Priscilla King Gray Public Service Center

Gravity Powered Water Pump in Appalachia

The Full Belly Project, Wilmington NC
Field Office/prototype test/evaluation site, Foothills Connect, Rutherford Co. NC


The Full Belly Project, partners with farmers co-operatives on 4 continents, developing simple agricultural machinery to support the world’s small acreage farmers. Our Appalachian partner is Foothills Connect, which has developed an innovative internet based marketing/shipping/billing and educational network that gets 80% of the retail food dollar back to the farmer. This allows small acreage farms to become financially viable. Full Belly was asked to get involved because there is very little appropriate farm technology available for small farms. And even less machinery that addresses a farm future where cheap diesel fuel and chemicals will no longer be available to solve all the farmer’s problems. Rutherford County was chosen because it was the center of the regional textile industry, decimated by NAFTA trade agreements in the 1990s. Many former textile workers still lived on family land not cultivated for two generations or more. It was an opportunity to create a whole new approach to ‘food entrepreneurs’ not constrained by old chemical and energy habits, teaching them sustainable methods that, on average, gross $8000 per acre


The Full Belly Project, based in Wilmington NC, is beginning to manufacture water pumping systems powered by gravity and photo voltaic panels. They are intended to move small Appalachian farmers away from dependence on fossil fuels and grid electricity. A key element in making these pumps affordable to farmers is accessing existing financial subsidies. They are not easily accessed and are available from individual counties, the State of North Carolina and the federal government. Some of the application forms start out requiring a feasibility study. Some are specific to livestock or certain crops.

We need an intern who is prepared to assemble all the options on one website, with appropriate forms, already partly filled out so the farmer need only add his name, acreage, etc. We need samples of a minimal feasibility study that meets the agency's requirements so the farmer need only fill in some blanks. North Carolina has a lot of farmers Caucasian, African America, and Lumbee Indian who have a history of avoiding governments at every level. This leads to a lot of missed opportunities. We intend to make financial support much more approachable and transparent.

Qualifications, Preferences, and Assets

Clearly, a lot of this work can be done anywhere with internet access, but I believe that some travel and personal interaction with the test subjects is necessary. Full Belly has an office in Wilmington NC and accommodations can be easily found. All out of town travel will be provided by Full Belly.

Time Constraints

We welcome an intern during IAP.


Jock Brandis
Director of R&D
Full Belly Project,
PO Box 7874
Wilmington NC 2840
910 452 0975(off) or 910 352 7876 (cell)

PKG Center Support

MIT students who develop projects around these ideas may apply for support from the Priscilla King Gray Public Service Center's Fellowships and Internships programs. Please check the program descriptions and deadlines and talk to program staff to determine which is most appropriate for your needs and project.

If you want to volunteer or you have funding from outside the PKG Center that enables you to work on this project, that's great! However, please do let us know if you work on a project you saw advertised here, even if you don't use our funds. And remember, the PKG Center staff are happy to advise on service projects even if we are not funding them ourselves.

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