Message from the Director

Value-Added Team Relocates to North Carolina Research Campus at Kannapolis

From Dr. Blake Brown:

Two years ago, an NC Tobacco Trust Fund Commission grant enabled me to develop the Value-Added and Alternative Agriculture Program, a timely and critical program considering the federal tobacco buyout. The program has focused on providing business management expertise to help tobacco-farm families transition to new enterprises.

In January 2008, the program relocated to the new North Carolina Research Campus at Kannapolis and expanded to include Diane Ducharme, Extension Associate in horticulture and food safety. On March 1, Leah Chester-Davis, Extension Communication Specialist, joined the team as Coordinator of Communications and Community Outreach. In June, Rod Gurganus, Extension Associate in entrepreneurial horticulture joined our team. Diane, Leah and myself are based at the NC Research Campus while Rod is based at the Vernon James Research and Extension Center in Plymouth. Gary Bullen, Extension Associate in agricultural and resource economics, also works closely with our team. Our team works with Extension faculty at NCSU and across the state to facilitate development of business management, horticultural and fresh produce safety educational programming and resources for farm families and agribusinesses.

Grants from both Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) and the NC Tobacco Trust Fund Commission (TTFC) support our work in facilitating the development and delivery of workshops on good agricultural practices and good handling practices in terms of fresh produce safety. Diane Ducharme shares leadership of the Fresh Produce Safety Task Force, made up of representatives from throughout Cooperative Extension and many outside agencies. All of our team members are involved in this project. In addition, a second grant from the TTFC is supporting our work to provide business management resources to farm families that need to evaluate and implement new value-added enterprises. A third grant from TTFC provides support to create this Web site, a major tool we will use to reach both Cooperative Extension faculty and farmers.

A grant from AgMRC supports the development of a National Handbook on Pastured Beef. AgMRC also supported the development of the Value-Added Toolkit for use by farmers transitioning to or starting value-added enterprises. On behalf of the Value-Added team, I want to express thanks to the Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, SARE and AGMRC for making these projects possible.

Along with this grant support, we appreciate the support from our College and Extension administration: Dean Johnny Wynne, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; Dr. Jon Ort, Assistant Vice Chancellor for EEED, Associate Dean & Director of NC Cooperative Extension; and Dr. Steve Lommel, Interim Associate Dean for Research and Assistant Vice Chancellor for Research.

As our team grows and changes, we remain committed to helping farm families transition to or add proftitable new enterprises. We also will be the public interface of the new Fruit and Vegetable Science Institute, located at the new campus in Kannapolis. Our team will involve others in the organization as we undergo a strategic planning process this summer. We will keep you posted on the outcome. As always, we want to hear from you and how our faculty team can work with you to enhance your work with the North Carolina farm community. Feel free to contact me at

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