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Food & Community Development

As communities look to strong food systems as a strategy for sustainable economic development, the NC Rural Center is working to support North Carolina’s rural food entrepreneurs through Food and Community Development programs. North Carolina’s agricultural industry contributes $84 billion to the state economy. That is more than 17% of the state’s income. The Food and Community Development’s program initiatives place food at the center of economic development by providing rural citizens with the opportunity to grow and innovate their businesses in their communities. Our program assists farmers, value-added producers, food service businesses, and food councils by connecting them with resources, education, funding, markets, and networks. Creating these opportunities enables rural citizens to build business capacity and skills, increase productivity and income, and participate in the local and statewide food system.

“New Ground Farm is a new fresh vegetables and fruits farm… This is our first year working the wholesale market and training from the Rural Center has helped a lot.”

Millard Locklear

Pembroke, North Carolina

Rural Food Business Assistance Project

The Rural Center has partnered with USDA Rural Business Development Grant to launch the Rural Food Business Assistance Project. The Rural Food Business Assistance Project provides direct technical assistance and training to agribusinesses and builds regional support networks of organizational stakeholders supporting local farmers, value-added processors and food service businesses. The project provides comprehensive case management services to clients across six rural regions. Rural Center staff provides one-on-one assistance to clients, an individualized assessment, and scholarships for business and skills development trainings. Additionally, clients co-enroll with their local community college small business center to receive referral series and networking assistance from a regional coordinator.

“The Rural Food Business Assistance Project is definitely a benefit and asset to current and aspiring entrepreneurs that are farmers, value-added processors, and food service businesses throughout rural North Carolina.”

Victor A. Marrow

WIOA Program Assistant, Halifax Community College

Additional Resources
Food & Community Development

Not in our regional network? Here are some additional resources that can assist you! Below are other organizations and programs that may be able to meet your community, funding, education, or networking needs. Just click on the organization name to be directed to their website. If you have additional resources you found helpful, feel free to contact us and share.

Join the conversation and work around food systems by participating in a food-focused group in your community.

NC Community Food Strategies

Center for Environmental Farming Systems

Carolina Farm Stewardship Association

Explore what loan, grant, and other financial programs your small business or farm is eligible for at the following organizations.


Thread Capital

The Conservation Fund Resourceful Communities

The Conservation Fund Natural Capital Investment Fund

Appalachian Regional Commission

USDA- Risk Management Agency 

Discover new trends, tips, and toolkits to start or grow your food business with these helpful links. Download educational materials or meet with a small business expert for some business advice. 

Small Business Network Center

Feast Down East

Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP)

USDA—National Institute of Food & Agriculture

USDA—National Agricultural Statistics Service

Want to learn more?

Contact Jamilla Hawkins,
Senior Program Manager