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Local and regional food marketing funding available

NFSN Staff Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Editor's note: This post was written by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) and originally appeared on their blog. The National Farm to School Network is a member of NSAC.

On Thursday, May 8, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) posted a Request for Applications (RFA) for the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP), a competitive grants program which provides a total of $30 million for a wide spectrum of direct-to-consumer and intermediated marketing projects 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 improve the economy in rural communities.

As an expanded version of the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP), the FMLFPP recognizes the skyrocketing consumer demand for locally-grown food, one of the fastest growing sectors in American agriculture.  Yesterday’s release of the Request for Applications follows on the heels of an announcement by Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack of both the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program and a change to the Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Local Food Enterprise Program.

FMLFPP and its predecessor program, FMPP, have been championed by NSAC for over a decade.  The scaling up of the program in the 2014 Farm Bill was part of the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act introduced by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME) with a host of co-sponsors.

The fundamental goal of FMLFPP is to develop new marketing opportunities for farmers and ranchers.  Details on the RFA, which for this initial year of farm bill implementation, was divided into a Farmers Market Promotion Program RFA and a Local Food Promotion Program RFA, are available below.

The 2014 Farm Bill divides the funding for FMLFPP in halves.  Hence, under the request for applications released yesterday, $15 million is available in grants for direct-to-consumer outlets like farmers markets, community supported agriculture, pick your owns, agritourism, and other forms of direct marketing; another $15 million will be available in grants for local and regional food enterprises that are not direct farmer-to-consumer markets, including food hubs, food aggregators, food distributors, food wholesalers, food processors, and other value-added production enterprises, such as shared-use kitchen or kitchen incubator operations.

AMS has posted the two RFAs on their website, one for direct-to-consumer marketing projects and one for non-direct-to-consumer marketing projects.

Applications for both the “FMPP” and the “LFPP” portions of the program are due on June 20, 2014 via the www.grants.gov website.

Eligible Grant Recipients

For both direct marketing and local food projects, eligible entities are:

  • agricultural businesses;
  • agricultural cooperatives;
  • producer networks;
  • producer associations;
  • community supported agriculture (CSA) networks;
  • CSA associations;
  • local governments;
  • nonprofit corporations;
  • public benefit corporations;
  • economic development corporations;
  • regional farmers market authorities; and
  • tribal governments.

Priority Consideration

For both types of projects, USDA will give priority to projects that:

  • primarily serve low income/low food access (LI/LA) communities as defined by the USDA in its ERS Food Access Research Atlas map; or
  • involve Promise Zone Lead Applicant Organizations.

Please see RFA for detailed instructions on how to demonstrate the fulfillment of these categories.  At least 10 percent of the total funding will be reserved for projects from the LI/LA priority category.

Direct Marketing Specific Project Information

Direct Marketing – Eligibility

Projects funded must assist in the development, improvement, and expansion of domestic farmers markets, roadside stands, community supported agriculture (CSA) programs, agritourism activities, and other direct producer-to-consumer market opportunities.  Additionally, projects must demonstrate benefits to two or more farmers, producers, or farm vendors who produce and sell their own products through a common distribution channel directly to consumers.

Examples of eligible projects include:

  • market startup, operation, infrastructure;
  • farmer/rancher/manager training and education;
  • advertising/outreach;
  • market analysis and planning;
  • customer and producer surveys;
  • vendor and customer recruitment; and
  • new venue establishment.

Although eligible entities can submit more than one application for review, FMPP will award only one grant per eligible entity and project in a grant funding year.

Matching funds are not required.

Direct Marketing – Minimum and Maximum Award Amounts and Project Length

The minimum award is $15,000 and the maximum is $100,000.

The maximum duration for projects is 24 months and must begin no later than September 30, 2014 and end no later than September 29, 2016.

Direct Marketing – Staff Contacts at USDA

For questions about FMPP, please contact one of the following staff at USDA:

Mrs. Carmen Humphrey, FMPP Branch Chief; or

one of the FMPP Grants Management Specialists

  • Mrs. Lee Cliburn
  • Mr. Karl Hacker
  • Mr. Ricardo Krajewski
  • Mrs. Camia Lane
  • Mrs. Earlene Henderson-Samuels.

By email: USDAFMPPQuestions@ams.usda.gov or by phone: 202-720-0933.

Local Food Specific Project Information

Local Food – Eligibility and Match Requirements

Projects funded must be designed to assist in the development, improvement, and/or expansion of local and regional food business enterprises.  Local or regional food business enterprise are organizations or business entities that function as an intermediary between producers (farmers or growers) and buyers by carrying out 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.

