Community Farm - Food Project Phase II - Initiation

2013 Annual Report for CS12-088

Project Type: Sustainable Community Innovation
Funds awarded in 2012: $9,996.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: Southern
State: North Carolina
Principal Investigator:
Allison Kiehl
Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy

Community Farm - Food Project Phase II - Initiation


Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) is a non-profit land trust that preserves the unique plant and animal habitat, clean water, local farmland and scenic beauty of the mountains of North Carolina and east Tennessee for the benefit of present and future generations. In 2005, SAHC established its Farmland Program to preserve working agricultural lands important to the natural and cultural heritage of western North Carolina. The success of the program has resulted in protection of over 5,000 acres of farmland throughout the region.

In 2009, SAHC accepted donation of a 100-acre working farm (the property) located in Alexander, NC –surrounded by significant farming communities of Buncombe County. Recognizing an incredible opportunity for the property to address some needs of local rural citizens and farmers, in 2012, SAHC staff performed research, assessed local needs, and developed partnerships to plan a Community Farm and Food Project at the property. SAHC is seeking funds for 2013 to initiate and implement the beginning stages of this project.

During the 2012 research period, it was found that access to farmland for beginning farmers and expanding agricultural operations is one of the issues of most concern among the local agricultural community. It was also found that farmers are interested in more opportunities for post-harvest processing and value-added processing to stay competitive and innovative in the market. Still, other concerns that were found include the gap in access to local, healthy food among low-income communities, and the missing connection with how food is grown among children of those communities. The research also indicated there are multiple partner organizations concerned with these issues that are poised to find innovative solutions.

SAHC’s Community Farm and Food Project will include several facets developed in stages that will address the needs of the region’s agricultural and rural communities discussed above. One of the first stages that will initiate in 2013 is to establish the property as an incubator farm for new and beginning farmers – providing access to land and equipment at reduced rates for multiple new farmers. The first year will be a pilot phase of the incubator farm and will support a small, focused group of farmers.

As funding allows, potential future development stages of the incubator will include a post-harvest processing & storage facility, value-added processing facility, housing for the farmers, and an educational gathering space. This will allow the farm to reach other producers in the area through rental of the processing space and equipment as well as educational courses.

With this project, SAHC also wishes to engage local youth of low-income communities to provide an on-farm educational experience on how food is grown – increasing the quality of life for at-risk youth in the region. This aspect of the project will begin with the establishment of a farm trail to provide full access to the farm for visitors. Healthy food produced on the farm will also eventually be provided to citizens of these communities at little or no cost by collaborating with partners that already work in these communities.

Objectives/Performance Targets

The following objectives and tasks were set for the Project Manager (PM) to accomplish during the term of this grant:

1. Farm Infrastructure Planning and Development
A. Farm Plan – Finalize the farm plan which will guide all of the ground improvements that are needed on the farm to develop an incubator. This will also include research for additional funding to support operations of the farm.
B. Farm Improvements – This will include planning and implementing infrastructure improvements needed on the farm to develop the incubator such as fencing, structures, vegetation management, irrigation system, livestock watering system, and others. This step will include bidding and hiring contractors to do the work and will be dependent on funding.
C. Equipment Acquisition – This will include researching and purchasing all of the equipment necessary to provide to the participant incubator farmers, allowing for the most cost-effective and efficient use of equipment by the farmers. This step will also be dependent on funding.
D. Processing Facility Development – Research options for constructing a post-harvest and value-added processing facility that can be made available for incubator farmers as well as off-site farmers of the region. Develop plans and retain estimates for construction. Research funding opportunities to support construction of the facility.

2. Incubator Program Development
A. Incubator Farm Policies – Operational procedures and guidance policies for the incubator farm will be developed based on other existing and successful models. An evaluation of staffing needs for the incubator will also be completed to determine the funding necessary for continued operation of the incubator.
B. Incubator Application Process – An application process for participant incubator farmers will be developed to ensure that those with serious interest in pursuing sustainable operations are accepted onto the farm.
C. Technical Assistance Program Development – Begin collaboration with partner organizations such as NC Cooperative Extension (NCCE), Buncombe Soil and Water Conservation District (BSWCD), USDA NRCS, and Organic Growers School (OGS) to develop a technical training course for participant farmers.
D. Marketing Resources Development – Begin collaboration with local area markets and non-profit agencies to create marketing opportunities for the participating incubator farmers. Research other modes of marketing for the farmers such as a collective CSA

