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CEFS' Incubator Farm Project Cultivating New Ideas, Beginnings

From the November 2012 E-Newsletter

Interested in farming but don't know where to dig in, so to speak? You're not alone. Access to land has been identified as one of the top challenges facing new farmers in North Carolina. CEFS' Incubator Farm Project addresses this challenge by working with local communities to repurpose public land into incubator farms -- training grounds for new and aspiring farmers. Incubator farms offer new farmers affordable access to land, and sometimes infrastructure, while they refine their farming and marketing skills.

CEFS and local partners including non-profit organizations, municipalities, N.C. Cooperative Extension, and others are working to establish five new incubator farms in Onslow, Moore, New Hanover, Wayne, and Guilford Counties. The local partners provide land, the desire to support aspiring and beginning farmers in their communities, and the enthusiasm to move the project forward, and CEFS provides planning support and access to additional resources.

In Wilmington, New Hanover County, the project is a collaboration between Leading Into New Communities (LINC), Inc., and the Southeastern North Carolina Food Systems Project, Feast Down East. LINC is a non-profit organization that helps people find grounding, literally, as they transition out of incarceration. According to LINC, their urban farming initiative will "operate an urban farm, which provides healthy, high quality, safe and affordable food to residents and the greater New Hanover County community. The urban farm will provide immediate hands-on work for residents upon arrival. Residents will learn skills that can be transferred into entrepreneurial opportunities." In August, LINC held a ribbon-cutting for their new residential facility and developed a concept site plan for their urban farm.

In Jacksonville, Onslow County, the project is a collaboration of Onslow County Farmers Market, N.C. Cooperative Extension, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and many other community partners. This incubator farm will build upon an existing gardening training program called Horticulture, Entrepreneur, Leadership, Program (HELP). They have developed a site plan, are working to improve the soil, and hope to have 3-7 participants starting on the incubator farm next summer.

Above: LINC's urban farm concept plan.

Opposite page: Representatives from several Incubator Farm Project sites tour the Breeze Incubator Farm in Orange County.


In Goldsboro, Wayne County, community partnerships are developing and the discussion is moving forward about how best to proceed and who will lead the process.

In Moore County, the Town of Robbins is working with a number of community partners to define the type of incubator farm that would best suit their needs. There is interest in exploring alternative production methods for fruits and vegetables as well as enthusiasm for supporting the development of new dairy farms.

In Guilford County, a regional partnership is developing led by the Piedmont Conservation Council that includes the Guilford County Cooperative Extension, NC Agricultural & Technical State University, Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and Elon University. Pending land use approval by the Guilford County Commissioners, startup is forecast for 2014. Currently, 10 acres have been disked and cover crops will be planted this fall to begin the soil improvement process.

Says Joanna Lelekacs, State Coordinator for the Farm Incubator Project, "the community focus of these projects is very inspiring! All these communities are raising the potential for multi-dimensional impacts of these incubator farms in their communities including, of course, the agri-entrepreneurial impacts, but also community development, health impacts, job creation, food security, sustainable local food systems, and more."

Click here for more information on CEFS' Incubator Farm Project.

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