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Meet Your Local Farmer: Five Farms in Watauga, Avery Receive Diversification Grants Totaling $27,000

Compiled by Jesse Wood

Feb. 4, 2013. Last week, we posted a story about Western North Carolina farmers receiving $148,500 through the WNC Agricultural Options grant program to diversify their farm businesses for the growing season in 2013.

The following post identifies and describes the three Avery County and two Watauga County farms that received the grants. In all, the five High Country farms received $27,000. Read below to see which farms received the grants and how they will use the funds to diversify their farm enterprises. 

Avery County: 

Stines Farm, Boyd Clyde Stines

  • $6,000—Beef Cattle Improvement Program
Stines Farm, Avery County
Stines Farm, Avery County

Boyd is building a working facility at his beef cattle farm that saves labor while also improving worker and animal safety. He is installing the new equipment, including a head gate, squeeze chute, attached palpation cage and scales, under shelter for all-weather access.

The working facility allows Boyd to properly vaccinate and precondition calves as well as improve genetics of his cattle through artificial insemination. “Having this equipment will enable us to be better positioned in the cattle industry for many more years to come,” he said.

Boyd has farmed since 1960—practically all his life—and he is eager to see his family’s farming tradition continue. The working farm helps ensure that the charming rural character of Beech Mountain remains intact. His son Justin, 28, is involved with the farm and has developed an interest in improving the herd with artificial insemination.

“As we have transitioned from tobacco, we would like to be an example of how passion, proper tools, and the use of technology can greatly affect the ability of farms to adapt to the changing demands of the agriculture industry,” Boyd said. “We see the growing demand for quality American beef as an opportunity to build up our farm for future generations.”

The working facility allows Boyd to produce high quality heifers and calculate the Expected Progeny Differences (EPD) for replacement heifers. “A replacement heifer that is highly efficient and has good mother EPDs is an area of the cattle the business that is showing great potential for the next several years,” he said.

Most of Boyd’s cattle are sold through local stockyards. He is exploring selling preconditioned feeder calves as well as high quality heifers in the future.

D & J Trees, Jack W. Wiseman, Jr.

  • $3,000—Momi Fir Grafting and Native Ornamental Production
D & J Trees, Avery County
D & J Trees, Avery County

Jack is helping solve root rot issues that Christmas tree growers commonly deal with by grafting the root-rot tolerant Momi fir species onto Fraser firs. He plans to market these disease-hearty firs to other growers that regularly combat the fungus Phytophthora, as well as grow them to full size at his own farm to sell to his Christmas tree customers.

Jack is also planting native azaleas on areas of his farm where Fraser firs do not grow. He sells these directly to consumers, wholesale to garden centers, and to his landscape maintenance customers.

By using the dual approach of introducting grafting techniques and using more of his limited farmland, Jack is maximizing the sustainability of his Christmas tree farm, which was established in 1984. He has been farming full time since that date.

South Valley Nursery and Landscaping, Tyler A. Buchanan

  • $6,000—Micropropagation Lab
South Valley Nursery and Landscaping, Avery County
South Valley Nursery and Landscaping, Avery County

Tyler is building a micropropagation lab so that he can mass produce unique plants such as native orchids, which are challenging to propagate using traditional techniques.

“Micropropagation is a new technology in the nursery business,” Tyler said. “This technology will give me a better chance of building the family business and ensuring its future, along with staying up-to-date with the growing industry.” Furthermore, selling native plants to the public cuts down on their illegal removal from the wild, he said. 

Tissue culture requires a significant upfront investment, specialized training and a sterile environment to be able to produce new plants in vitro (in a test tube), but payoff can be significant since the demand for these rare native plants is high.

Tyler plans to sell a portion of his plants as seedlings the fall of the second year, and grow the rest out to sell as full-grown plants in three years. His family has operated a nursery for more than 25 years, and currently grows rhododendron, kalmia, juniper, arborvitae, Norway and blue spruce, Fraser fir, hemlock and other conifer and shade trees. He sells both wholesale and retail.

Watauga County:

Tester Dairy Farm (Thomas and Margaret Tester and Jessica Lawrence)

  • $6,000—Hydroponic Fodder System
Tester Dairy Farm, Watauga County
Tester Dairy Farm, Watauga County

Tester Dairy Farm in Watauga County is creating a hydroponic fodder system, which grows barley, rye and wheat from seed to sprouts in eight days so that the farmers can feed their cattle high-protein grasses daily. The fresh palatable feed is proven to enhance animals’ milk production, improve fertility and decrease respiratory issues.

The Testers said they are renovating the farm so that their granddaughter Jessica can take it over without the worries of weather, lease agreements and costs associated with row crops. The system is an example for livestock farmers with acreage limitations, especially on the steep slopes of Watauga County. It can be operated without pesticides.

The Testers sell to Dairy Farmers of America, a milk-marketing cooperative.

Coffey’s Orchard at Coffey Grounds (Nancy Coffey Moretz)

  • $6,000—Increased Sustainability Using Improved Storage and Marketing Space
Coffey’s Orchard at Coffey Grounds, Watauga County
Coffey’s Orchard at Coffey Grounds, Watauga County

Nancy is upgrading the basement of her apple storage building to provide a cooled space for the apples, increasing their longevity. She is also creating a permanent display area to enhance the experience for participants of large tours. The apple house has an antique grader and is one of the main sites for tours.

“Having a place where apples can be put in place and not have to be moved around will cut down on the amount of time and effort we spend getting apples where they need to be for best sale opportunities,” Nancy said.

Coffey’s Orchard has semi-dwarf and dwarf apple trees, which start producing early in the season, require less time pruning, spraying and picking, and require less land than full-size trees.