State helps cattle farm expand

Wilson farmers receive AgVentures grant funding

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For years, people have been asking if Simpson’s Angus Farm sold beef.

Soon, because of a North Carolina AgVentures grant administered by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension and paid for by the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, the answer to that question can be yes.

Robert Simpson and son Rob Simpson have been raising registered Angus cattle since 1986.

“The bull market had slowed down a lot from selling registered Angus bulls, so we thought that we might want to start looking at another way to make a profit on the farm,” Robert Simpson said. “We are going to start selling registered Angus beef this fall and registered Angus-bred heifers at sales.”

Simpson is changing the farm’s market strategy.

“Instead of selling yearling bulls, we will steer these animals and finish them to sell freezer beef to our local community,” Simpson said in the grant application. “Interest has been there for some time, and now seems like a time to make the switch because of market conditions.”

Simpson is pretty confident the conversion is a good idea.

“We have had a lot of people ask us in the past did we sell beef and we said no because we were selling bulls all the time,” Simpson said. “The public is requesting all the time to buy registered Angus beef. Now, since the market has changed, I think it is going to really help us out a lot.”

The farm received an $8,750 grant from the N.C. AgVentures grant program.

The program’s goal is to bolster farm families and communities by funding innovative plans that encourage diversification, facilitate expansion or launch new entrepreneurial ventures.

The grants require recipients to invest at least 15 percent of the grant amount themselves.

“I will spend probably over $10,000 doing some extra stuff myself,” Simpson said. “It was very beneficial. It was big help.”

Simpson has purchased two feed bins. The bins will allow the farm to buy bulk feed instead of purchasing food by the bag.

“You can buy bulk feed $75 to $100 cheaper per ton than you can buy bag feed, and you have to handle every bag. In bulk feed, they come and just pour it right in the bins,” he said.

Simpson also purchased 14 concrete feed bunks, automatic frost-free waterers in pastures and concrete pads for the bunks to sit on and to help with erosion control where the cattle stand, feed and drink water all the time.

“I was just very thankful to get the grant,” Simpson said. “It’s going to help out our farming operation a lot.”

The Simpsons manage between 50 and 60 head of cattle.

“I’ve got cattle on our farm that my son Rob does, and over at Gov. (Jim) Hunt’s house, we have Simmental and Angus cattle here,” Simpson said.

“We have enjoyed having cattle on the farm. We used to have tobacco, and the whole farm now is in grasses, fescue and Coastal Bermuda, and we just raise cattle.”

The livestock is raised on 100 acres of land, some owned by the Simpsons and some leased around the Rock Ridge community.

Other Wilson County AgVentures grant recipients this year include:

• Sullivan Farms Inc., $6,000 to buy a glass-fronted freezer to sell beef.

• Scott Brothers Inc., $8,750 to buy a mower to mow sweet potato vines prior to harvest and improve potatoes’ skin quality.

• Raleigh Road Garden Center, $8,750 to construct a pavilion to host school groups and conduct classes.