Incubator Farms can support new and small farms with programs and facilities:

Incubator Farm Project: Example NC Incubator Farms

There are many excellent efforts underway to support new farmers in North Carolina, including programs of the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA), Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS), and National Center for Appropriate Technology. Additionally, farm business planning services and educational programs and resources for beginning farmers are offered through the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP), Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI-USA), Organic Growers School including CRAFT WNC, the degree program in Sustainable Agriculture at Central Carolina Community College, and the Young Farmer and Rancher program of The North Carolina Farm Bureau. This is not a comprehensive list since there are many others as well, and the opportunities for new farmers are increasing all the time.

A number of incubator farms have also been developed across the state over the last 10 years or so. These differ from other farmer training programs in that they offer land-based opportunities for new farmers to establish their new farm enterprises and are usually associated with a program of training and technical assistance. Some small farmers across the state have also been incubating new farmers on their own properties by offering new farmers use of portions of their farm land for short periods of time to initiate new farm enterprises. This project is focused on more formalized incubator farms on public land, so as resources, below, we have highlighted the more formalized incubator farms in the state with a brief profile description and links to additional information.ncifmap

A. Elma C. Lomax Incubator Farm
Cabarrus County, NC

B. PLANT Farm Enterprise Incubator
Orange County, NC

C. Transplanting Traditions
Orange County, NC

D. Maverick Farm’s Farm Incubator and Grower Program
Ashe/Watauga County vicinity

E. Onslow County Incubator Farm
Onslow County, NC

F. Inter-faith Food Shuttle Incubator Farm
Raleigh, NC

Example North Carolina Incubator Farms

Elma C. Lomax Incubator Farm, Concord, Cabarrus County, NC


Debbie Bost, NC Cooperative Extension

Aaron Newton, Cabarrus County

Brief Profile:

The mission of the Elma C. Lomax Incubator Farm is to provide land, equipment, and training so farmers and farm entrepreneurs can develop farm enterprises. It is a county-owned farm, organized as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization on 30.6 acres of certified organic farmland (plus 1 acre leased for office and parking). The facilities are managed by Cabarrus County, and training and technical assistance for new farmers are developed and implemented by Cabarrus County Cooperative Extension.

Key partners:

NC Cooperative Extension, Cooperative Christian Ministry, Know Your Farms, the Cannon Foundation, the Piedmont Farmers’ Market, the Cabarrus County Food Policy Council, Cabarrus County Beekeepers, Leadership Cabarrus, Slow Food, among others.

Key funding sources:

  • The Cabarrus County Board of Commissioners has established a fund for the exclusive use of farmland preservation and agricultural development from the deferred taxes paid on farmland coming out of present use tax valuation.
  • Grant funding from the North Carolina Agriculture Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund
  • Grant funding from The Cannon Foundation

Key markets of incubating farmers:

  • Farmers’ markets including Atherton, Davidson, Charlotte, Winecoff, Harrisburg, N.C. Research Campus
  • Local Restaurants
  • A couple of the farmers have also established Community Supported Agriculture enterprises.

Keys to Success:

  • Existing agricultural exemptions on the land
  • Commitment to the project by the county manager and commissioners
  • Extension Agents committed to providing excellent training and technical assistance to the incubating farmers
  • Cabarrus County’s commitment to providing funds to the organization through the deferred tax payments for land coming out of Present Use.

Maverick Farm’s Farm Incubator and Grower Program (FIG), Ashe/Watauga County Area, NC



Brief Profile:

FIG will provide low-cost land leases for vegetable, cut flower, herb, and pasture-based animal farm ventures as well as a shared equipment pool and mentorship opportunities for beginning farmers. The new FIG Farm is located in the heart of Valle Crucis, on
the site of the former ASU Teaching & Research Farm, on land owned by the Valle Crucis Conference Center.

FIG will incubate two farmers each year, offer a year-round educational curriculum for beginning farmers that will be available to the public, continue to build and develop local markets and infrastructure for those new farmers, and connect FIG farmers with long-term low-cost land opportunities once incubated.”

Key Partners:

  • Appalachian State University’s Sustainable Development Program
  • Valle Crucis Conference Center

PLANT Farm Enterprise Incubator, Hurdle Mills, Orange County, NC


Mike Lanier
Agricultural Economic Development Agent

Carl A. Matyac, PhD
County Extension Director

Brief Profile:

The PLANT Farm Enterprise Incubator is based at NC State University’s W.C. Breeze Family Farm Agricultural Extension and Research Center, a 269 acre parcel of land in Hurdle Mills, NC. This field component of the PLANT @ Breeze program is currently utilizing a 5 acre portion of the Extension and Research Center. New pond construction planned for late 2011 will allow for leasing of 2 to 5 acre parcels for up to a 3 year renewable term to anchor apprentice farmers. At least 30 acres of pasture with buried water lines is also available for lease to a local livestock farmer. Fifteen acres of the 30 acres are in high tensile fencing. PLANT @ Breeze is the training and technical assistance component of the incubator farm, and is a program of Orange County Cooperative Extension and Orange County Economic Development.

Key partners:

Orange County Cooperative Extension, Orange County Economic Development, Rural Advancement Foundation International, N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Specialty Crop Grant Program, USDA – NRCS.

Key funding sources:

  • Rural Advancement Foundation International – USA
  • N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Specialty Crop Grant Program
  • Natural Resource Conservation Service
  • Orange County budget line item
  • Farm to Fork Picnic

Key markets of incubating farmers:

  • Farm stands
  • Community Supported Agriculture enterprises
  • Existing farmers’ markets
  • New farmers’ markets

Keys to Success:

  • Involvement of existing farmers and Extension Specialists in the workshop series, establishing mentorship networks between new and beginning farmers with experienced farmers and specialists.
  • On-farm walks/talks at existing farms and at Breeze.

Transplanting Traditions, Orange County, NC

Kelly Owensby
Project Director
919-967-9091 ext 6

Onslow County Incubator Farm, Jacksonville, NC

Larry Kent
Program Assistant, NC Cooperative Extension
Larry_Kent@ncsu.eduThis project was supported by the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, grant #2010-49400-21733. To learn more about this program, and to find more resources for beginning farmers, please visit

New Farmer Toolbox

Incubator Farm Project


The Center for Environmental Farming Systems is a partnership of North Carolina State University, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. CEFS develops and promotes just and equitable food and farming systems that conserve natural resources, strengthen communities, improve health outcomes, and provide economic opportunities in North Carolina and beyond.


For more information visit: file:///C:/Users/Dennis/Documents/Example%20NC%20Incubator%20Farms%20%E2%80%93%20Center%20for%20Environmental%20Farming%20Systems.html