EAST GREENSBORO – Limited-resource and minority small farmers seeking new strategies to keep their farms viable have a new resource: the Small Farms Task Force, announced today by Cooperative Extension at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.

The task force, which is comprised of 13 individuals – county officials, Extension personnel, farmers and retired farmers – is designed to promote and encourage the use of Extension resources, and strengthen rural communities and their families, within targeted areas of the state. 

“Small farmers are the backbone of our state’s $87 billion agriculture industry,” said Rosalind Dale, Ed.D., Cooperative Extension administrator and associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Consumer Sciences. “More than 80 percent of our state’s 50,000 farms are small. With the creation of this task force, we are seeking to improve their quality of life and their farms’ sustainability.”

The group, which held its first meeting Monday, will solicit and review data from small farmers to help improve their profitability; discuss issues directly affecting rural communities; study food alliances and cooperatives for ways they can help small farmers boost marketing efforts; serve as a liaison between small farmers and community leaders; and identify ways to improve existing Cooperative Extension programs.

The announcement comes during N.C. A&T’s annual Small Farms Week, a week of tours, education, honors and workshops centering around small farming. The event, now in its 33rd year, kicked off Monday in Duplin County, home of Ronald Simmons of Master Blend Family Farms. Simmons is A&T’s 2018 Small Farmer of the Year.

The event continues Tuesday through Thursday on the campus of N.C. A&T.

Members of the Small Farms Task Force are:

  • Carl Bonds of Windsor, a retired farmer and member of the State Farm Bureau board;
  • Beverly Bowens of Whitsett, a farmer;
  • Kyle Cashwell of Garland, a farmer;
  • Henry Crews of Henderson, a farmer;
  • Joyce Holloway of Greenville, a farmer and 4-H volunteer;
  • Byron Horton of Williamston, a farmer;
  • Victor Hunt of Middleburg, a farmer and county commissioner;
  • Eliza MacLean of Graham, a farmer;
  • Moses Matthews of Williamston, a farmer;
  • Kelly Olsen of Greensboro, a farmer;
  • James Peele of Powellsville, a retired Extension agent;
  • David Rouson, Jr. of Plymouth, a farmer;
  • Cecil Sumner of Ahoskie, a retired Extension technician.

 Ex- officio members are Fletcher Barber Jr., Ph.D., small farms recruiter; James Oliver, Ph.D., small farms coordinator; Fitzroy Beckford, Ph.D., program leader for agriculture and natural resources for Cooperative Extension at N.C. A&T.