Workshops announced on the USDA Farmers Market and Local Foods Promotion Programs

The Extension services in each state are providing the training

State training coordinators have been announced and can be found via the link below as well as dates and locations for workshops.  More may still be announced.

 

Release No. 0019.15

Contact:
Peter Wood (202) 720-6179
Peter.wood@ams.usda.gov
USDA Partnering to Conduct Grant Workshops to Support Local Foods

WASHINGTON, Jan. 27, 2015 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today announced a partnership through the Agricultural Marketing Service Technical Assistance (AMSTA) Project to conduct workshops that will help potential grant applicants understand, develop, and submit their Federal grant applications for the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program.

“The Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program is a key to USDA’s efforts to revitalize rural economies by supporting local and regional food systems,” said AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo. “The grant workshops will ensure that more communities and businesses across the country can participate in the competitive grant process with proposals that create real economic opportunities and help meet the growing demand for locally and regionally produced food.”

NIFA is coordinating the workshops through the Regional Rural Development Centers. Cooperative Extension System educators will provide training in all regions of the country, and NIFA will conduct outreach to raise awareness of AMS grant opportunities and increase participation in the programs. The AMS and NIFA collaborative effort for this innovative national training project will be directed by Dr. Stephan J. Goetz of the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development based at Penn State University.

A list of upcoming grant workshop dates and locations can be found at http://www.amsta.net. More workshops will be added soon, and the State representatives listed on the website can be contacted for additional information about upcoming workshops. Some of the workshop sessions will be recorded and available for online viewing for those not able to attend in person.

With $30 million authorized annually by the Agricultural Act of 2014 (Farm Bill) through fiscal year 2018, AMS’s Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program awards competitive grants to develop new market opportunities for farm and ranch operations serving local and regional markets. The Farmers Market Promotion Program supports farmers markets and other direct producer-to-consumer activities, while the Local Food Promotion Program supports enterprises that aggregate, store, distribute and process local and regional food.

These investments are part of USDA’s commitment to strengthening local and regional food systems through projects that recruit and train farmers, expand economic opportunities, and increase access to healthy foods. USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative (KYF2) coordinates USDA’s support for local and regional food systems. Projects aligned with these efforts can be found on the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass. For more information on AMS visit www.ams.usda.gov, and for more on NIFA visit www.nifa.usda.gov.

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Another day of paperwork chaos

I want to give a huge thanks to Jason Foscolo and the Food Law Firm (www.foodlawfirm.com) for all the hard work they do in helping veterans make sure we have the proper legal advice. They are a great resource in helping you decide if you want to do an LLP, LLC, incorporate, partnership, etc. When you are dealing with cottage industry food laws they are the people you really need to have on your side for advice. Not to mention the Michigan State University Product Center. Mark Thomas is a good point of contact in that department. The staff at the Product Center help in a myriad of ways. Let’s name a few:

  • Concept Development
  • Business Development
  • Market Research
  • Packaging and labeling
  • Feedstock logistics
  • Feasibility studies
  • and many, many more.

I’ve been sitting here today pondering over where I want to take my farm. I want to diversify and make sure that I have value added necessities that keep a year round cash flow going. So, back to square one and writing of the business plan. Yuck!!! Not at all something I thought that I would enjoy.  Guess what? Not so bad after all once you get a good format. Do I have an ideal format for anyone to use? No. I researched, stressed and procrastinated. Finally, I got the nerve to ask other veteran small farm farmers and they let me take a peek at theirs. I pulled up some from agricultural colleges like Kansas State University, Iowa State University, even Cornell had a couple. It all goes back to doing what we did in junior high English class. Learn to write an outline. What do you want to do? Livestock, fiber farms, row crops, forestry, flowers, beekeeping, specialty crops, poultry, eggs, therapeutic animals? Once you get that in a somewhat bit of organized chaos you can begin to expand and figure out where your strengths and weaknesses are going to be best utilized. How will you handle marketing, cash flow projections, loans, grants, etc. It is so overwhelming. So, back to the business plan. First what is your short-term goal, long-term goal, how do you plan to deal with environmental issues such as water, manure or waste products, energy resources? How do you plan to expand and who will your market be and your consumer?

Then, if you are not afraid to be scared try to find a cash projection and cash-flow sheet that will work for what you are ultimately going to be growing. NCAT/ATTRA (National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service is a project of the National Center for Appropriate Technology). Long term for basically what boils down to this…if you need help finding market research, how to get help raising sheep, how do make your pasture healthier, help with a plan, these folks have it all.

There’s my advice on getting your head wrapped around your starting point. Once you get the two important paperwork pieces out of the way, you can move on to filing for all your governmental paperwork. I’ll leave that for another day.

Conferences

Wow! Yesterday’s conference for Michigan Family Farms was amazing! I had the good fortune to meet some very inquisitive minds, fellow veterans, people wanting to help veterans with farming and even made a few great contacts that are agriculturally based.

The three hour drive to the conference in Marshall, MI was pretty uneventful. How I managed to actually drive an interstate on a Friday through three large cities and not incite a traffic stranglehold or ranting lunatic moment is quite a surprise. The Comfort Inn in Marshall was friendly and nicely furnished and very, very clean. Next time though, I’m bringing my own coffee. Have you noticed that in-room coffee stuff has to be made out of some old sock sweat. It is nastiness in a cup.

Michigan State University and the MIFFS (www.miffs.org) sponsored the event. I learned about MAEAP (Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program). www.maeap.org for those interested. It is a rigorous quality program that can only benefit your farm by going through the process. For those that obtain a MAEAP certification you may be eligible for 10-20% off your agricultural insurance premiums.

Folks from MSU that are familiar with the cottage food industry and law were on hand to talk about ways to grow, process, market and sell your food products.

Greenstone Financial was available for questions and had some very nice handouts.

The USDA even had some handouts that were very useful and grant info/loan info was to be found in a myriad of booths.

There is an upcoming conference January 24th at the Grand Traverse Bay Resort for the Northern Michigan Small Farm Conference. I highly recommend taking a look at it and seeing if there are any vendors/exhibitors/speakers that you are interested in learning more about. www.smallfarmconference.com  I will be a speaker at that conference discussing ways for military veterans to get involved in agriculture and ways in which the community and farmers can assist veterans in their agricultural endeavors.

Off to the land of chaos where I can have a few moments to go through all of the pamphlets and literature I picked up yesterday and see what I can find to educate, assist and entertain my readers.

Oh, yeah, laundry….that never ending pile of chaos.

Today’s Quote

Agriculture is not crop production as popular belief holds – it’s the production of food and fiber from the world’s land and waters.  Without agriculture it is not possible to have a city, stock market, banks, university, church or army.  Agriculture is the foundation of civilization and any stable economy.  –  Allan Savory