Local or regional food is defined as a food product that is raised, produced, aggregated, stored, processed, and distributed in the locality or region where the final product is marketed to consumers.  The total distance the product is transported must be within 400 miles from the origin of the product or, both the final market and the origin of the product must be within the same State, territory, or tribal land.

Examples of eligible projects include:

  • mid-tier value chains;
  • food hubs;
  • other food aggregators, processors, wholesalers, and distributors; and
  • other value-added production enterprises, such as shared-use kitchen or kitchen incubator operations.

Eligible entities are the same as for direct marketing projects (see above).

Although eligible applicants can submit more than one application for review, applicants are limited to only one grant in a grant-funding year.

A cash or in-kind match, in an amount equal to 25 percent of the total cost of the project, is required.

Local Food – Two Types of Grants

Two types of project applications: planning grants and implementation grants:

  • Planning grants are used in the planning stages of establishing or expanding a local and regional food business enterprise.  Activities can include market research, feasibility studies, and business planning.
  • Implementation grants are used to establish a new local and regional food business enterprise or to improve or expand an existing local or regional food business enterprise.  Activities can include training and technical assistance for the business enterprise and/or for producers working with the business enterprise, outreach and marketing to buyer and consumers; working capital, and non-construction infrastructure improvements to business enterprise facilities or information technology systems.

Local Food – Minimum and Maximum Award Amounts and Project Length

For planning grants the minimum award is $5,000 and maximum is $25,000.  The maximum duration for projects is 12 months and extensions may not exceed an additional 6 months.  Projects must begin no later than September 30, 2014 and end no later than September 29, 2015.  Planning grant recipients are eligible and encouraged to apply for implementation grants, after their planning grants are closed out and planning projects are completed.

For implementation grants the minimum award is $25,000 and maximum is $100,000.  The maximum duration for projects is 24 months and extensions may not exceed an additional 6 months.  Projects must begin no later than September 30, 2014 and end no later than September 29, 2016.

Local Food Staff Contacts at USDA

For questions about FMPP, please contact one of the following staff at USDA:

Nicole Nelson Miller, LFPP Program Manager; or

LFPP Grant Specialists — Velma Lakins, Samantha Schaffstall

By email: USDALFPPQuestions@ams.usda.gov or by phone: 202-720-2731.

Webinars for More Information

AMS will hold a webinar on the application process and eligibility for FMPP applicants on May 13, 2014 from 10:30 am-11:30 am EST.  The webinar will also be recorded and available for future use.   To join the FMPP webinar please register at this link: https://cc.readytalk.com/r/8vug7o4joctv&eom

AMS will hold a webinar on LFPP’s regulation, the application process, and eligibility on May 14, 2014 from 2pm-3:30pm EST.  The webinar will also be recorded and available for future use.  To join the LFPP webinar, please register at this link: https://cc.readytalk.com/cc/s/registrations/new?cid=cablorpc4umq

Profile: Desiree and Cal Wineland, American Butchers & Veterans Vineyard and Winery

NFSN Staff Thursday, May 01, 2014


Editor's note: This week we are profiling a few of the wonderful people we met at the 7th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference in Austin last month. More than 1,100 farm to cafeteria movers and shakers gathered for four days of inspiring field trips, workshops, keynotes and more. We are excited to share their stories. 

Heading west

On the morning of September 11, 2001, Desiree and Calvin Wineland’s two young boys, Calvin and Austin, were in the Pentagon daycare center. They had arrived a week earlier because Desiree had been selected for an Army Congressional Fellowship. Both Desiree and Cal were helicopter pilots in the Army, but they never expected they would bring their kids anywhere near a battlefield. They all made it home safe that night, and while discussing the day’s events and the consequences that would surely follow, the Winelands made a solemn promise to their children that they would keep them out of harms way, and the middle of Nebraska, near where Cal's great-grandparents homesteaded, seemed like the place to do it. It would take a few years before they were able to retire and make their move.

 

Generations before, Cal’s family had made a similar journey, pushing west across the Great Plains, settling on the shores of the Republican River near Cambridge, Nebr., about 300 miles shy of the Rocky Mountains. It was here that Calvin, Desiree and their two kids would make a new life.