3. Education and Food Access Site Development
A. Educational Trail – Hold four work days with partner organizations to construct an interpretive trail and erect at least two interpretive signs. Establish the trail to bring local youth of rural and low-income communities out to the farm for an agricultural education experience. Collaborate with partner Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP) to bring these groups out to the farm and utilize the trail.
B. Food Access – Begin collaboration with partner organizations that can connect food grown at the farm with citizens of rural and low income communities. Potential avenues for this include through a food pantry, a subsidized CSA program, a local discount food market, or other non-profit entity with markets already established in the communities. The food would come from a portion of the incubator farmers’ bounty, or a plot on the farm designated for this purpose, or a combination of both.

4. Incubator Pilot Program Development
A. Farmer Recruitment – Utilize the established application process to recruit participant incubator farmers for the initial pilot phase. Work with applicants to establish the right combination of agricultural operations and acreages that the farm can support. Collaborate with the farmers on operational procedures and policies for the farm once production begins. Aim to have at least two incubator farmers on the ground at the farm by the beginning of 2014. More farmers may be accepted if infrastructure and funding allows.


As of the end of March 2013, the Project Manager has made the following accomplishments corresponding to each objective and task:

1. Farm Infrastructure Planning and Development
A. Farm Plan – The farm plan has been completed and the PM is working with the Buncombe County Extension small farms agent to plan specifics on the ground of where to plant different crops and how best to install the irrigation system.
B. Farm Improvements – The PM recently secured a cost-share contract with USDA NRCS to implement a lot of the farm improvements that are needed to support the incubator program. The cost-share money will allow for a new well and irrigation, fencing, and pasture improvements. Implementation of these improvements will begin in the fall of this year.
C. Equipment Acquisition – The PM has applied to funding sources in order to purchase the equipment needed for the incubator program. Money from these sources is expected to come in the summer of this year, so purchasing will happen in the fall.
D. Processing Facility Development – The PM has completed some research into renovation of an existing farm building for the processing facility. The PM has applied for a grant as seed money to begin the building renovation and will get notice of the grant award later in the year.

2. Incubator Program Development
A. Incubator Farm Policies – The PM has researched other incubator farm models and obtained samples of incubator policies and procedures. The PM has applied for funding to hire more staff to run the incubator program and will receive notice of the grant award later in the year.
B. Incubator Application Process – The PM has researched the application process of other incubator farms and will continue to work towards developing a process for this incubator.
C. Technical Assistance Program Development – The PM has held initial meetings with the Buncombe County Extension small farms agent and the director of Organic Growers School to discuss creating a training program for the incubator farmers. The PM will continue to build these partnerships throughout the year.
D. Marketing Resources Development – The PM has researched various marketing outlets for the incubator farmers. More work on this task is needed.

3. Education and Food Access Site Development
A. Educational Trail – One trail workday was completed on March 13, 2013 with a group of AmeriCorps Project Conserve volunteers. This volunteer day was very successful and we were able to complete the first leg of the trail. The PM has also begun to research the educational signs to be constructed along the trail.
B. Food Access – This task is to be completed later in the year.

4. Incubator Pilot Program Development
A. Farmer Recruitment – This task is to be completed later in the year.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

1. Farm Infrastructure Planning and Development
This grant has given us the staff capacity to complete all of the necessary planning steps involved with developing an incubator farm. Obtaining the cost-share contract with NRCS will allow us to move forward with the many improvements that are needed on the farm to support an incubator program. This grant has also given us the capacity to seek more grant funds to actually implement the development of the incubator farm.

2. Incubator Program Development
This grant has also allowed us to research how other incubator farms operate and to learn about their application processes and marketing outlets for the farmers. Partnerships with other agricultural organizations will be very important for developing the incubator training programs, and this grant has allowed the Project Manager to begin building those partnerships. This grant has also allowed the PM to seek other funding sources to hire more staff that will be needed to oversee the incubator program.

3. Education and Food Access Site Development
So far, the first leg of the educational trail on the farm was completed during one volunteer workday, which includes about 0.2 miles of trail. This grant allowed the PM to recruit and organize these volunteers and accomplish the first trail workday. This educational trail will allow us to hold educational hikes and tours for groups that would not normally have access to a local farm.


Allison Kiehl
Farmland Stewardship & Sustainability Director
Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy
34 Wall Street Suite 502
Asheville, NC 28801
Office Phone: 8282530095