NC Cooperative Extension

The N.C. Cooperative Extension Service houses a multidisciplinary group of professionals at the N.C. Research Campus as part of the Plants for Human Health Institute. Providing expertise in farm business management, communications and marketing, and fresh produce safety, these Cooperative Extension staff serve as an outreach component to complement the research conducted at PHHI.

Meet Our Award Recipients

Meet Our Award Recipients

From 2009-2012, the N.C. Value-Added Cost Share (NCVACS) program provides financial support, through matching funds, to:

  • producers and processors for the purchase of equipment that will enhance their value-added enterprises;
  • producers who applied for the USDA Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG), a nationally competitive program.

The following are stories from NCVACS recipients who received assistance in years 2009-2012. These projects were administered by N.C. Cooperative Extension and funded by the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission and the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center through the Family Farm Innovation Fund.

In 2013, NCVACS will focus its priority on working specifically with producer groups, and those stories will be different and dynamic in their own right. Help us write the story of your producer group by applying for NCVACS assistance for your value-added equipment needs.


Equipment Cost Share

108 South Main Street, Warrenton, N.C.

108 South Main Street, the bakery owned and operated by Carla Norwood and Gabriel Coming is set to open in Fall 2011. The NCVACS award was a vital part of the renovation of the historic property in downtown Warrenton by outfitting much of the commercial kitchen equipment critical to the production of value-added baked goods. In addition to basics such as an oven, range, mixer and sinks, the two purchased refrigerators for storing fresh produce and a large freezer for preserving produce and storing an inventory of frozen pies and breads they plan to market to grocery stores and restaurants. The bakery plans to purchase 75 percent of its ingredients from North Carolina producers. While sweet and savory pies will be the primary canvas for their locally purchased products, they also plan to offer baked goods, burritos, smoothies and brunch, potentially expanding into organic baby food in future years.

Bame Farms, Salisbury, N.C.

Andy and Megan Bame operate a small, yet diverse farm in Salisbury, N.C. raising livestock and fresh produce. Bame Farms has been exploring additional direct sales avenues, including farmers markets to sell their grass-fed beef and “pig pen” pork.  The limiting factor for sales volume was primarily storage space which hindered their ability to expand their marketing efforts beyond their established customer base.
The NCVACS cost share award helped Bame Farms purchase three chest freezers and an enclosed market trailer. The new setup provides adequate storage for processed meat and improves their ability to easily transport product to area farmers markets. This year, they have attended the China Grove Market at the Mill and the Huntersville Market, in addition to direct marketing from the farm.

Bluebird Hill Farm, Bennett, N.C.

Bluebird Hill Farm produces a variety of lavender products including lavender essential oil, room and linen spray, dusting powder and tea. Despite demand, owner Norma Burns has been limited in productivity due to the inability to harvest and distill the lavender flowers during the narrow window of peak bloom. The farm’s recent purchase of a mechanical harvester will more than double its harvest ability.
Burns’ NCVACS cost share award was used to purchase a distiller to extract essential oils and hydrosol from the plant material. The increased productivity will allow Bluebird Hill Farm the opportunity to enter the bulk commercial market and sell to cosmetic manufacturers, in addition to their current retail markets.


Blue Ridge Apiaries, Hudson, N.C.

Ryan Higgs, owner of Blue Ridge Apiaries in Hudson, N.C., is raising hygienic honeybees, adding value to the queens and nucleus colonies, commonly called nucs, that he produces and sells to other beekeepers. These are desirable because the bees can be relied on without use of questionable pesticides that may taint honey, disrupt colony reproduction and increase susceptibility to resistance. Producing hygienic honeybees involves sampling for hygienic behavior, genetically selecting for the trait in producing virgin queens and flooding the mating yard with drones that also exhibit the trait and can mate with virgin queens. This is a non-standard, and therefore value-added, method of breeding for a specific trait (the hygienic trait) that translates into an increased resistance to mites in that population of honeybees.  The NCVACS award was used to cost share hive components necessary to expand the colony size sufficiently to ensure adequate drone saturation.


