Incubator Farm Project

Please note: this project was supported by the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program from 2010 to 2013.

The Center for Environmental Farming Systems’ (CEFS) Incubator Farm Project made support for beginning farmers an integral part of CEFS’ 10% Campaign, a campaign that invites consumers, businesses, institutions, and agencies to commit 10 percent of their food dollars to local foods.

Why support the needs and challenges of new and beginning farmers?

The average age of North Carolina’s farmers is now 57. If we do not support new and beginning farmers, who will grow our food into the future? North Carolina is a state rich in agricultural traditions and resources, yet the majority of North Carolina’s food dollars are spent on products that are imported from other parts of the country, or from other countries. North Carolina farmers – existing, new, and beginning – have the potential of meeting many of the state’s food needs but require support in order to do so.

Supporting North Carolina’s farmers makes good economic sense as well. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, North Carolina’s 9.5 million residents currently spend approximately $35 billion per year on food. If each person committed just 10% of their existing food budget to local foods, approximately $3.5 billion would be available in the local economy.

What does this mean?

We can’t have local food without local farmers. The long-term success of North Carolina’s local food movement is dependent upon an influx of new and transitioning farmers.

Research shows that money spent at locally-owned businesses has a multiplier effect and can increase wealth, jobs and income for local communities.

Supporting local agriculture makes good economic sense!

What was the vision for this project?

Access to land has been identified as one of the top challenges facing new farmers in North Carolina. The Incubator Farm Project worked with communities to address this need by assisting them with repurposing land into places that incubate new farmers. These new farmers get access to land, in exchange for “rent” in the form of fresh farm products or other services donated to communities in need — a win-win-win opportunity for everyone involved.

What is an incubator farm? Typically it is one or more parcels of land where one or multiple producers are farming and marketing farm products through their own new farm business enterprise, often with organizational access to training / technical assistance opportunities on farm business and production practices.

CEFS used an application process to solicit community interest in partnering on the Incubator Farm Project. Through that application process, five communities were selected to receive planning support through the Bringing New Farmers to the Table project. Four of these communities moved forward and are currently in a development or implementation phase of their incubator farms. Learn more about these community partners on our project Partners tab.

Who supported this project?

The main funder of this project was the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, an agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Where can I learn more?

  • For additional information and resources, also see Resources for New Incubator Farms.
  • Check the 10% Campaign website for updates and resources.
This 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