The Rural Food Business Assistance Project is offering support for current and aspiring entrepreneurs that are farmers, value-added processors, and foodservice businesses in order to stimulate successful and thriving agribusinesses across rural North Carolina. This project will focus on three rural regions, one of which is the Western Region. Haywood County is a part of this region.

According to data from the 2012 and 2007 USDA Census, gross revenue from agritourism and recreational activity in Haywood County is down 89% from 2007 to 2012. In addition, farms with agritourism and recreational activity in Haywood County dropped 42% between these two census years. Melon, vegetable, and potato farms in Haywood County dropped 23% between 2007 and 2012 and the value of animal products in Haywood County dropped 20%.

The Rural Food Business Assistance Project offers:  training scholarships for farm or food business development classes and other relevant training to increase the knowledge base and teach the tools for successfully developing and operating a business; assessment of entrepreneurial skills and readiness so that business owners know their strengths and areas for improvement; connections to a regional food business support network made up of stakeholders who support the business and owner in the months and years to come; business coaching to help navigate how to start or grow a business, and links to the best available local, regional, and state level resources with advice and support at each step; and access to capital to start or grow a farm, food, or agribusiness. A coach will walk current or aspiring entrepreneurs through the loan application process.

Coaching will be delivered by phone, e-mail, and online. Training will be delivered online or in a classroom. In addition, face-to-face business counseling will be available through a network of partnering organizations, including Haywood Community College’s Small Business Center.   

The target market for this project includes current or future farmers, agribusinesses, value-added processors, distributors, food services, and restaurants. To be eligible, one must commit to starting or growing a farm or food business in a rural county in North Carolina and have access to a phone, a computer, and the Internet.

This project is made possible through The Rural Center, the Southwestern Commission, and the Small Business Center of the North Carolina Community College System. To get started, visit For more information, please contact HCC Small Business Center Director Katy Gould at or 828-627-4512.