Blue Ridge Food Ventures, Candler, N.C.

Blue Ridge Food Ventures is a shared-use kitchen incubator and natural products manufacturing facility in Candler, N.C. The kitchen offers a variety of commercial kitchen and processing equipment which can be used by reservation for an hourly fee. The NCVACS award helped to purchase a burr mill to grind dried herbs, spices, chili peppers, grains and corn; a disc grinder that splits dried soybeans; and an auger filler for packaging dry, flowable materials including flour mixes, medicinal and culinary spices and corn meal. At least five value-added businesses that use the kitchen have utilized this new equipment.
Smiling Hara Tempeh and Viable Cultures make tempeh from soybeans using the disc grinder. GalloLea Organics and Smoky Mountain Native Plants Association will use the auger filler for their pizza mixes and ramp-infused cornmeal, respectively. The availability of the burr mill and auger filler, will allow Smokin’ J’s Fiery Foods to double production volume of his ground spice product line consisting of chili peppers that he grows.


Carolina Ground, L3C, Asheville, N.C.

Carolina Ground, a new regional food venture in Asheville, N.C., will stone mill Carolina-grown grains into bread flour and pastry flour. They will market through North Carolina and the southeastern United States, but they will specifically focus on building relationships with bakeries. NCVACS cost share funds were utilized to purchase the stone mill, packaging equipment, a bench scale and grain testing tools. The establishment of this business aims to enable the farmer to get the best possible price for grain while providing an affordable product (outside the commodities market) to the baker.


Carolina Heritage Vineyard and Winery, Elkin, N.C.

Established in 2005, Carolina Heritage Vineyard and Winery consists of nearly 10 acres of hybrid grapes and muscadines, along with plantings of blueberries and apple and pear trees. The vineyard and orchard, along with the winery, are all certified organic. In fact, owners Clyde and Pat Colwell report that Carolina Heritage is not only the first organic winery in North Carolina, but it is also the only one in the Southeast. The purchase of an ozonator, with funding assistance from NCVACS, for equipment and facility sanitation is an important measure to ensure the food safety and quality of their product since they don’t use conventional chemical sanitizers.
They also received cost share funding for two 350-gallon fermentation tanks and a plate-and-frame filter. These items allow the Colwells to process more wine and do so more efficiently. Pat estimates the new equipment will help them produce one and a half times the volume of wine they produced last year. Since the couple have been selling out of their wines each year, they are excited about the potential of the NCVACS program to help them grow the business.


Chapel Hill Creamery, Chapel Hill, N.C.

Portia McKnight and Flo Hawley are co-owners of Chapel Hill Creamery, a small dairy farm and farmstead cheese-making facility in Chapel Hill, N.C. They raise a small herd of Jersey cows that provide 100 percent of the milk used in the production of a variety of special cheeses, including personal takes on Asiago, Camembert, feta, mozzarella and others.
With the NCVACS award, Chapel Hill Creamery expanded production of its Camembert cheese (“Carolina Moon”) by adding new equipment. NCVACS also funded a feasibility study and a grant writer to help the creamery apply for a USDA Working Capital VAPG grant. The VAPG funds will allow Chapel Hill Creamery to increase distribution for their cheeses, increase operating efficiencies in the cheese-making process and develop a branded marketing program. Read more about Chapel Hill Creamery.


East Fork Farm, Marshall, N.C.

Steve and Dawn Robertson established East Fork Farm 16 years ago in Marshall, N.C. Their primary farm product is lamb, but they process around 100 poultry each week for tailgate markets, restaurants and specialty grocery stores. The poultry include chicken, duck and, at Thanksgiving, turkey. NCVACS funding helped the Robertsons purchased a scalder, waterproof scales, a chill tank and other processing tools. The equipment allowed them to improve productivity by upgrading aging equipment and adding pieces that improved labor efficiency. East Fork Farm has developed a niche by selling fresh poultry – never frozen. They take pride in the quality of their processing skills and look to remain an on-farm processor to ensure the best quality product for their customers.

Elizabeth’s Pecan Products, Turkey, N.C.

In addition to raw pecans, Elizabeth’s Pecan Products in Turkey, N.C., produces a variety of chocolate-coated pecan products, including a chocolate-covered pecan brittle, butter-roasted chocolate pecans and raspberry-flavored chocolate pecans. Alan Bundy, owner, has used funding from NCVACS to purchase equipment that will allow him to do more processing and packaging in-house.
He is adding seemers – equipment that seals pecan containers – and a 34-foot chocolate coating machine. By bringing the entire production process under one roof, Bundy hopes that the chocolate-coated portion of his business will see further growth. Learn more about Elizabeth’s Pecan Products.


Farmers Roasted Soynuts, Sanford, N.C.

Chris Gaster is a third generation farmer who grows 650 acres of soybeans in addition to tobacco and corn. Some of those soybeans are used to create a savory snack food—flavored, roasted soynuts. Gaster, owner of Farmers Roasted Soynuts, received an NCVACS award to purchase soybean cleaning equipment and a seasoning applicator. In addition to increased efficiency, this equipment has improved the consistency of the product, now available in two flavors: original and spicy.
This value-added product can be purchased online ( in local convenience stores and local grocers.


Holloway Farms, Apex, N.C.

Tal Holloway planted 80 pecan trees 10 years ago. Since 2007, he’s been harvesting the pecans and selling them locally using an email distribution list. This diversified family farm, Holloway Farms, harvests a few hundred pounds of nuts annually, expecting production to increase to nearly 8,000 pounds of nuts in a few more years as the trees mature. Tal used the NCVACS funding to assist with the purchase of a pecan cracker. He also recently purchased a sheller. Those two pieces of equipment have enabled him to bring in a new customer base than when he sold only in-shell pecans. Shelled nuts also have a value four times greater than in-shell pecans. He has seen increased revenue as a direct result of the NCVACS-supported equipment.


Holly Grove Farms, Mount Olive, N.C.

Holly Grove Farms in Mount Olive, N.C., is a goat dairy and swine operation. The NCVACS award helped fund the purchase of a sealer for packages of their farmstead goat cheese. The seal on the product will increase shelf life of their products, creating new market potential. Holly Grove cheese is currently marketed to restaurants through a distributor and small co-op grocery chains.
In addition, they sell cheese curds to cheese plants in Alabama, Maryland, Massachusetts, Georgia and Texas. Debbie Craig, owner of Holly Grove, says, “The funding has been very helpful to us in purchasing this equipment. Food processing equipment is very expensive and it is hard for a family farm to be able to afford the equipment needed to package a product that is well received in today’s marketplace.”


Independent Small Animal Meat Processors Association of Western North Carolina, Marion, N.C.

The Independent Small Animal Meat Processors Association of Western North Carolina (ISAMPA-WNC) has partnered with the McDowell Economic Development Association to build a small animal processing plant in Marion, N.C. Known as the Foothills Pilot Plant, the facility will be opening in fall of 2011 for processing chickens, turkeys and rabbits. The equipment purchased with the help of NCVACS funding included a scalder, plucker, conveyer system and rails.
This will be the only USDA-inspected poultry processing plant in western N.C. for independent producers. Farmers currently process on-farm or transport animals to facilities more than 100 miles away. Having a regional facility will increase the farmer’s revenue by reducing mortality during shipping and decreasing fuel costs.


Ingram Farm, High Point, N.C.

