Here’s the idea: Hold a music festival, raise money to buy 40+ acres of farmland in Lincolnton and lease it to a farmer. Then, next year, raise more money, buy more land and support more regional farmers. And on … and on …
Will it work? Zack Wyatt thinks so. And he wants to prove it to you.
Wyatt, 35, started the Carolina Farm Trust earlier this year with a mission to “protect farmland and foster an ecosystem of sustainable farming,” according to its website. The group hopes to buy land and lease it back to farmers, giving new farmers access to land and allowing existing farms to expand, and support farmers in any way it can.
The money for that, Wyatt hopes, will come from Carolina Jubilee, a music festival Oct. 16-17 at VanHoy Farms in Harmony, about an hour north of uptown Charlotte.
In addition to bands like Mipso, Tacoma Narrows, Songs of the Fall, and Sinners and Saints, the festival will feature food and drinks from local farmers and only North or South Carolina-based companies. And 100 percent of the profits will go to the Carolina Farm Land Trust.
“It’s a music festival, and a beer festival, a wine festival, a farming festival,” said Wyatt, who lives in Cornelius. “It’ll be pure, raw and it will be genuine. …
“Where we get our money is extremely important to me. … We want to make Carolina Jubilee a Coachella, a Bonnaroo, that is the goal, so we can generate a lot of money on an annual basis to fund our mission.”
This first year, Wyatt is hoping to raise the money to buy 45 acres of farmland in Lincolnton to lease to Big Oak Farm. The seller has given him until 5 p.m. Dec. 31 to buy the land.
In the future, Wyatt hopes the festival will be the main — if not only — source of revenue for Carolina Farm Trust. The trust plans to spend the money it gets from each festival in a year, helping out farmers in whatever way it can: buying a tractor, marketing, buying farmland, distribution, etc.
“The whole thing is, it has to be farms, and as long as you’re farming it in a sustainable way, that’s fine,” Wyatt said. “It will be open to academia, for research, different ways of farming. We want it to be as energy neutral as possible. … But we are really there to help them in any way that they want.”
Why does he do all of this? He grew up on 280 acres of land in Virginia and has a passion for local, sustainably-grown food. It’s not just about farm-to-table, he says, it’s about “farm-to-cafeteria.”
He wants to support the regional farming community to give all people more access to locally-grown food.
“Not knowing where our food comes from is scary,” Wyatt said. “The time is now to kind of pull our heads out of the sand. … The whole concept is, where you spend your money makes the world turn.”
Will it work?
“All we want is an opportunity,” Wyatt said. “Be skeptics, ask questions. All we’re asking for is an opportunity.”
By Corey Inscoe