Up to five North Carolina communities will receive support to develop incubator farms to attract new farmers, thanks to an effort by the Center for Environmental Farming Systems.

Incubator farms provide aspiring farmers with a place to learn, try their hand at farming and develop the markets to make their own operations successful.

CEFS has announced the launch of a new Incubator Farm Project that will support beginning farmers. The project isan integral part of the 10 percent campaign, a CEFS initiative that encourages consumers, businesses, institutions and agencies to spend 10 percent of their food dollars on locally produced foods.

Between now and Dec. 1, city and county governments and state agencies may submit proposals to be included in the initiative. Successful proposals will kick off with a community charrette to conceptualize the local incubator farm projects.

“Access to land has been identified as one of the top challenges facing new farmers in North Carolina,” said Joanna Massey Lelekacs, state coordinator of the project. “The Incubator Farm Project will work with communities to address this need by repurposing vacant public land into places that incubate new farmers.”

In exchange for a rent-free place to farm, the new farmers will be asked to give back to their communities, either by donating fresh farm products or other services for those in need, said Nancy Creamer, co-director of CEFS and North Carolina State University professor of horticultural science.

North Carolina Cooperative Extension is one of several partners in the Incubator Farm Project. Cooperative Extension already has established two incubator farms — Orange County’s Breeze Farm and Cabarrus County’s Lomax Farm.

In addition to land access, farmers receive education and support at these farms from Cooperative Extension agricultural agents.