Ingram Farm is a third generation Century Farm in High Point, N.C. Former tobacco farmers, the Ingrams are transitioning to an agritourism destination, offering value-added food products and an educational experience for visitors. The Ingrams have been growing strawberries for more than 25 years offering pre-picked or pick-your-own berries. In addition, they sell strawberry jams, jellies and baked goods from “Ingram’s Country Kitchen.” With funding assistance from NCVACS, homemade strawberry ice cream was added to the list of strawberry treats. The Ingrams purchased a commercial ice cream freezer that makes 1.5 gallons every 10 minutes, a three-door freezer and a display cooler. They sell the ice cream from the farmstand, and at local farmers markets. It’s available hand-dipped, pint or half-pint. In addition to ice cream, the machine can also make strawberry sorbet. They anticipate being able to sell the ice cream from mid-April through early November. Dean Ingram explains that the cost share award “pushed us to go ahead and do it, where we would have been on a different time table without the funding.” They feel that they’ve just scratched the surface this year for the market potential. They plan to more aggressively market the availability of homemade ice cream next year and will include it as part of a tiered price structure for school groups who visit the farm in spring and fall.


Looking Back Farms, Tyner, N.C.

The seed cleaning equipment purchased by Looking Back Farms has helped establish a regional infrastructure for full-scale organic grain and seed cleaning. Organic crops are included in the definition of value-added products because they utilize a “non-standard” production method. With the cost share from NCVACS, owners, Ken and Ben Haines, were able to purchase a seed cleaner, gravity table, 1,000 bushel grain bins, packaging equipment and moisture meter without paralyzing the farm with a heavy debt load.
The Haines’ farm operation will produce double certified, regionally adapted grain and cover crop seed that will be marketed throughout the Southeast. In addition, they will offer certified organic cleaning services to growers within a 120-mile radius.


Mays Meats, Taylorsville, N.C.

Mays Meats in Taylorsville, N.C.,  is utilizing its cost share funding from NCVACS to expand its processing and storage capabilities with an aging cooler and expanded rail system. Jimmy Mays, owner, said the rail system and cooling space will increase livestock capacity by 20 to 25 percent. Currently, the company employs about 50 people and processes 50 to 60 cattle each week.
The expansion is not a moment too soon; farmers must currently place orders well in advance to secure Mays’ meat processing services. Meats processed at the facility are delivered to farms, restaurants and retailers within 150 miles. Read more about NCVACS award recipient, Mays Meats.


Millchap Purveyors, Charlotte, N.C.

Jennifer Chapman and Michelle Miller are co-owners of Millchap Purveyors and Polka Dot Bake Shop in Charlotte, N.C. The duo operate a full service bakery, but have found sweet success in one specialty product – sweet potato crackers. Made using thousands of pounds of real, farm-fresh sweet potatoes, grown in North Carolina, the crackers are available in a variety of flavors. Currently, the crackers are sold in 200 stores across the country and North Carolina.
The NCVACS award helped Millchap Purveyors purchase four pieces of equipment including a machine to seal its bags of sweet potato crackers. The new bags increase the shelf life of the crackers, allowing them to be shipped further and into new markets.  With the new equipment in place, Chapman thinks the company can double its sales of the sweet potato crackers in 2011. Read more about Millchap Purveyors.


Nooherooka Natural, Snow Hill, N.C.

Ossie and Mary Betty Kearney, along with son Andrew, own and operate Nooherooka Natural in Snow Hill, N.C. Their farm specializes in Black Angus beef raised without added hormones or antibiotics. The Kearneys distribute their beef to retail locations, restaurants and individual families throughout eastern North Carolina. The recent purchase of a refrigerated delivery van, with the help of NCVACS funding, has opened up new markets for their beef by allowing them to safely transport fresh or frozen beef to farmers markets or specialty grocers further distances on even the hottest summer days.
Mary Betty has also found that having a dedicated vehicle for market saves time and labor by keeping the van stocked with market display materials. The van also has made their CSA more viable. They deliver a meat assortment to multiple locations for prepaying customers to pick up at a designated time.


Rock of Ages, Hurdle Mills, N.C.

