Cleveland County Director Recognized for Innovation
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N.C. Cooperative Extension, Cleveland County Director Greg Traywick’s agricultural economic development work is being recognized by the NC Association of County Commissioners with their 2022 Civic Excellence in Innovation Award.
In recent years, much of Traywick’s work has been focused on finding innovative ways to include agriculture in local economic development efforts, a priority that was identified by Cleveland County’s Board of Commissioners about five years ago.
Agriculture contributes $140 million to Cleveland County’s economy each year, so sustaining and growing the farming industry is critically important. Traywick’s approach to economic development has been to secure grants and provide technical assistance that helps farms and agribusinesses implement innovative ideas and grow their businesses.
Traywick helped secure a blended stream of funding to construct a $1.8 million state-of-the-art pavilion in Uptown Shelby that is home to Foothills Farmers’ Market, widely recognized as one of the best markets in the region. A recent USDA Farmers’ Market Promotion Program grant is helping the market implement a new strategic business plan to improve operations and increase the sale of local foods. As a result, vendor participation grew from 75 farms and home-based businesses to 105, and customer foot traffic increased 36 percent this past year.
A USDA Value Added Producer Grant helped Wilson Farms of Shelby introduce a custom-blended mulch bale into the regional marketplace. By incorporating farm-raised switchgrass into their rye and wheat straw bales, the family farm has reduced their dependence on purchased raw materials. Their new value-added product is being distributed through Lowe’s and Home Depot stores within a 200-mile radius of Cleveland County.
Funding received from the NC Agricultural Development and Farmland Protection Program (NCADFP) helped launch the Regional Grain Project in 2017. The grant helped ASR Grain Company purchase new machinery and equipment to store, dry, and clean grains like barley, rye, and wheat so that they can being channeled into the malting, distilling, and flour milling markets. Access to these lucrative markets is generating substantially more income for grain growers in Cleveland County and the surrounding region. By meeting strict quality standards, grain grown in Cleveland County is used to manufacture craft beer, Bojangle’s biscuits, and Lance crackers.
This year, Traywick received second NCADFP award that equipped ASR Grain Company to start manufacturing and spreading custom-blended fertilizer. The family-owned agribusiness constructed a new commodity shed to house raw ingredients, and grant funds helped purchase a 10-ton vertical blender to mix them into prescription fertilizers that meet farmers’ specific needs. Already, more than 80 row croppers, forage producers, and sod farms in North and South Carolina are using the new service to increase productivity, yields, and profits.
In addition to benefiting farmers and agribusiness directly and growing the local economy, these successful projects have leveraged County Commissioner support for Extension’s involvement in future agricultural economic development initiatives.
The award will be presented at the NCACC Annual Conference in Concord, NC on August 12.