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Direct-to-Farmer Grant Funding Through BRWIA Allows Area Operations to Expand

Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture has completed its first grant cycle for Direct-to-Farmer grants. Building on the success of the WNC AgOptions grant model, BRWIA encouraged collaboration between the applicants and their county Cooperative Extension agents, as well as personal business development throughout the grant process.


Grantees attended an orientation and business planning workshop run by Ascent Business Network, a nonprofit organization that strives to connect local business owners and entrepreneurs with the tools they need to succeed.

Funding from Heifer International through BRWIA has enabled eight farmers across the five county-, two state-region to start a variety of projects in Alleghany, Ashe, Wilkes and Watauga counties in North Carolina and Johnson County, Tennessee. Roughly $32,000 has been distributed to these deserving farmers. Heifer, a global nonprofit, is dedicated to working with communities to end hunger and poverty through sustainable agricultural practices.

Grantees are using funds to expand their own operations and will provide educational outreach programs after their projects are completed. These programs will demonstrate the success and lessons learned to other farmers and the public so that more farmers are encouraged to develop enterprises that increase farm income and sustainability.

Keep an eye out for more information about the 2015 projects by visiting BRWIA at www.brwia.org.


Grandfather Mountain Orchard’s V.J. Bost received a BRWIA grant so she can revitalize her father’s apple orchard that he started before WWII. Bost has been farming for 15 years and has been selling her produce at the Watauga County Farmers’ Market since its opening year. She hopes that her orchard can become a u-pick operation and that she can use it as a learning tool by hosting workshops and utilizing student help for pruning and other upkeep.


Doug Munroe with Waterfall Farm and Brooke Walker and Susan Turman with Elk Ridge Farm are the two applicants from Ashe County that received funding.

Munroe, along with his daughter Wheeler, runs a successful maple syrup business. Munroe has been farming the land he owns since 1976 and started his maple syrup production in 2006. With the funding he got from BRWIA, he can purchase a Steam Away machine which speeds up the evaporating process, reduces workload and increases syrup production.

Walker and Turman have been farming produce and livestock for eight years. Each year they work very hard to create more sustainable farm practices, and the grant from BRWIA will allow them to improve farm infrastructure to be more sustainable and safe by fencing additional acres and creating an efficient sorting and loading area for their cattle, pigs and goats.


In Alleghany County, Shay Smith with Smith Farms and Jay Coman with Stony Knob Farm were awarded grants.

Smith, an accomplished and driven high school student, grows all of his own produce on his family’s land and, with this grant, plans to expand his vegetable production and sell his produce at the Alleghany County Farmers’ Market this season.

Coman is in his first year of livestock farming and has already obtained his meat handlers license so he can sell his lamb, beef and pork directly to his consumers. With his grant funds, he will be able to build the proper infrastructure and fencing on his farm in order to implement a rotational grazing plan for his livestock.


In Wilkes County, Kathy Bishop from Three B Farm (formerly known as Bishop Farms) is using her grant to establish a drip irrigation and overhead misting system for her blueberries. In 2008, Bishop and her husband transitioned from farming poultry for Tyson to growing organic and naturally grown produce, including their blueberry bushes and honey bee hives. The Bishops aim to grow large enough to have a u-pick blueberry operation.


Dan Osborne with Dug Hill Apiary and Mary Shull with Neva Valley Apiary are the two BRWIA grantees from Johnson County, Tennesse.

Osborne is a lifelong farmer and his current mainstay is his honeybees. He currently has nine stands of bees and plans to increase honey production by adding 10-15 more stands and purchasing honey extraction equipment with the grant funds.

Shull has also been around a variety of farming since her youth and has goals to become well-established in beekeeping and honey production, as well as other types of farming, so she can return to farming full time. With her grant funds, she plans to plant a perennial wildflower field in order to provide her bees with a means to increase honey production and foster a stronger native pollinator population.