Greensboro, NC: Tobacco farmers in the Northern
Piedmont and Eastern regions of the state will have added hope, thanks to a new project
funded by the Golden LEAF Foundation.
The School of Agricultural and Environmental and Allied
Sciences at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University will lead
"Enhancing Economic Opportunities of Tobacco-Impacted Communities Through Alternative
Agriculture Enterprises and Business Management," a project granted $250,000 through
the Golden LEAF Foundation.
The project will help farmers in these regions survive
in the face of a declining tobacco market, says Dr. Alton Thompson, dean of NC A&T's
School of Agricultural and Environmental and Allied Sciences.
"Farmers everywhere are facing tremendous
competitive pressure," said Thompson. "And that pressure is especially acute for
farmers who have long depended on tobacco for a substantial part of their revenue, and who
have begun to see the market for their product dry up."
To help these farmers, A&T will team with Operation
Spring Plant and the North Carolina Coalition for Farms and Rural Communities, two
agriculture-focused non-profit agencies, to enhance economic opportunities for small-scale
farmers in tobacco-dependent communities.
Central to the project's objectives is a database of
research related to alternative agricultural enterprises. A&T researchers will build
this database with both campus-based research and through experiments in alternative
enterprises in the targeted areas. Among the anticipated areas of research are medicinal
herbs, specialty crops and livestock and aquaculture.
"The enterprises we study through this project
will be chosen according to their suitability to the region and the capabilities of
small-scale farmers," said Dr. M. Ray McKinnie, interim associate dean of A&T's
Agricultural Research Program and the project's director. "We want to help farmers
discover alternatives to tobacco, and we want to provide them with research-based
information to help them fully capitalize on their new ventures."
The cooperation of farmers is key to the success of the
project, says McKinnie, and Operation Spring Plant and the North Carolina Coalition for
Farms and Rural Communities will be key links to the cooperating farmers.
To sustain the project's benefits, A&T faculty will
work with cooperating farmers to set up demonstration sites relevant to the research,
where other farmers can visit and learn about alternative enterprises.
"One of the project's goals is to impress upon
farmers how important marketing is to alternative agriculture enterprises," said
McKinnie. "Each of the demonstration sites will feature successful marketing and
management techniques, so that farmers have an opportunity to see a successful practice in
The Golden LEAF Foundation, based in Rocky Mount,
provides economic impact assistance to economically affected or tobacco-dependent regions
in North Carolina.
Golden LEAF is a nonprofit organization that was
created in 1999 to oversee the money distributed from North Carolina's settlement with
Philip Morris Inc. and other tobacco companies. The group distributed more than $5 million
in its first-round funding through a limited number of grants. Nearly 418 state applicants
requested more than $100 million in grants, but only 39 organizations were selected.
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For more information, please contact Dr. M. Ray
McKinnie, NC A&T Agricultural Research Program, (336)