Though North Carolina is among the nation’s largest agricultural states, it is rapidly losing farms and farmers.

According to the 2007 Census of Agriculture, between 1999 and 2006, the state lost 10,000 farms and close to 500,000 acres of farmland. The losses are even greater among African-American farmers.

In response to such statistics, North Carolina Cooperative Extension initiatives and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ education programs are helping to ease new and young farmers into agriculture.

At Cabarrus County’s Elma C. Lomax Incubator Farm, 16 new farmers are learning as they grow crops on half-acre plots they rent for $100 a season. The farm, along with an eight-week course for new farmers, is one of the factors driving growth in local farms, says Debbie Bost, Extension director in Cabarrus County.

In Franklin County, part-time farmer Maggie Lawrence recently received a $2,500 grant from the Franklin County Agriculture Board to help her with equipment and farmers’ market needs. Lawrence is selling her produce for the first time this year at the Wake Forest Farmers’ Market. And this spring, state Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler urged College of Agriculture and Life Sciences students to join the state’s farming community, to help bring down the average age of North Carolina’s farmers — currently 58.
When Troxler addressed students in March during one of three lectures and panel discussions he brought to campus in the spring semester, he urged students to consider going into production agriculture.