Specialty Crops Program Farm Tour to Virginia

PROJECT LEADER(S): Richard Boylan
TYPE OF PROJECT: Educational
LOCATION: Ashe, Alleghany, and Watauga counties, NC

IMPACT


The New River Headwaters Counties of North Carolina are accessibly close to growing markets for naturally raised meats, eggs, fruits, container-grown specialty nursery plants, and organic vegetables. However, area growers often lack a sense of how this market growth is proceeding, and how to best serve these markets. Thanks to Specialty Crops funding, the New River Headwaters Alternative Agriculture Program was able to introduce fifteen growers from Ashe, Alleghany, and Watauga counties to leading innovators and successful business models in the areas of organic vegetables, edible landscape crops, and pasture-raised meats. A two-day trip facilitated active networking and hands-on learning at Seven Springs Farm, Edible Landscaping Nursery, Polyface Farm, and Pastured Peepers Farm. Participating growers stated unequivocally that they gained great insights into opportunities for profitable enterprises that they could replicate on their own farms.


INTRODUCTION

The New River Headwaters Counties of North Carolina are accessibly close to growing markets for naturally raised meats, eggs, fruits, container-grown specialty nursery plants, and organic vegetables. However, area growers often lack a sense of how this market growth is proceeding, and how to best serve these markets. Thanks to Specialty Crops funding, the New River Headwaters Alternative Agriculture Program was able to introduce fifteen growers from Ashe, Alleghany, and Watauga counties to leading innovators and successful business models in the areas of organic vegetables, edible landscape crops, and pasture-raised meats. A two-day trip facilitated active networking and hands-on learning at Seven Springs Farm, Edible Landscaping Nursery, Polyface Farm, and Pastured Peepers Farm. Participating growers stated unequivocally that they gained great insights into opportunities for profitable enterprises that they could replicate on their own farms.

METHODS

Growers from Ashe, Alleghany, and Watauga counties were the primary participants. The van departed from Ashe County, and traveled to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Education took place primarily via farm tours and discussions with the successful growers chosen as stops. Participants also gained knowledge and insight via discussions during travel and meal times.

RESULTS

At least five of the participants have diversified their farming operations with complementary enterprises viewed during the tour. The balance of the participants report that they plan to incorporate elements of specialty crops diversification in the near future. A talk on the trip has been given at several venues, including the 2004 Vegetable Growers’ Conference in Asheville (estimated total audience: 75 people).

CONCLUSION

This trip had an immediate and positive impact on participating growers. The photos obtained during the trip, and the PowerPoint presentation created from it, are extending the impact indefinitely.

Photos

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Updated February, 2005