Skip to main content

Extension Announces 2018 N.C. AgVentures Grant Winners

Farmer in overalls and cap discussing his poinsettias
Kevin Gray, of Hickory Creek Farm in Greensboro, was a previous N.C. AgVentures grant winner. He grows several different types of poinsettias.

At a century-old farm in Stokes County, a grower plans to make chips from tomatoes that otherwise would be wasted. A couple from Kenly will build an animal barn to expand the livestock operation that’s part of their agritourism business. And a Mount Olive father-daughter team are turning an old tobacco greenhouse into a microgreens operation.

These and 24 other projects were recently announced as winners of 2018 North Carolina AgVentures cost-share grants. The grants are designed to strengthen agriculturally dependent families and communities, and they are awarded to farm operators who have innovative plans to diversify, expand, or implement new production, marketing or distribution strategies.

[pullquote color=’red’ align=’left’]By supporting creativeness on the farm and keeping that farming opportunity moving forward, we see a trickle-down effect.[/pullquote]

NC State Extension administers the grant program with funding from the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission. Farmers in 18 counties – Duplin, Edgecombe, Forsyth, Greene, Guilford, Harnett, Johnston, Lenoir, Martin, Nash, Pitt, Rockingham, Sampson, Stokes, Surry, Wayne, Wilson and Yadkin – were eligible to apply for grants up to $10,000 each.

In addition to awarding grants to individual farms, N.C. AgVentures also awarded three community grants for collaborative projects benefiting three or more farms.

“There was a time when the small farm was going by the wayside, and that was hurting local economies,” said Jacqueline Miller, who coordinates the program. “The goal with this grant program is to help these businesses thrive and become stronger, and if a grant helps one business — and we do consider farms businesses — do better and grow, then the whole community benefits.”

William Upchurch, executive director of the Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, agreed.

“By supporting creativeness on the farm and keeping that farming opportunity moving forward, we see a trickle-down effect in terms of how many people out there can benefit,” he said. “Farmers and farm communities put a lot of faith and trust in Extension, and if Extension agents are there to help guide that farmer to try an innovative technique and bring it to success, then you can look at the program as a way to make a lasting impact.”

To learn more about N.C. AgVentures and the impact it has on family farms and communities, visit

2018 N.C. AgVentures grants by county

[toggle title=”Duplin”]

Rooks King Wells from Rose Hill grows 40 acres of organic produce. He will use his grant funds to purchase an agricultural flame weeder.[/toggle]

[toggle title=”Edgecombe”]

George Jenkins is a producer from Tarboro. He plans to purchase plasticulture equipment with his grant funds. He farms over 1,000 acres, and some of his crops are Good Agricultural Practices and organic certified. Plasticulture will keep produce cleaner in the field and cut down on weeds.[/toggle]

[toggle title=”Forsyth”]

Justin Strickland from Rural Hall will use the grant funds to expand his beef production sales using e-commerce.

Natalie Sevin from Winston-Salem is a small-scale specialty producer who sells vegetables and herbs at two farmers markets in Winston Salem. She will use the grant funds to erect a innovative high tensile slanted fence to discourage deer.[/toggle]

[toggle title=”Harnett”]

Paul Johnson from Bunnlevel will use the grant to upgrade old poultry houses to produce a top quality bird in a safe environment.

Charles Tart from Dunn will use the award to purchase a new pea/bean sheller for its crops and customers who bring in unshelled beans.

David Pflugfelder from Lillington raises poultry and pork. With the grant funds he will purchase equipment to expand his pasture-raised hogs operation.

Rondal McLamb from Dunn produces and processes grain fed cattle and hogs. He will use the grant funds for a dual chamber high-volume vacuum.

The N.C. Cooperative Extension Center in Harnett County is using grant funds for research to see if an alfalfa/bermuda mixture can be successfully grown in North Carolina’s Coastal Plains. Alfalfa allows producers to grow their own nitrogen, minimize ash content from soil contamination and save money on expensive protein supplements. The project includes agents and farmers in Harnett, Johnston and Sampson counties.[/toggle]

[toggle title=”Johnston”]

Joshua and April Phillips from Kenly will use the grant funds to build an animal barn and expand their livestock for their agritourism business on Sonlight Farms.

Cameron Ennis from Garner will purchase a flatbed truck for hauling watermelons and small grains to market.

