November 22, 2016
Editor’s Note: This profile is part two of a 3-part series highlighting the impact of the Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program in supporting projects that promote local and regional economic growth.
On October 27, 2016, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Business-Cooperative Service awarded 326 farm businesses a total of $45.6 million through VAPG. Visit our first post for a detailed overview of this year’s awards. This post features Rosanna Bauman of Bauman’s Cedar Valley Farms, Inc. in Garnett, Kansas.
A Bauman Family Enterprise
Despite having no prior farm experience, in 2001 Rosanna Bauman’s parents decided to pick up their six children and endeavor on second careers. The family purchased 160 acres farmland in Garnett, Kansas and for the fifteen years since then both farm and family have continued to grow. Today three generations of Baumans – including Rosanna and all five of her siblings – are now engaging in multiple production and processing enterprises on the family farm.
Each of the six Bauman children have been integral to growing the family’s farm and associated enterprises, which includes grain production, a feed mill operation (“Bauman’s Farm Feeds”), poultry processing (“Anco Poultry Processing”), and even grass-fed beef processing (“Bauman’s Butcher Block”) all on the same property.
Rosanna sees face-to-face, hands-on learning as critical to the family farm’s success. Having benefitted from the wisdom of neighbors, farmer trainings, and conference events, Rosanna now pays that support forward by training beginning farmers at conferences and through on-farm consulting. She also notes that sustainability has long been an important part of her family’s farm management because it was simply the only way for her family to stay profitable.
Filling the Gaps and Connecting the Dots with VAPG
The Bauman family’s VAPG project was borne out of need for non-GMO animal feed – no easy task in Kansas, according to Rosanna. The Bauman’s prioritized sustainable growing practices on their farm not only because they were good for the earth and the animals, but also because it was the best way to make the operation profitable. Raising animals for non-GMO meat was one way the Bauman’s could turn sustainability into profitability, but they needed better access to non-GMO feed to make it work. Rosanna saw this supply gap as an opportunity and decided to solve the problem herself by starting a “feed hub” project.
After participating in a Slow Money entrepreneurship showcase, the Bauman’s were awarded Slow Money’s first ever “Beetcoin” prize, which helped them to secure an initial loan to develop their non-GMO “feed hub.” The hub would act as a storage space for the Bauman’s grain production as well as a neighboring farms’ grain they would then pool their resources to supply non-GMO grain to the surrounding region.
“Because many farms don’t have on-farm storage, they’re often forced to harvest and sell their product immediately,” said Rosanna. “By providing a storage space and helping them to market their feed, this project makes more non-GMO feed available over a longer period of time. This way farmers don’t have to depend on the end of season harvest for all their sales”
Given the hub’s initial success, Rosanna decided in 2015 to apply for a VAPG grant that would help her further expand the business and capitalize on the growing market for local and regional products. The Baumans also needed the grant support to work around an unexpected obstacle: the family had planned to sell the feed in reusable burlap bags, but discovered that regulations prohibited it. In order to switch to another packaging format the family would need additional working capital support. The Bauman’s VAPG award will go towards inventory purchases – specifically, for branded, identity-preserved feedbags, which will enable them to sell their product at feed supply stores.
“Several of the most successful farmers that raise thousands of acres of GMO crops in the surrounding four counties have came out and asked if they could sell their grain to us, as they are getting tired of being pushed around by the big seed companies and want other options,” Rosanna said. [exerpt from slowmoney.org]
Rosanna and her family are no strangers to USDA programs, in 2014 they received a VAPG award that helped them to expand their poultry processing and production; the family has also worked with the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program. Rosanna gives a great deal of credit to her state’s USDA Rural Development office, without the support of which she wouldn’t have known about USDA’s business development programs.
Farmers who are interested in applying for USDA grant programs, or just interested in learning more, should check with their state’s USDA Rural Development office. While the application processes can seem daunting, there are always staff at those offices that are willing and able to help and make sure you’re not missing any key pieces.
For further details on applying to VAPG, see NSAC’s detailed guide: Farmers’ Guide to Applying to the Value-Added Producer Grant Program.
VAPG is administered by USDA’s Rural Business-Cooperative Service and provides competitive grants to help individual or groups of agricultural producers, producer-controlled entities, organizations representing agricultural producers, and farmer or rancher cooperatives create or expand value-added businesses, create jobs, and grow local and regional economies. Click here to learn more