NSAC's Blog

Awards Promoting Local and Regional Farmers and Food Systems Announced

September 30, 2014

On September 29, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced over $32.8 million awards from three grant programs supporting local and regional food systems, research into marketing opportunities for U.S. farmers, and food security projects in low-income communities, respectively.  At the same time, Secretary Vilsack also announced over $19 million in grant awards to support organic producers and processors, which we described earlier in a separate blog post.

In the announcement, made jointly with Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe at the Virginia State Fair, Secretary Vilsack highlighted “USDA’s commitment to strengthening organic and local and regional food systems through projects that recruit and train farmers, expand economic opportunities, and increase access to healthy foods.”

Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program

A competitive grants program, the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP) was created through the expansion of the Farmers Market Promotion Program made as part of the 2014 Farm Bill.   The original 2002 and 2008 Farm Bill program and the 2014 expansion were championed by NSAC.

The expansion allows a wide spectrum of local and regional food enterprises, such as food hubs and local food processors, to help grow economic opportunities and income for small and mid-sized family farmers, increase consumer choice and access to fresh and healthy food, and accelerate rural economic development.  The aim of the original program – supporting new and expanding direct producer-to-consumer outlets, such as farmers markets, community supported agriculture (CSA), and agritourism opportunities – continues as well.

Over $27 million in grant awards are being made to 372 organizations in 49 states and the District of Columbia to expand marketing and promotion activities through the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP).  The awards are well-dispersed throughout the country, with the north central region receiving 106, the west 96, the northeast 90, and the south 80.

During its inaugural year, FMLFPP was divided into two Request for Applications: one for the Farmers Market Promotion (FMP) and one for the Local Food Promotion (LFP), which each allocated up to $15 million in mandatory funding from the Farm Bill.  The direct farmer-to-consumer marketing part of the program includes 183 awards and the local and regional food portion includes 191 awards.

The majority of projects funded under the FMP banner are for farmers markets, at 140.  Nineteen projects are for CSAs exclusively or include a CSA component.  Six projects are for farm stands or include farm stands, while three are agritourism projects and three are online marketing projects.  Another 22 projects were for training on direct marketing generally or were for projects that do not fit into one of the other categories.

Projects funded under the Local Food Promotion banner are to assist in the development, improvement, and/or expansion of local and regional food business enterprises, which are organizations or business entities that function as an intermediary between producers (farmers or growers) and consumers.  These enterprises are involved in one or more local or regional food supply chain activities, such as aggregating, storing, processing, and/or distributing locally or regionally produced food products to meet local and regional market demand.  We will publish a blog in the near future breaking down the types of awards under this new portion of the program.

Administered by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) at USDA, FMLFPP supports the USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative which coordinates USDA’s support of local and regional food systems.

NSAC applauds all the FMLFPP awardees and, in particular, we congratulate the twenty-one NSAC member groups who received FMLFPP awards, fourteen of which are FMP awards and seven of which are LFP awards.

FMP Awards to NSAC Members Groups

  • Center for Rural Affairs, in Lyons, NE, which received $85,314 to expand the Macy Farmers Market on the Omaha Nation by training and providing assistance to vendors in marketing practices, and by promoting culturally relevant and unique products.
  • Certified Naturally Grown, in Brooklyn, NY, which received $59,521 to train and help farmers to improve their capacity to market their products.
  • Community Alliance with Family Farmers, in Davis, CA, which received $88,987 to increase patronage at Central California CSAs through better outreach, marketing, and member retention.
  • Community Farm Alliance (CFA), in Frankfort, KY, which received $98,515 to expand its successful Kentucky Farmers’ Market Support Program and trainings, and expand farmers’ markets to reach 15 communities, including Strike-Force and low-income and low-access zones, such as the Southeastern Kentucky Promise Zone.
  • Dakota Rural Action, in Brookings, SD, which received $40,000 to expand the South Dakota Local Foods Cooperative membership and sales by conducting outreach and advertising to increase the number of vendors and customers.
  • Farmers Market Coalition (FMC), in Miami Beach, FL, which received $96,205 to create a modular series of guides, webinars, and worksheets for farmers’ market practitioners on better management and market metrics.
  • Hmong National Development, Inc., in Saint Paul, MN, which received $99,750 to increase the availability and diversity of agricultural products offered by Hmong farmers at farmers’ markets. The project reaches USDA designated Strike-Force counties in Arkansas.
  • Illinois Stewardship Alliance, in Springfield, IL, which received $86,648 to establish the Band of Farmers CSA association and promote CSAs via outreach activities, and enroll CSA producers to serve underserved areas.
  • Just Food, Inc., in New York, NY, which received $88,298 to implement an educational campaign to promote New York’s farmers’ markets to low-income residents.
  • Michigan Integrated Food and Farming Systems for the Michigan Farmers’ Market Association, in East Lansing, MI, which received $99,660 to develop a farmers’ market manager mentorship program, expand the Market Manager Certificate Program to help partners in other Midwestern states, and invest in long-term strategic planning and professional development.
  • Michigan Land Use Institute, in Traverse City, MI, which received $73,700 to expand the 10-counties Taste the Difference local food marketing program.
  • Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, in Rochester, NY, which received $95,020 to build and promote an interactive online direct-market farmers’ directory for local, organic, and sustainably raised food, and provide farmers with business tools.
  • Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont, in Richmond, VT, which received $92,362 to grow the demand for Vermont’s direct-to-consumer markets through expanded outreach and promotional events.
  • Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA, in Pittsboro, NC, which received $95,067 to investigate and adopt marketing techniques at four North Carolina markets, and convene a Statewide conference of farmers’ market managers to present its project findings.