William Byrd from Smithfield will purchase equipment to expand his cattle and hay production.

Timmy and Roxie Creech from Kenly plan to purchase irrigation equipment to expand their vegetable crop production.

Richard Barrow from Clayton plans to expand his organic vegetable production and will use the grant funds to purchase a vacuum planter and drip irrigation.

Ricky and Scarlett Joyner are a father-daughter team from Mount Olive. They plan to turn an old tobacco greenhouse into a microgreens operation.[/toggle]

[Toggle title=”Lenoir”]

The N.C. Cooperative Extension Center in Lenoir County received funds to buy a steamer to sanitize float trays and keep tobacco transplants and vegetable plants healthy. The equipment will be available for farmers to rent.[/toggle]

[toggle title=”Martin”]

Jason Bunting from Oak City received a hemp license and will use the grant award to convert poultry houses into an indoor year-round hemp production facility.

Stephen Lilley from Williamston will use the grant award to purchase a pull-type spreader to apply “gin trash” on their field to improve yields.[/toggle]

[toggle title=”Rockingham”]

Brenda Sutton and her husband, Rex Inman, from Reidsville grow specialty mushrooms. They plan to use their grant funds to develop the Fogwood Mushroom Trial through 20 acres of woodland.

Bobby Coltrane from Reidsville plans to expand his production of Day Neutral Strawberries that will provide winter season strawberries on Thanksgiving, Christmas and Valentine’s Day.[/toggle]

[toggle title=”Stokes”]

The N.C. Cooperative Extension Center in Stokes County received a community grant to set up a mobile poultry processing unit to be shared by small poultry producers in Stokes and surrounding counties.[/toggle]

[toggle title=”Surry”]

Jeems Farm in Pinnacle has been in the family for over 100 years and was tobacco land until 1995, when they transitioned to tomatoes. With the grant funds Michelle Masten McKinney will add a processing facility and dehydrator to make tomato chips from over production and tomato seconds.

RomaReady is a new farm on old tobacco land in Pilot Mountain that produces fresh, chemical-free vegetables for local restaurants. Augusto and Jamie Renzi will use the grant funds to scale up their pilot production of Kalettes, a new vegetable that is a cross between Kale and Brussel sprouts.[/toggle]

[toggle title=”Wayne”]

Emily Odom and her husband from Goldsboro operate an agritourism farm that produces strawberries in the spring, sunflowers and a community-supported agricultural (CSA) project  in the summer and a corn maze in the fall. With the grant funds they plan to build a better packing facility with a walk-in cooler.

The Sanderson farm in Four Oaks encompasses 950 acres of cropland. Over the last three years the farm has gone from having no issues with feral wild hogs to having whole field destroyed overnight. With the grant funds Matthew Sanderson will purchase a Boarbuster Trapping System to help his farm and others in surrounding counties.[/toggle]

[toggle title=”Wilson”]Planters Produce (Walker Shelton and Thomas Webb) from Stantonsburg grew up working on their family’s tobacco farm. In 2014 they started growing cucumbers, and in 2016 they added peppers. The grant funds will be used to purchase and set up a 200-foot greenhouse to raise quality pepper transplants.[/toggle]

[toggle title=”Yadkin”]Chad and Brenda Blake from North Wilkesboro will use the grant to convert three tobacco greenhouses for hanging baskets and bedding plants.[/toggle]

About the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission

The N.C. General Assembly created the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission in 2000 to lessen the financial impact to farmers and tobacco-related businesses caused by the sharp decline of tobacco in the agricultural economy.

About NC State Extension

NC State Extension is the local and statewide outreach provider of North Carolina’s preeminent research enterprise – NC State University. NC State Extension translates research-based knowledge in the areas of agriculture, food and nutrition, and 4-H youth development into everyday solutions that create economic, intellectual and societal prosperity for North Carolina.

About N.C. Cooperative Extension

NC State Extension works in tandem with N.C. A&T State University, as well as federal, state and local governments, to form a strategic partnership called N.C. Cooperative Extension. With local centers in all 100 counties and the Eastern Band of Cherokee, they deliver education and technology from NC State and N.C. A&T that enriches the lives, land and economy of North Carolinians.

NC State Extension is hard at work in communities across North Carolina.

[button]Learn more[/button]