Cooperative Extension Provides Research for Families 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.

Cooperative Extension, through North Carolina’s two land-grant institutions, North Carolina State University and North Carolina Agriculture and Technical State University, provides the latest research findings on new and alternative enterprises to farmers through fact sheets, field days, and tours. On June 23, over 150 farmers, educators, and other agriculture professionals came to the N.C. A&T University Farm in Greensboro for the first time since 2019 to attend the 19tth Annual North Carolina A&T Small Farms Field Day. The past two years the field day was virtual due to the pandemic. They received information on the latest research and new technologies to help them become more profitable and sustainable. Some of the demonstrations included:   Organic and Conventional High Tunnels; Organic Ginger in High Tunnels; High Tunnel Design; Bamboo Updates; and Pigmented and Degradable Mulch. Posters and displays included:  Hemp Regulation in North Carolina; Ergonomic Tools; Avian Flu; Preventing Secondary Injuries In the Agriculture Workplace;  High Tunnel Fruit Quality; Genetics of Parasite Resistance and Sustainable Small Ruminants; and Nutrition of Supporting Milk in Swine for Health of Neonates.

Locally, Cooperative Extension will schedule a High Tunnel Greenhouse Workshop in the fall to provide produce growers with the latest research-based information and the basics of high-tunnel production, and a plasticulture workshop next spring to show farmers the advantages of growing produce using plastic mulch. Look for more details on the workshops 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 in 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 time to make sure the ideas you are considering will work and avoid problems or disappointments down the road.

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