Established in 2005, Rock of Ages Winery offers 22 different wines. With the addition of three 3,000-gallon fermentation tanks, purchased with the assistance of the NCVACS program, they have been able to double their capacity. “Without the cost share, we would not have been able to expand as quickly as we have,” says owner Kevin Moore. While they sell much of their wine through the vineyard’s tasting room, they also have distributors who make the wine available throughout North Carolina and into Virginia.


Rockingham Community Kitchen, Reidsville, N.C.

A partnership between the N.C. Cooperative Extension in Rockingham County and the Rockingham County Business and Technology Center, the Rockingham Community Kitchen serves as a center for farmers to prepare value-added products in an inspected facility. With funding from NCVACS, matched by Rockingham County Farm Bureau, the kitchen has been upgraded to accommodate the needs of acidified foods preparers and chocolatiers.
Equipment purchased for these purposes included: labeling equipment, scales, ice machine, sink, work tables, steam kettles and chocolate tempering equipment. Having the appropriate facilities is another step toward creating a “PiedmontLocalFood” value-added brand that will mutually benefit area farmers and the community kitchen.


Sky Top Orchard, Zirconia, N.C.

David and Lindsey Butler own and operate Sky Top Orchard in Zirconia, N.C. The orchard, started by David and his father in 1967, originally shipped apples to commercial grocery stores. In the 1980s, the family diversified to become a pick-your-own farm. As an agritourism destination, they offer family activities, scenic views and culinary treats made with apples (such as cider and doughnuts). Most recently, they have expanded their line of apple products to include homemade pies. The NCVACS award helped purchase a double stack oven, two coolers and a freezer. The pies will be available fresh and frozen. Learning about the cost share program from their N.C. Cooperative Extension agent, the Butlers say that the funding is “very helpful to a small business that is expanding into new ventures.”


Spinning Spider Creamery, Marshall, N.C.

Licensed in 2003 as an artisan cheese producer, Chris Owen, owner of Spinning Spider Creamery in Marshall, N.C., was the recipient of an NCVACS award to assist in the purchase of a 211-gallon pasteurizer. The goat dairy collects 80 gallons of milk a day during the milking season. Prior to the equipment purchase, they could only pasteurize 40 gallons at a time creating a rigid schedule that produced a bottleneck in the production process. The larger capacity pasteurizer not only increases efficiency, but allows greater flexibility with Owen’s time. She markets her cheeses at five farmers markets, through two food distribution channels and directly to specialty grocers and restaurants.
In addition to six types of fresh chevre, Spinning Spider produces 10 French-style, surface-ripened cheeses and five raw milk-aged cheeses. The new equipment will also allow her to purchase milk from a cow dairy to continue artisan cheese making through the winter when the goats are not producing milk. Owen says that, “As a family business, it was hard to justify the cost of this piece of equipment to improve time management since we could just work longer hours, but this cost share has not only improved our efficiency, it’s helped the business grow and allows for further growth still.”


Sunburst Trout Farms, Canton, N.C.

Sally and Steve Eason are second generation co-owners of Sunburst Trout Farms in Canton, N.C. Sunburst raises and finishes trout, which is then processed into a variety of value-added products, including plain, marinated and encrusted fillets; smoked trout; smoked trout dip; trout caviar; and trout burgers, sausage and jerky.
The NCVACS equipment cost share award helped Sunburst Trout Farms expand their capacity for smoking trout. NCVACS also funded a feasibility study and grant writer to help with the USDA Working Capital VAPG award, which Sunburst will use to increase marketing for its value-added products and increase sales in new markets. Read more about Sunburst Trout.


The Pasta Wench, Deep Gap, N.C.

Andrea Morrell is owner of The Pasta Wench, a line of all-natural gourmet ravioli and homemade gourmet sauces using organic ingredients, many North Carolina-grown.  Equipment purchased with cost share funding from the NCVACS program included a ravioli machine, braising pan, commercial blender and commercial mixer. This financial support will increase Morrell’s ability to supply pasta as she anticipates a doubling of sales in the next couple of years.


Thompson Poultry, Troy, N.C.

