For nearly 20 years, three farms — Alligator River Growers, Tunnel Farms and Carawan Farms — located by North Carolina’s Pamlico Sound have collectively grown, harvested, and marketed a variety of produce crops. 

On approximately 4,000 fertile acres, they supply much of the East Coast with snap beans, sweet corn, cabbage, cucumbers, eggplant, zucchini and squash.

Wilson and Debbie Daughtry, owners of Alligator River Growers in Engelhard, N.C., on behalf of the grower group and Parker Farms, in southeastern Virginia, took the initiative to apply for a North Carolina Value-Added Cost Share (NCVACS) award to assist them in preparing for a USDA Value-Added Producer Grant. The federal grant allows applicants to apply for up to $300,000 in matching grant funding that would provide working capital to help ensure the success of their processing business for fresh produce.

NCVACS is administered by N.C. MarketReady, a program of North Carolina Cooperative Extension, located at the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis.

The cost share program, funded by the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, was launched in 2009 to encourage more North Carolina producers to apply for the VAPG federal funds and to generate more competitive applications.

The first cycle of NCVACS was designed to provide supplemental funding for producers to work with professionals who provide grant writing services and perform feasibility assessments.

The Daughtry’s award consists of a $3,500 cost share for grant writing assistance for the VAPG-Working Capital grant and $20,000 for a feasibility assessment. This funding will offset the cost of these services by approximately half.

The dark, fertile soil just inland of the Pamlico Sound supports an array of crops including snap beans, sweet corn, broccoli and lettuce.

By further processing their fresh produce, these growers plan to tap into the demand for convenience and be ahead of the impending fresh produce safety regulations.