A full list of the FMP awardees is available at this link.

Some initial reaction from awardees:

  • Of their award, Community Farm Alliance Executive Director Martin Richards says, “We are proud and excited by this news, not only of CFA’s award but also because CFA will be working with Louisville on implementing their grants.  This is great news for Kentucky’s farmers markets!”
  • For Dru Montri, Michigan Farmers Market Association Director, the new funding allows for expanded reach: “For the state of Michigan it’s a great opportunity for us to build on successful farmers market programs that we’ve established in the past and to start sharing some of those models outside of Michigan so that we can impact the farmers market community across the Midwest.”

LFP Awards to NSAC Member Groups

  • Angelic Organics Learning Center, in Caledonia, IL, which received $24,990 to develop a feasibility study and strategic business plan for aggregation of local food and farm products in six emerging markets, including at least three located in low-income and low-access urban areas in northern Illinois.
  • Appalachian Center for Economic Networks, Inc. (a member group of the Central Appalachian Network, an NSAC member group) in Athens, OH, which received $60,718 to provide additional support to the 30 Mile Meal program in the areas of consumer education, outreach, marketing materials and strategies, and increase the capacity of local farmers to meet increased demand of new institutional buyers and restaurants. The project plans to expand the 30 Mile Meal program to additional Ohio counties (Athens, Licking, and Perry) that are not already covered by the program.
  • Ecological Farming Association (EcoFarm), in Soquel, CA, which received $25,000 for a feasibility study, planning, and organizing work to launch the Farmers’ Association first cooperative business model, a federally-inspected multi-species slaughter and cut-wrap facility in the California Central Coast Region.
  • Fair Food Network, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which received $100,000 to expand the Fair Food Consulting Corps, a business assistance program working with a diverse network of consultants and local partners that is designed to fuel enterpreneurship in the Northeastern U.S. Offerings include financial management, business planning, food safety, marketing and sales, and operations management, among others.
  • Growing Power, Inc. in Milwaukee, WI and Chicago, IL, which received $100,000 to implement Fresh Moves Mobile Market, which uses donated CTA buses converted to mobile produce markets to serve low-income/low-access areas.
  • Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG), in Fayetteville, AR, which received $20,000 to partner with Florida Organic Growers, another NSAC member, to help North Central Florida farms assess the creation of a North Central Florida Farm Cooperative that combines purchasing, marketing and sales to reduce costs and reach a broader local marketplace.
  • Wholesome Wave, Bridgeport, CT, Implementation Grant, which received $100,000 to pilot a food hub distribution network, TradeNet, which will provide regional food hubs with critical services.

A full list of the LFP awardees is available at this link.

Some awardee reactions:

  • Of their new project and award, Ken Dickerson, Executive Director of EcoFarm says, “Local independent producers of ecologically produced, grass-fed livestock are filling a consumer demand for local, healthy meat from a known and trusted source.  These types of planning grants are instrumental in supporting local farming businesses in achieving a sustainable economy of scale.”
  • Steve Muntz Executive Director of SSAWG says that, “Assuming the assessment is positive, the end result will be a vibrant new cooperative that serves both local farmers and local consumers – a win-win for North Central Florida.”

Community Food Projects

USDA also awarded $4.8 million in Community Food Project (CFP) funding to 23 projects in 16 states.  Administered by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the Community Food Project program seeks to fight hunger and food insecurity through community-driven food systems, specifically in low-income communities.  Community Food Project awards have funded projects in more than 400 communities in 48 states in the program’s 18-year history.

NSAC congratulates all CFP award recipients, including the parent body of NSAC member Hmong National Development, the Hmong American Partnership, headquartered in St. Paul, MN, which received $300,000.

Among the other awards are:

  • A community outreach grant to the Grand Rapids, Michigan YMCA that will bring together urban farmers, corner store owners, and the YMCA’s “veggie van” mobile farmers market to increase access to fresh, affordable produce in Grand Rapids most vulnerable neighborhoods.
  • An organizing and training grant to the Organization for Refugee and Immigrant Success to work with urban gardeners, refugee farmers, youth interns, and WIC and SNAP recipients to improve food security and promote local production of healthy, culturally appropriate foods.
  • A planning grant for the “Skagit Food for Skagit People” food access and anti-hunger project in rural Skagit County in Washington state, through the Community Action of Skagit County agency

A list of all CFP awardees is available at this link.

Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program

And finally, USDA also awarded over $1 million in matching Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP) grants to state departments of agriculture and state colleges and universities for 17 projects in 13 States.  Also administered by AMS, FSMIP funds support research projects to address challenges and opportunities in marketing, transporting, and distributing U.S. agricultural products domestically and internationally.  The grants can be used to conduct research projects in collaboration with nonprofit organizations, community, or producer groups that solve practical marketing problems including those facing small and medium-scale farmers.

NSAC congratulates all FSMIP award recipients and would like to note the following NSAC member for their award:

Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University,received $40,258 to develop a decision-making guide for growers to identify and lightly process blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and aronia berries infested with an invasive fruit fly into marketable products that meet state and federal regulatory requirements.

Among the other FSMIP awards is one to the Maryland Department of Agriculture to determine the best potential contractual arrangements for farmers using a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) business model, one to the University of Missouri to capture pricing data to help guide farmer market farmers establish fair prices, and one to Virginia Polytechnical Institute and State University to assess food safety needs and expectations for farmers markets, schools, retailers and others in advance of implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act rules.

A list of all FSMIP awardees is available at this link.


Categories: Farm Bill, Local & Regional Food Systems, Nutrition & Food Access

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