Thompson Poultry in Troy, N.C., has been raising and processing pastured poultry for three years. The chickens are sold locally at the Moore County Farmers Market. Funding from NCVACS will improve processing efficiency and increase profit potential, according to owner, Justin Thompson. He previously relied on a commercial processing plant which was a costly input. The equipment purchased through the cost share program included a scalder, plucker and chill tank. The new on-farm processing equipment allows Thompson to process more chickens on a more regular basis, as well as reducing the time for processing each bird.


Two Chicks Farm, Hillsborough, N.C.

The NCVACS cost share award helped Audrey Lin and Dana Baldwin purchase needed kitchen equipment to get their processed foods business off the ground. The duo, operating as Two Chicks Farm, sell their pickled beets, pickled squash, pickled cucumbers and sauerkraut at the Eno River Farmers Market in Hillsborough and Southern Village Farmers Market in Chapel Hill. As the business grows, they plan to add a wider variety of product, including okra and carrots, and sell to local food co-ops.
In addition to some kitchen basics such as bowls, mandolin and scale, they also purchased some specialized equipment including a food processor, pH meter, fermentation chambers, dehydrator and kraut board. To prepare their pickled products, Two Chicks Farm rents a local church kitchen where they adhere to the safety practices set forth by the Acidified Food Processing and Packaging – Better Process Control School, a certification program offered by N.C. State University.


Warren Wilson College Farm, Swannanoa, N.C.

The Farm at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, N.C., was established in 1894. Supported by student workers, the farm offers hands-on experience in crop and livestock agriculture. The farm is in the process of expanding their production operation to include charcuterie and curing meats. The NCVACS award provided financial assistance toward the purchase of refrigerators for aging, a meat slicer, a vacuum sealer, a sausage stuffer, knives and other miscellaneous food handling equipment. The farm markets their meats through on-farm sales and a customer e-mail list. Chase Hubbard, farm manager, hopes that adding a value-added component to the farm operation will demonstrate a profitable approach to selling natural meats.


Grant Writing/Feasibility Studies Cost Share

Nine value-added producers in North Carolina received a financial boost as recipients of the first cycle of the NCVACS program, announced in December 2009. This cycle was designed to focus on supplementing the cost of professional grant writers and feasibility studies. Cost share awards ranged from $3,500 to $23,500.

  • Ron Cottle: Cottle Farms is based in Faison, N.C., and plans to develop a marketing campaign to introduce new lines of muscadine grape products for North Carolina growers.
  • Jon Dorman and Della Williams: Dairy goat farmers located in Pelham, N.C., and producers of a variety of artisan cheeses they direct market as SleepyGoat Cheese in north central North Carolina and south central Virginia.
  • Sally & Steve Eason: The second generation of Easons to own and operate Sunburst Trout Farms in Canton, N.C., Sally and Steve will work to increase marketing for their value-added products – such as smoked trout, trout burgers and trout caviar – and increase sales in new markets.
  • Ossie and Mary Betty Kearney, Andrew Kearney: Owners of Nooherooka Natural in Snow Hill, N.C., the Kearneys direct market all-natural, Black Angus beef products to wholesale and retail outlets in eastern and central North Carolina.
  • Portia McKnight and Flo Hawley: Chapel Hill Creamery will work to increase distribution for their cheeses, increase operating efficiencies in the cheese-making process and develop a branded marketing program.
  • Henry and Tracy Moore: Bobcat Farms, in Clinton, N.C., is a diversified beef and swine operation that direct markets beef to retail consumers in central North Carolina.
  • Chuck Moore and Richard Parker: These organic dairymen produce a line of artisan and specialty cheeses at Honey Mountain Farm.
  • Smoky Mountain Native Plants Association: Located in western North Carolina, this producer group grows and harvests ramp, wild mountain leeks that grow at high elevations in the Appalachian Mountains. The ramp is processed for seasoning packets and rampmeal.
Site Links: Home | About | Research | Extension | Employment | Contact | Directions