Randolph County’s agricultural center receives $1 million grant funding

ASHEBORO – The construction project for the new agricultural center in Randolph County is in its infancy, but some key funding has been secured to assist in the programing.

The Golden LEAF Foundation announced a $1 million grant for equipment to support training for farmers at the agricultural center in Randolph County.

“It’s part of the funding we’re seeking for this project,” said Kenneth Sherin, director of the Randolph County Extension. “We were going to be seeking money through grants. The timing on this was a little earlier than we had anticipated, but it’s going to be good to have.”

Sherin said the grant is targeted toward equipment that will enable widespread agricultural training. For instance, there will be equipment that will enable extensive training for dealing with livestock, but it goes far beyond that.

“This will make us able to expand our education for Randolph County and surrounding areas,” Sherin said.

Sherin said farmers will have access to equipment that will assist in education regarding orchids, pastures, tillage and crops. With the equipment from the funding, demonstrations in numerous categories will be feasible.

It’s not just farmers who’ll benefit, Sherin said. Part of the agricultural center’s offerings will include the ability for county residents to rent equipment that they can use on a short-term basis.

“Like for the home gardener,” he said. “It may be equipment that you use only once a year. This will allow for that.”

The Golden LEAF Foundation is a nonprofit organization that works to increase economic opportunity in North Carolina’s rural and tobacco-dependent communities through leadership in grantmaking, collaboration, innovation and stewardship as an independent and perpetual foundation.

Jenny Tinklepaugh of the Golden LEAF Foundation said the grants stem from the foundation’s Community-Based Grants Initiative. Funds are limited to projects that address job creation and economic investment, agriculture, and workforce preparedness, she said.

County managers in an 11-county Triad zone submitted project recommendations. Golden LEAF Foundation staff members reviewed applications and made site visits.

For Randolph County, information from Ticklepaugh said that the project will be “providing equipment to support training for farmers and to lease to farmers to use. The center will provide technical assistance, training, and resources on best practices in agriculture, including crop cultivation, livestock management, and sustainable farming techniques.”

Some counties have Golden LEAF Foundation grants approved for multiple projects, while the Randolph County grant is solely for the agricultural center.

The grant allotment for Randolph County was in the middle among counties in the Triad zone. Alamance, Davie, Guilford and Rockingham counties have been designated larger funding, while Caswell, Davidson, Forsyth, Surry and Yadkin counties will receive less. Stokes County wasn’t listed for a grant.

Farming remains an essential part of North Carolina’s economy and is a major employment opportunity for many North Carolinians.

“I am glad to see Golden LEAF choosing to invest in improving Randolph County through this grant,” Rep. Robert Reives said. “I know that the Asheboro community has been excited to see this Agricultural Center to fruition over the past few years, and this investment will ensure that farmers are able to get the most possible benefit out of it once the center opens its doors.”

Reives represents all of Chatham County and parts of Randolph County.

Construction for the agricultural center in Randolph County is in the early stages, with roadways and buildings among the priorities. An opening in January 2025 has been anticipated.

“We’re not quite ready for the equipment,” Sherin said.

By Bob Sutton