Farmer Toolkit, Other Educational Opportunities

Child feeding grown cows

NC Choices’ new project focused on increasing the number of beginning farmers raising meat by providing them with novel land acquisition strategies goes a step farther. It provides farmers with a number of resources and training opportunities.

NC Choices is partnering with Cornell University on a beginning farmers project, which is supported by a three-year grant from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program. (For this project, beginning farmers are defined as those with 10 years or less raising meat animals.)

While the project is working to pair landowners and beginning farmers, it also will be building a library of resources that will be available to all Extension agents and farmers, says Lee Menius, NC Choices technical program coordinator.

“Our goal is to build a lasting toolkit and market support that carries on for a longer period than the three-year grant,” Menius explains. As examples, he cites numerous faculty members from N.C. State, University of Mount Olive and elsewhere who are working on resources regarding beef, goat, and poultry production for beginning farmers. Some of the tools that are in the works will be shared this fall, October 6 and 7, at the Carolina Meat Conference in Charlotte. Carolina Farm Credit is a sponsor of the conference. Mark your calendars!

Other tools will be adapted from Cornell. “They have done really good work up there on developing pricing, business decision making, and market development tools specifically for small-niche meat producers,” says Sarah Blacklin, NC Choices director. “Rather than reinventing the wheel, we are adapting and adopting some of those tools here in North Carolina.”

Along with animal production, research on land management systems, such as silvopasture, will be included in the resources.

Because the use of woodlots for grazing may be a viable option for affordable land-lease agreements, the team working with NC Choices is developing a set of materials to help farmers and landowners optimize silvopasture conditions. Among them: how to assess whether silvopasture is for you, economic considerations, initial establishment costs, long-term economic considerations, common types of planting arrangements, tree pattern, spacing and stand density, tree planting guidelines, species, and types of forage. (For more on silvopasture, see part 2 in this 5-part series.)

“There are numerous woodlots across the state and in the Carolina Farm Credit region,” says Spencer Blevins, loan officer with the Burnsville Branch. “We at Carolina Farm Credit believe this can be a viable option for beginning farmers and we appreciate NC Choices and their work to develop a toolkit to help farmers across the state tap into the underused land resources.”

To learn more, visit the Beginning Farmer page on the NC Choices website. There are brief interest forms for both farmers and land owners, or contact Lee Menius, NC Choices Technical Program Coordinator at 704-202-9348 or