Small Farms - FAQs

General questions

What is the definition of a farm?

A farm is a tract of land cultivated for the purpose of agricultural production.  A farm is classified of having $1,000 or more of agricultural products  being produced or sold.  A Small Farm, according to USDA census is a farm that is 179 acres or less in size, or earns $50,000 or less in gross income per year.


Is there seed money available to get me started?

There are no monies allocated to get a person started in farming other than farm loans.  Those loan may be received through the USDA Farm Service Agency, Farm Credit or your local bank.

For special projects there may be grants available but very rarely for start up costs.


Are there grants available to help me get started?

Several organizations offer grants during different times of the year for different purposes. Check these sites for more information:

What is "land use tax" & how does it affect me as a landowner?

Land use tax assesses the real estate base on the “use value” instead of “fair market value”.  “Use value” is the agricultural productive potential of the land.  This gives the landowner a reduction in his or her real estate taxes.

To be eligible for present-use values, a farm unit consisting of one or more tracts must meet the following requirements (North Carolina G.S. 105-277). 

To apply for the Present use value contact your local tax assessor's office.


Why Do I Need a Woodland/Forestry Managment Plan?

If you’re like most woodland owners, you know the sense of pride you gain from being a good steward of your land. But you may not realize that your woodland property could be working harder for you and your family, providing more of the benefits you value most. It all starts with a plan! Typically prepared by a forester or other resource professional and customized for your unique property and interests, your woodland plan is an essential roadmap for going forward.

There are numerous financial and environmental benefits to having a woodland plan. Notable benefits include but are not limited to:

  • significant property tax savings
  • costshare program eligibility
  • getting connected with the right forestry professionals
  • understanding how to protect your woods and its resources
  • making it easier to pass your woods onto future generations

How do I obtain a Forestry Management Plan?

To obtain a Forestry Management/Woodlland Plan you should contact your local NC Forestery Service Office. Click Here to Find your Ranger.

Is there a fee for the Woodland Plan/Forestry Management Plan?

Yes. Please visit the NC Forest Service Webiste for more details. Click here

Organic questions

How do I become a certified organic grower?

Organic production is a system that is managed in accordance with the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) of 1990 (PDF) and regulations in Title 7, Part 205 of the Code of Federal Regulations to respond to site-specific conditions by integrating cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. The National Organic Program (NOP) develops, implements, and administers national production, handling, and labeling standards: A definition from The National Organic Program/USDA

The purpose of certification is to enable an organic grower to market his/her product as organic with the recognition and enforcement of the USDA National Organic Program.



The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) accredits state, private, and foreign organizations or persons to become "certifying agents." Certifying agents certify that organic production and handling practices meet the national standards.


Who needs to be certified?

Operations or portions of operations that produce or handle agricultural products that are intended to be sold, labeled, or represented as "100 percent organic," "organic" or "made with organic ingredients".

Do you need to be Certified?


Who does NOT need to be certified?

Producers and handling (processing) operations that sell less than $5,000 a year in organic agricultural products. Although exempt from certification, these producers and handlers must abide by the national standards for organic products and may label their products as organic. Handlers, including final retailers, that:

  • Do not process or repackage products;
  • Only handle products with less than 70 percent organic ingredients;
  • Process or prepare, on the premises of the establishment, raw and ready-to-eat food labeled organic;
  • Choose to use the word organic only on the information panel; and
  • Handle products that are packaged or otherwise enclosed in a container prior to being received by the operation and remain in the same package.

How do farmers and handlers become certified?

An applicant must submit specific information to an accredited certifying agent. Information must include:

  • The type of operation to be certified;
  • A history of substances applied to land for the previous 3 years;
  • The organic products being grown, raised, or processed;
  • The organic system plan (OSP) – a plan describing practices and substances used in production. The OSP also must describe monitoring practices to be performed to verify that the plan is effectively implemented, a record-keeping system, and practices to prevent commingling of organic and non-organic products and to prevent contact of products with prohibited substances.  Applicants for certification must keep accurate post-certification records for 5 years concerning the production, harvesting, and handling of agricultural products that are to be sold as organic. These records must document that the operation is in compliance with the regulations and verify the information provided to the certifying agent. Access to these records must be provided to authorized representatives of USDA, including the certifying agent.

Inspection and certification process

Certifying agents review applications for certification eligibility. A qualified inspector conducts an on-site inspection of the applicant's operation. Inspections are scheduled when the inspector can observe the practices used to produce or handle organic products and talk to someone knowledgeable about the operation. The certifying agent reviews the information submitted by the applicant and the inspector's report. If this information demonstrates that the applicant is complying with the relevant standards and requirements, the certifying agent grants certification and issues a certificate. Certification remains in effect until terminated, either voluntarily or through the enforcement process.

Annual inspections are conducted of each certified operation, and updates of information are provided annually to the certifying agent in advance of conducting these inspections. Certifying agents must be notified by a producer or handler immediately of any changes affecting an operation's compliance with the regulations, such as application of a prohibited pesticide to a field.


Compliance review and enforcement measures

The regulations permit USDA or the certifying agent to conduct unannounced inspections at any time to adequately enforce the regulations. Certifying agents and USDA may also conduct pre- or post-harvest testing if there is reason to believe that an agricultural input or product has come into contact with a prohibited substance or been produced using an excluded method. Updated April 2008

Reprinted from the National Organic Program website


Certification Cost Share

North Carolina is now accepting applications for the Organic Certification Cost share program.  Growers, Handlers and Processors will be reimbursed 75%, up to $750, the cost of obtaining organic certification.

The assistance is available on a first come first serve basis until the funds are depleted.  To apply for Certification Cost Share visit: