USDA: Value Added Producer Grants for farmers
USDA announced that applications are being accepted until August 29, 2011 for Value Added Producer Grants (VAPG) to independent ag producers, farmer and rancher cooperatives and agricultural producer groups. Grant awards will be announced by the end of November 2011.
VAPG is a national program that awards grants to producers to help them add value to basic ag products through branding, processing, product differentiation, labeling and certification, and marketing,. USDA estimates that the average grant award will be $116,000 and that they will be able to award around 250 grants. In the last grant round, 41% of the awards were for less than $50,000 each.
Value-Added Producer Grants may be used for feasibility studies or business plans, working capital for marketing value-added agricultural products and for farm-based renewable energy projects. Eligible applicants include independent producers, farmer and rancher cooperatives, and agricultural producer groups. Value-added products are created when a producer increases the consumer value of an agricultural commodity in the production or processing stage. To see a video featuring Deputy Secretary Merrigan discussing the VAPG program click here.
The complete application package is available from the USDA Rural Development site, and an application template is available. Then University of Wisconsin Ag Innovation Center offers additional tips to applicants.
Find more about eligibility and the application process guidelines by contacting your local USDA Rural Development Office, or contact the national program staff Lyn Millhiser at 202-720-1227 or Tracey Kennedy at 202-690-1428, or by emailing email@example.com. For further details about eligibility rules and application procedures, see the June 28, 2011, Federal Register. Visit http://www.rurdev.usda.gov for additional information about the agency’s programs or to locate the USDA Rural Development office nearest you.
White House Rural Council to Strengthen Rural Communities
On June 9, President Obama signed an Executive Order that establishes a Rural Advisory Council. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, will chair the council, which includes representatives from 25 executive branch departments, agencies and offices.
The council will be responsible for providing recommendations to the president on investment in rural areas and improving the quality of life for rural Americans. The council will identify and facilitate rural economic opportunities associated with energy development, outdoor recreation and other conservation related activities. The council will coordinate with a variety of rural interests, including agricultural groups, small businesses and state, local and tribal governments.
The council will advise the White House on rural issues, including:
- Jobs: Improve job training and workforce development in rural America.
- Agriculture: Expand markets for agriculture, including regional food systems and exports.
- Access to Credit: Increase opportunity by expanding access to capital in rural communities and fostering local investment.
- Innovation: Promote the expansion of biofuels production capacity and community based renewable energy projects.
- Networks: Develop high-growth regional economies by capitalizing on inherent regional strengths.
- Health Care: Improve access to quality health care through expansion of health technology systems.
- Education: Increase post-secondary enrollment rates and completion for rural students.
- Broadband: Support the president’s plan to increase broadband opportunities in rural America.
- Infrastructure: Coordinate investment in critical infrastructure.
- Ecosystem markets: Expand opportunities for conservation, outdoor opportunities and economic growth on working lands and public lands.
According to the USDA press release, the “The White House Rural Council will coordinate programs across government to encourage public-private partnerships to promote further economic prosperity and quality of life in rural communities nationwide.”
AFBF Rural Development Conference Features Successful State Programs
The American Farm Bureau Federation recently hosted its Rural Development Conference for state Farm Bureau staff and leaders to learn about successful community development initiatives that can be adopted by state and county Farm Bureaus nationwide.
The meeting, held in cooperation with the Kentucky and Indiana Farm Bureaus, took place at the Kentucky Farm Bureau office in Louisville, KY. More than 65 people from 20 state Farm Bureaus participated.
Two of the sessions featured presentations from the states on successful community building initiatives they and county Farm Bureaus have undertaken. These community strengthening projects increase Farm Bureau’s visibility and relevancy to the broader (non-ag) community.
The 16 presentations included topics on local food, agritourism, health, community building and beginning farmer initiatives.
Indiana Farm Bureau last year hosted a series of boot camps for farmers’ market managers to inform them about liability issues, vendor recruitment and tips on market management to keep it running smoothly. Kentucky Farm Bureau’s Certified Roadside Market Program is for farm-oriented markets with a permanent structure that focus on the sale of locally grown products or agritourism, host activities to educate consumers about agriculture or the role of agriculture in Kentucky.
Tennessee Fresh connects consumers to information about where their food comes from, how it was grown and who produced it, while retail agriculture sales support the local economy.
The New Hampshire Buy Local and NHMade programs also focus on connecting the consumer directly to the producer by encouraging reinvesting one’s purchasing power within the community and state.
Virginia Farm Bureau, through its Virginia FAIRS Cooperative Development Center, hosts regional workshops to offer technical assistance for applications for USDA’s Value Added Producer Grant and Rural Energy for America Program.
Jo Davies County Farm Bureau in Illinois explained its collaboration with agriculture, tourism and government stakeholders to promote agritourism. The program is a strategic opportunity to provide agricultural education while driving economic development.
North Carolina Farm Bureau’s Healthy Living for a Lifetime initiative, a mobile health clinic, offers free screenings such as blood pressure, body mass index, bone density measurements, cholesterol and glucose.
Through Arkansas Farm Bureau’s 400 M*A*S*H (Medical Application of Science for Health) camp, high school students spend 2 weeks during the summer learning about health care careers. They shadow such diverse medical activities as open-heart surgery, labor and delivery, speech therapy, dentistry, anesthesiology, embalming, biomechatronics (fabrication of prostheses) and emergency response.
Illinois’ Farm Bureau’s Rural Nurse Practitioner Scholarship Program offers financial assistance to nursing students to encourage them to meet the needs of primary care in rural Illinois.
Iowa Farm Bureau’s Renew Rural Iowa Business Success Seminars are one-day sessions that encourage entrepreneurs to explore the key elements of developing successful business models, provoke strategic thinking and clarify a business’ road to success, as well as how to find appropriate funding and talent.
Florida’s Strong Farms, Strong Communities is a new initiative by which Farm Bureau members help strengthen small towns and urban areas by participating in community events, supporting youth activities and highlighting agriculture to illustrate what a vital role it plays in Florida’s economic success.
Michigan has renamed their Department of Agriculture Rural Development to focus on new agricultural and community economic opportunities. Michigan Farm Bureau is assisting them with the specifics of what that new mission will entail. Some ideas may include promoting business development and economic gardening, and establishing farm markets at Park-N-Rides and at state park campgrounds.
Tillamook County (Oregon) Farm Bureau hosted a Community Conversation a year ago for residents to inventory their community’s resources and develop shared goals for what they want their community to look like in the future. The committees formed that January evening address four critical issues: roads, youth activities, downtown revitalization and the need for a slaughter and rendering plant. The committees are still meeting and progressing with those projects.
Louisiana Farm Bureau is partnering with the Louisiana State University’s AgCenter on the Louisiana Young Ag Producers (LaYAPP) program to introduce high school juniors and seniors to careers in food and fiber production and to encourage them to consider agriculture as a career. LaYAPP is a one-year, intensive classroom and hands-on, mentor-based experience to address the trend of the rising average age of farmers and ranchers.
Farm Bureau’s focus on and involvement in projects to improve the quality of life where our members live and work fulfills our mission to “enhance and strengthen the lives of rural Americans and to build strong, prosperous agricultural communities.”
Alice Wootton serves as the volunteer Market Master for Orange County HomeGrown, whose mission is to “promote the small-town neighborly values, the natural forests, the cultural and recreational opportunities, and the healthy family farms that make Orange County, Indiana, an attractive place to live, work, play, raise a family, start a business, or retire.”
Alice knows that their two markets improve the quality of life for residents and also have a huge economic impact for local farmers. “We estimate that the 24 week market season is filling the pockets of our vendors with about $150,000, a lot of money for our citizens. Our county perennially sits in the top three positions of underserved counties in the state,” said Alice.
Content courtesy of Rural Community Building.
On April 27, the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers, (an agency within the Executive Office of the President charged with “offering the President objective economic advice on the formulation of both domestic and international economic policy”), posted a blog report from their office called Strengthening the Rural Economy.
The executive summary says: “Rural areas are home to about 50 million Americans and are an essential part of the overall economy. This report surveys the current state of rural America and describes the Obama Administration’s policies for strengthening the rural economy. Many of these policies are already being implemented through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. But further work remains to ensure the prosperity and vitality of rural America.”
Read highlights of the report here.
Content courtesy of Rural Community Building.
FamilyFarmed.org will have a Financing Farm To Fork Conference on March 11, 2010. http://www.familyfarmedexpo.com/farmtofork.html This is definitely welcome news.
I think it really says something about the growth of local food that this event is taking place in Chicago—a serious food town. In 2004, Sandy Streed of the Illinois Food Safety Center and I organized an Illinois Farm to Fork Event at Joliet Junior College. It was fabulously educational and fun, but there sure weren’t any investment types there.Although, Marketmaker in the form of Dar Knipe was there and she did a wonderful job. It’s a huge credit to the local food movement and to the individual entrepreneurs and to familyfarmed that the money folks are showing up now. As Martha Stewart would say, “It’s a good thing.” Indeed. And when you put a market and money together with a marketmaker, it’s an even better thing…
I am busy working on The Chicago Farmers Farmland Investment Fair because it’s coming up next Saturday Feb 6, 2010 www.chicagofarmers.org. This event is devoted to farmland investing and definitely has some sessions of interest for local and regional food people. I have to wonder, what farmland use in the Midwest would look like if the region really put some muscle behind local food production and distribution. I think the past is prologue here. One of the big clues is The Wagner Farm in Glenview. http://www.wagnerfarm.org/. The Wagner Farm now sits on about 19 acres of prime North shore Real Estate, and the farm has dairy cows there. Yes, you read that right, there really are Holsteins living in Glenview.. The Farm has been reincarnated as a living history museum. However, in its prime, in the 20s, the Farm was about a 100 acres. In the 20,s there were 5,000 of these kind of farms in Cook County, Illinois. Farms like the Wagner’s supplied much of Chicago’s milk and vegetables, and the Wagner’s really were true Chicago Farmers. They farmed near and for Chicago, and if local food is truly going to happen, the future may look like the past.
If the tie between new media/social media and local food and agriculture did not already exist, it would have to be invented. Just as farmers’ markets allow producers to sell to consumers without a brick and mortar grocery store, new media/social media channels allow people to create their own platforms to communicate directly through the internet with their own content. The vehicles are increasingly familiar: Blogs, YouTube, Podcasts, Twitter, Facebook, and Email Newsletters.
For local food producers, selling directly to consumers could be familiar territory. What’s new and exciting in this picture is that social media gives growers a platform to reach consumers directly and easily. Websites in the beginning were expensive and hard for non technical people to update; blogs on the other hand are cheap, fast and easy. Putting new content on websites required someone who knew html, but if you can send an email, you can put content on your blog. For example, I blog at www.schellacres.com. The blog allows me to reach readers without a magazine or newspaper and lets me post audio clips without an interview done at a radio station. Another example is the publication I wrote on selling food directly, A Legal Guide to Illinois Laws Governing Direct Farm Marketing. It used to be only available in print but, now it’s available as a pdf from a couple of sources including: http://www.nationalaglawcenter.org/asse … market.pdf
In 2007, I posted a commentary about Chuck Zimmerman’s site Agwired (www.agwired.com) on my blog at www.schellacres.com. Chuck was one of the first people in agriculture who went into social media in a big way. He was a pioneer in using podcasting, videocasting and offering blogging services to the farm community.
When I talked with him we both focused on the book The Long Tail Why Selling More Of Less Is The Future by Chris Anderson. The book title refers to the small part of a bell curve distribution. This is the thin part at the furthest edges. The fat part of the curve is where 90 percent of the product usually is sold— as the book illustrates, think of buying CDs at Wal-Mart vs. Amazon. Wal-Mart stocks the top 10 CDs and counts on selling a lot of them. Amazon stocks almost every CD and sells less of a lot more categories. Amazon, of course, could not exist without the internet. The internet and their low cost storage facilities make it possible for Amazon to hold inventory until it is sold. The local food parallels are similar—a website/blog makes it possible to give the market the detail on how to buy local food—cheaply and relatively easily. This applies even if most of the food by volume still goes through supermarket channels.
But, the change is a lot more than just a way of getting the word out, the internet also allows local food providers to be able to build a community around their food. Facebook, Twitter, and email newsletters all can help local producers build a following. The good news is that local food purchasers seem to want to connect in virtual and real communities. These people like to get to know each other and their local food producers. For more info on social media and where it fits into farming, see my interview with Chuck Zimmerman at http://agwired.com/2009/12/30/chicago-f … ial-media/.
I was watching the network news last weekend and was surprised to learn that some folks can’t find pumpkins this year. I typically don’t worry about pumpkins until the week before Halloween and the day before Thanksgiving and Christmas so it truly was “news to me”. A quick search of the blogosphere confirmed the problem. For some weeks, consumers have had problems finding canned pumpkin in the stores and the pain has been felt all across the country. When the news media started reporting disruptions in the supply of fresh pumpkins the two events became the perfect storm that has created a pumpkin panic of sorts.
I decided to reach out to Bill Shoemaker, a colleague of mine and a Fruit and Vegetable Crops Specialist with the University of Illinois to get his expert perspective. The canned pumpkin shortage is the result of less than optimum growing seasons in previous years in parts of the country that supply a large portion of the nation’s pumpkins. That includes Illinois. The canned pumpkin problem, Bill says, should start to improve as more of this season’s crop is harvested. As for a shortage of fresh pumpkins that is a combination of regional shortages primarily in the Northeast and a late growing season in other parts of the country.
There is good news, however, for all of you who are worried that there will be no Jack o Lanterns for Halloween or pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving dinner. Pumpkins are grown in many shapes and varieties all over the country. Food MarketMaker provides information on over 1500 pumpkin growers across 13 states many of whom have product for sale right now. Check out the Buy Sell Forum on MarketMaker http://www.marketmaker.uiuc.edu/marketplace_home.php or simply do a search on MarketMaker for pumpkin growers in your area or around the country. Just click on any of the MarketMaker states to begin your search http://national.marketmaker.uiuc.edu/
If canned pumpkin continues to be in short supply, be adventuresome and try pumpkin pie made from scratch. For those of you who think using canned pumpkin is making it from scratch, I am talking about buying a fresh pumpkin, baking it in the oven and making your own pumpkin pie filling. If you are several generations removed from any family member who has ever cooked fresh pumpkin, check out http://urbanext.illinois.edu/pumpkins/selection.html. It walks you through the process from selection to preparation in pretty easy to follow steps. My thanks to Drusilla Banks with University of Illinois’ Nutrition and Wellness team for preparing that fact sheet.
Happy pumpkin hunting.
About a year and a half ago the University of Arkansas’ Applied Sustainability Center began working with Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. and their Heritage Agriculture program, which has the goal of creating supply chain visibility between local and regional food sources supplying their stores. It was apparent that a tool would be necessary for buyers to locate and engage small- and medium-scale producers, we were thinking that some sort of internet-based platform would be the best way to go.
Imagine how delighted we were to find out that the necessary tool already existed, had a presence in several states with support of extension from land-grant universities and state departments of agriculture, and was free to all users! Large-scale buyers need a central location to find sources to supply their local food programs. Producers who might be interested in scaling up their marketing efforts need a user-friendly way to gain exposure to the new distribution opportunities we’re seeing with consumer interest in fresh, local and healthy foods.
The Applied Sustainability Center has launched a program we call Agile Agriculture to take advantage of the favorable conditions we are seeing for producers, distributors and consumers of agricultural products. Large, undifferentiated markets aren’t suitable for many small/medium scale producers, but with the right education and tools we see potentials for more of our smaller producers to supply these arenas and provide healthy, local and fresh products to consumers. MarketMaker is quickly gaining in importance as a tool to link producers and markets of all scales and we’re looking forward to watching this program develop.
You are currently browsing the Food Industry MarketMaker Blog blog archives.