NC Commissioner Steve Troxler: NCDA&CS Small Farms Program a Valuable Resource

The NCDA&CS Small Farms program helps minority and limited resource farmers navigate federal and state programs, and assist military veterans interested in getting into farming.

  • I have been doing a series of videos recently talking about the different divisions of the department and telling people what they do. I think it is important for people to understand the services we provide and how our work touches their lives every day.
  • They have been fun to film.
  • Last week I was at the N.C. A&T State University Farm near Greensboro to talk about our Small Farms program and to meet with two farmers that have benefitted from the work of our Small Farms staff.
  • I spoke with V.J. Switzer from Forsyth County and Martha Calderon from Lincoln County, and it was heartwarming to hear how our Small Farms program had helped them. Both grow vegetables.
  • Switzer was able to add a high tunnel to his operation through a cost-share program, which has greatly expanded his growing season.
  • Calderon had started with 40 acres and now was growing over 100 acres of crops.
  • The Small Farms division has four employees who work with minority and limited resource farmers across the state, along with veterans interested in getting into farming.
  • Often, these farmers are underserved by agricultural programs and resources that are available to all farmers. Previous Census of Agriculture numbers indicated only 3 percent of minority farmers used government programs designed for farmers.
  • Now, that number is up to 15 percent, which is an improvement, but we still have work to do.
  • For some farmers, the programs and paperwork can seem overwhelming or difficult to access.
  • Some programs and paperwork can seem like alphabet soup. A lot of abbreviations get tossed around and if you are unfamiliar with the agencies, that can be overwhelming.
  • Understanding what agency to reach out to, what questions to ask, what paperwork is needed, what federal information is needed to access certain state programs and how cost-share programs work, can provide a bridge between accessibility and inaccessibility.
  • In the last two years, our Small Farms staff have helped 200-plus farmers and veterans add high tunnels, wells, fencing and other conservation measures to their farms.
  • In addition, each year they have contact with around a 1,000 or more small or minority farmers through outreach and education opportunities, including through N.C. A&T State University’ s agricultural research program.
  • I am proud of the work this division does. In addition to helping navigate cost-share programs, they also assist with marketing contacts, help connect growers with educational resources and subject matter experts, and point them towards soil science, pesticide or other resources that can help them improve their operations.
  • Be sure to check out these weekly videos every Tuesday at 6 p.m. on the department’s Facebook page and also on our NCDA&CS YouTube Channel.