Food & Farm Business Development Assistance

EMFS has resources to support the expansion, development, and growth of food and farming businesses in Western North Carolina. We offer one-on-one technical assistance with access to infrastructure funding, product development, business development, market development, and land access.

Lisa Gonzalez, the Regional Local Foods Agent based in the EBCI Cooperative Extension Office, is working with partners in the regional supply chain to address the needs identified in the regional food assessment. She also coordinates the Food and Farm Business Development programs of EMFS and would love to hear from you about your business needs.

If you are interested in any of the services on this page, please fill out this short interest form and Lisa will reach out to you with details!

Recent Resources and Presentations:

Scholarship Funds: Scholarships are available to help producers, educators, nutrition educators, Cooperative Extension agents, business owners, and others attend professional conferences or events that will help grow local food businesses in the region. If you are interested in applying for scholarship funds, please fill out this application and we will be in touch with additional details.

Infrastructure Development: EMFS is partnering with Natural Capital Investment Fund, a Community Development Financial Institution, and local micro-lenders to provide infrastructure loan & grant programs that support business expansion in the western region. NCIF lends to small and mid-size businesses, agricultural enterprises and nonprofits that have positive community, economic and environmental impact. Infrastructure projects through EMFS will be eligible for a 30% grant/70% loan package managed by NCIF, with a minimum project total of $15,000. Smaller direct-to-vendor grant and loan options will be available in future months.

Product Development: Technical assistance is available through CAFE, the Southeast’s largest and most successful food business incubator and the leading partner for the new incubator kitchen at the WNC Farmers’ Market. CAFE is uniquely qualified to supply production, regulatory and marketing guidance to new and existing value added food businesses, and businesses in need of product development assistance are encouraged to apply for assistance through this program. 

Business Development: Food and farming businesses are eligible to receive advanced business planning from regional resources including, but not limited to, accountants, attorneys, graphic designers, web developers, and other support professionals to help move their business forward. 

Market Development: EMFS seeks to assist growers and businesses as they expand their operations and create diversified marketing options. EMFS support includes the marketing & business development assistance offered through our one-on-one technical assistant program as well as training, food-safety guidance & certification, grower-buyer connections, warehouse tours, and value-added product support. 

Land Access: EMFS is partnering with NC Farmlink to match landowners and land opportunities with new and existing farm businesses. Opportunities to connect with land options are also available through NC Choices & other CEFS and EMFS programs.