The Golden LEAF Foundation has awarded a $63,000 grant to the Wilkes Economic Development Corp. for buying agricultural equipment for Wilkes County farmers to rent at reduced prices.

The Wilkes EDC will manage the funds in association with the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service and the Wilkes Cattlemen’s Association. The funds will be used to buy a Titan West portable corral, tandem axle fertilizer and lime spreader, 500-gallon liquid applicator and Arrow Cattle handling system.

“Golden LEAF is pleased to support this collaborative effort to increase access to equipment for local farmers,” said Ted Lord, acting president of Golden LEAF. “This grant responds to a clearly identified demand of the local farming community and expands a program that has demonstrated its ability to maintain its existing equipment using rental fees. We look forward to continued outstanding results from this program.”

Lord was referencing the fact that the latest grant will expand an existing program in Wilkes that makes similar farm equipment available to farmers at low rental prices, funded with an earlier Golden LEAF grant to the EDC in association with the extension service.

Wilkes EDC President LeeAnn Nixon said the latest grant recognizes a growing need for additional agricultural equipment on a rental basis.

Nixon said the Wilkes EDC plans to contribute $15,000 and the Wilkes Cattlemen’s Association plans to contribute $5,000 to purchase a vehicle to transport the rental equipment to participating farmers.

“This low-cost rental program is a beacon of how collaborations can have a long-term economic impact on a regional industry,” said Nixon.

The program began in 2014, with Golden LEAF funding the purchase of four pieces of farm equipment for $27,500. In 2017, the EDC contributed $16,175 for two more pieces of equipment. Low-cost rental fees cover maintenance of the equipment.

She said that since the program’s inception, 65 producers have been assisted 154 times, processing over 7,100 animals with an estimated increase in profit to the producers of $532,000.

Nixon added, “John Cothren, N.C. Cooperative Extension director in Wilkes, has been using his personal vehicle to transport rented equipment to farmers throughout Wilkes and neighboring counties. While this shows his sincere dedication to the success of the program, the purchase of a vehicle totally devoted to the program provides a long-term solution to the logistics of delivering the equipment to the farmers.”

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