NC AgVentures Chatham County Farm Tour
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NC AgVentures is a NC State Extension program that provides grants to North Carolina farmers and community groups for new and innovative agricultural project ideas that will increase farm profits. The program is supported by the NC Tobacco Trust Fund Commission.
Each year the AgVentures program selects a county to host a farm tour for representatives from the Tobacco Trust Fund Commission so they can visit some AgVentures Grant recipients. It’s a great opportunity for the funding agency to see first-hand the impact the grants have on these farms. This year Chatham County was selected to host a tour. Horticulture Agent Matt Jones and Sustainable Agriculture Agent Debbie Roos organized an all-day farm tour for the group which included Jeff Camden (Program Officer for the Tobacco Trust Fund Commission), Susan Jakes (Associate State Program Leader CRD, NC State Extension), Jackie Miller (Program Coordinator for the NC AgVentures Grant Program), and Dale Monks (Associate Director and State Program Leader for ANR & CRD, NC State Extension).
It was a great day to showcase some of our innovative farmers and markets and continue to build networks!
Visit the NC AgVentures website to learn more about the grant application program.
Pittsboro Farmers’ Market
The Pittsboro Farmers’ Market received an AgVentures Community Grant in 2023 to make improvements to the market infrastructure. The grant funds were used to purchase a storage shed, solar lights, and gravel to improve the walking surface. Grower Ben Shields of In Good Heart Farm is the President of the Pittsboro Farmers’ Market Board, and he met with the AgVentures visitors to share what the grant had meant for the market and answer questions. Shields had been busy installing the lights and working with volunteers to spread the gravel in the weeks preceding the visit.
The Pittsboro Farmers’ Market is located at The Plant at 220 Lorax Lane in Pittsboro and is open every Thursday from 3:00-6:00 p.m. year-round.
Okfuskee Farm‘s philosophy is a systems approach to farming that demonstrates broad-acre permaculture practices relevant to the piedmont of North Carolina. Farmer and agro-ecological engineer Bobby Tucker explains that “the role of livestock, managed according to their intrinsic values, has always been a part of the farm’s approach to build soil health, control invasive species, diversify woodland and pasture species, terra-form the landscape for water storage, and provide high-quality proteins; the farm includes various ages and types of agroforestry systems comprising 4,000+ trees and shrubs either planted or allowed to regenerate over the past 15 years.” Tucker raises pigs on pasture and also manages a commercial Katahdin sheep flock that has been selectively bred for low-input management and integration with various orchard and agroforestry systems with the goal of balancing ecosystem function, food production, and family quality of life.
Tucker received an AgVentures Farmer Grant in 2021 to purchase sheep handling equipment. “This handling equipment has been instrumental in allowing us to scale our sheep business on leased property while providing for a safe, low-stress environment when working/sorting our animals,” Tucker said. He added that “sheep have become our main farming enterprise as we have found them to provide the most value to our whole operation and quality of life goals; once the right infrastructure and equipment are in place, a pasture-based livestock system can be very scalable, profitable, and compatible with our mission to improve ecological function on the lands we manage.”
If you are interested in purchasing Okfuskee Farm pastured pork or lamb contact Bobby Tucker.
Dutch Buffalo Farm
Farrell Moose grows native perennials, trees, and shrubs at Dutch Buffalo Farm in Pittsboro. Moose and his wife Emily started out as vegetable growers in 2007, marketing through community supported agriculture (CSA) and the local farmers’ market for 10 years. Moose received an AgVentures grant in 2020 and said he is grateful for the grant because it helped fund the infrastructure to transition his farm from vegetable production to native plant propagation where he sees many opportunities due to the high demand state-wide for native plants.
The AgVentures grant helped to fund Dutch Buffalo Farm’s innovative tobacco float propagation system. This system provides two primary benefits: 1) it allows Moose to propagate more than three times the volume of native plants in the same amount of space as traditional propagation methods and 2) the cool water temperatures of the float system in the spring allow him to achieve the cold stratification required for seed germination at scale.
Dutch Buffalo Farm has quickly built a strong customer base of gardeners, landscapers, and restoration professionals. They also sell wholesale to other nurseries. Visit the Dutch Buffalo Farm website for more information and to order plants.