie has set up a mill and boiler operation on his more than 150-year-old family farm near the New River, making molasses on site and at commercial quantities. The proximity to the river attracts tourists who come to canoe and kayak. He also sells to local stores and markets the product at his farm’s small restaurant. For the past two years the farm had produced molasses by transporting the cane to a mill more than 25 miles away for processing. Burton Ange, Jr. Plymouth, NC Burton is converting a chicken-turned-hog house into a hydroponic vegetable operation. This process involves converting the roof from tin to polycarbonate panels with float beds. Michael and Susan Jones Mae Farm Meats, Louisburg, NC Mae Farm, launched in 2004, produces, processes, markets and distributes natural pork direct to consumers and restaurants. Michael and Susan are producing fodder for the purpose of reducing their overall feed bill. Initial estimates indicate that they could save about 30% annually on feed cost by supplementing their current nutrition program with fodder. Darlene Gabbard Red Hawk Wine, Lexington, NC Darlene’s farm is the first Native American-owned winery in the country. Through this grant, she can expand her vineyard in order to use more of her own grapes, increasing production by three to four tons, rather than buying juice from California. This translates to 18 to 24 more cases a wine for production. Taylor Williams Carthage, NC Fifteen farmers, in the counties of Lee, Moore, and Richmond, are using this funding to market produce to institutions that are currently under-served by local foods. Local food produced in the Sandhills region will be sold to local institutions in the Pinehurst, Southern Pines and Fayetteville market. To facilitate a “learn by doing” pilot, Cooperative Extension is assisting the Sandhills Farm to Table Cooperative to operate this venture for one year. Lori Ivey Farm Fresh Ventures, Abermarle, NC Farm Fresh Ventures is an economic development project to organize a regional “food hub” that serves Anson, Union, Stanly, Montgomery and Richmond counties. The grant helps introduce a new marketing outlet for new and existing farms within the region. Farm Fresh Ventures sells CSA subscriptions to local consumers in the five counties to supply a box of locally grown, fresh food once a week throughout the summer for 18 weeks, up to 300 boxes total per week. Max Sussman Mark is using his grant to preserve fresh, off-the-farm fruits and vegetables in a certified kitchen. After blanching, roasting, dehydrating and sealing, these fruits and vegetables have a shelf life of up to 18 months. Through preserving without using the conventional methods of pickling and canning, this allows for added growth and revenue to local farms without the complexity and additional certifications that are required to process acidified foods.