TRACTOR was established to help rebuild the economic health of Yancey and Mitchell Counties by providing services to small family farmers in the region. Food insecurity and hunger are real problems throughout Western North Carolina, and historically Yancey and Mitchell Counties have had high unemployment rates (though likely in part because of economic development programs like TRACTOR, unemployment rates have dropped considerably over the past few years). By helping farmers make a livelihood and bringing consumers fresh local produce at an affordable price, we are helping to build more sustainable livelihoods in our community.
Yancey and Mitchell are farming communities. Many families have had farms in the area for generations. Historically, most of them grew tobacco, but when the tobacco industry crashed, they were forced to search for alternatives. Many turned to produce.
But today it’s not easy for small farmers to get into produce farming, particularly if they want to sell to grocery stores. Grocery stores have very specific standards for quantities, processing, and packaging that can pose a challenge to small growers. New food safety laws require extensive paper work, cost, and time. Access to proper processing equipment is expensive. For resource-limited small farmers, all these things can be inhibitive.
In 2011, NC Cooperative Extension Advisory Groups made up of small famers in Mitchell and Yancey agreed that there was a need for an organization that could help farmers access larger markets.
TRACTOR helps create economic opportunities for small farmers by providing a GAP certified processing facility, logistical, technical, and sales support, access to equipment, and liability insurance.
- Provides more than 50 growers with logistical and technical support and greater access to markets and equipment
- Offers over 31 varieties of fruits and veggies over the course of the season to local consumers
- Keeps 90% of all funds in Yancey and Mitchell Counties
What you can do
We’re doing our best to strengthen our community and support our local farmers, but for it to be effective, we need YOU! Grocery stores listen to their customers, so by asking for local food (particularly food from TRACTOR!) you can truly make a difference in getting more local food into our grocery stores. This small act will also feed back into our community. Buying local food helps keep money in our local economy. It helps preserve Western North Carolina’s agricultural heritage. It helps our community be more independent and resilient. And it helps protect our water, air, and other environmental resources. Find out more about these benefits here.
TRACTOR currently sells to a number of grocery stores including Ingles, SAVMOR, and Lowe’s Foods as well as area restaurants and catering services, including:
Creekside Bakery and Café (Burnsville)
Garden Deli (Burnsville)
Snap Dragon (Burnsville)
Mountain Air Country Club (Burnsville)
Knife and Fork (Spruce Pine)
The Pizza Shop & Dry County Brewing Co. (Spruce Pine)
and M7 Event Solutions (Asheville)
Please look for our red PLU sticker on produce and ask the managers for more local produce at Ingles, SAVMOR, Lowe’s Foods and local restaurants!