Cooperative Extension Provides Research for Farmers Searching for Alternative Enterprises

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Change is continuous in farming. Prices, farm programs, trade policies, technology, markets, and consumer preferences all change continuously, just to name some of the causes. Many farmers search for alternative enterprises and opportunities to help diversify their farm operations. Alternative enterprises consist of crops other than the traditional row crops of corn, soybeans, wheat, peanuts, and tobacco, and livestock other than the large-scale swine and poultry operations. Some farm enterprises benefit from these changes and some are harmed, so the search for profitable alternatives is a continuous challenge.

North Carolina Cooperative Extension, through North Carolina’s two land-grant institutions – North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University – provide the latest research findings on new and alternative enterprises to farmers through fact sheets, field days, and tours. On June 6, 2019, over 400 farmers and educators attended the 18th Annual North Carolina A&T Small Farms Field Day at the N.C. A&T State University Farm in Greensboro. They received information on the latest research and new technologies to help them become more profitable and sustainable. Some of the demonstration subjects included:  Industrial Hemp for CBD Oil, High-Tunnel Vegetables, Facts and Myths of Bamboo Production in North Carolina, Flock Health and Management for Sheep, and Pasture Pork Production and Management. Poster subjects included:  Food Safety, Micropropagation, Sweet Potatoes: Exploring the Potential of New Food Products, and Testing Different Types and Colors of Plastic Mulches and Degradable Mulches.

In Robeson County, Cooperative Extension has an Alternative Farm Tour scheduled for the fall to provide farmers with research-based information on several new enterprises and opportunities and show that there is no one recipe for sustainable agriculture in our region. A High-Tunnel Greenhouse Workshop and Field Day will also be conducted to provide produce growers with the latest research-based information and the basics of high-tunnel production. Look for more details on the workshop and tour once plans are finalized.

Realize that enterprise selection is a complicated and demanding process. It should be considered no different than evaluating any other business opportunity. The amount of time and energy spent on research should be directly related to the amount of capital at risk and the potential rewards. All of this takes a lot of work, but it is well worth taking the time to make sure the ideas you are considering will work and to avoid problems or disappointments down the road.

For more information, contact Nelson Brownlee, Extension Area Farm Management Agent, at  910- 671-3276,  by email at, or visit our website.