Once they had decided to move to Nebraska, Desiree began studying local history, trying to figure out what to do. She learned that early settlers planted grapes. The idea that they would be following in the steps of the pioneers appealed to them, and so did the idea of giving their friends a reason to visit rural Nebraska. But first, they needed to figure out how to grow grapes and make wine.

Wine making and grape growing involves a surprising amount of chemistry. Desiree commuted to Denver every weekend for a year to get certified through the International Sommelier Guild (ISG) and became involved with the American Chemical Society. As they learned more, they expanded their vision for the vineyard to include using it as a field lab for students. With approval from the local school district, they started teaching kids how to grow grapes, taking them through the process from soil samples through BRIX testing. 

Another new venture

It takes grape vines 3-5 years to produce fruit after they are planted, so once the work of choosing the right grapes and establishing the vines was done, the Winelands needed another projects to keep them busy. While they now knew a lot about viticulture, all of their new friends were mostly interested in cattle, a topic Desiree knew nothing about. Their interest grew, however, and soon the Winelands enrolled in the University of Nebraska to become certified in all things beef.

 

As the Winelands learned more about agriculture and the dwindling incomes farmers face, they started to think of ways they could cut out the middle-men so that farmers could keep more of their own profits. Farm to school programs emerged as a great solution for produce, but because all meat processing is centralized, there were logistical hurdles to selling local beef to local schools. 

 

Having hit a dead end, the Winelands needed a sign. A few nights later, they got one. A local preacher, Bill Weaver, came to the door of their farmhouse. He said that if they wanted to create jobs and support agriculture, he had a great opportunity. He started describing a facility that needed new management. It was a "locker," he told them. The only problem was that if this "locker" wasn’t part of a locker room at a gym, then Desiree had no idea what it was.

 

The following Monday, the Winelands travelled to the neighboring town of Beaver City to get their first look at the locker. It was a meat locker, and it was in a state of disrepair. 

In the military, officers are constantly put into situations where they are totally unfamiliar with their surroundings. They are trained to learn quickly and rely on the expertise of people around them. Where many people would have walked away, the Winelands used their training to assess the situation, quickly realizing that the locker was the key to processing meat for local farmers and delivering it to local schools. They decided to set up shop, and American Butchers was established in April 2011.

 

A community focus

Instead of focusing on scale, they focused on the relationship they had with farmers. They established a set price for farmers to use the locker and encouraged farmers to sell their beef for whatever they could get, keeping the difference. That stood in stark contrast to the big corporate operations that buy cattle for rock bottom prices and churn out as much beef as they can, as quickly as possible. 

In communities like Cambridge, Nebr., trust trumps money. Cal and Desiree set out to earn the trust of local farmers and ranchers by cleaning up their facility and establishing high standards. They also started working with schools, donating organs to biology classes and engaging with FFA and 4-H groups. They are currently working on a new program through which show animals raised by 4-H and FFA students will be purchased by local business leaders, processed, then sold to schools at a discount. Posters on the cafeteria wall will advertise the student's hard work: "Now serving Amelia's pork.

 

The Winelands have learned that there are many ways to start a farm to school program and many potential leaders. Sometimes the change-maker is the superintendent, sometimes it's the nutrition director, and sometimes it's the passionate owner of a meat locker.

 

We are showing kids how they can build businesses and how their English and business teachers can help them build business plans while their math teachers are helping with the finances," Desiree says. "There are setbacks and delays, but like plants or anything that grows, it takes a lot of elements working together. And it takes time.”

 

Through their efforts, the Winelands have won awards and have even been honored by the governor of Nebraska. But the highest honor they have received is the respect of the farmers and ranchers in their community. Desiree knew she had earned this respect on the day she received the simplest of invitations.

There's a table at Shirley K’s coffee shop in Cambridge where a group of farmers gather for coffee every day. Seats at this table are more coveted than seats on the city council. But recently, when Desiree dropped into Shirley K’s, one of the old men called her over and asked her to join them so they could hear about all about what she and Calvin had been up to. It’s hard to overstate this honor.

 

Meanwhile, the grapes that were planted in the spring of 2011 are growing. If all goes well, their first harvest will be in the summer of 2016. In the Army, Desiree would inspect her troops as they stood at attention to see how they were doing and to make sure they were mission-ready. Now she says that each one of the vines is like a formation of soldiers. She inspects them as she walks the fields – from top to bottom – correcting anything that is out of order.

 

After a career in the military where she always had a mission to accomplish, Desiree says she spent her first years in Nebraska searching for her next mission. "When I arrived, I was lost," she said. "But through agriculture I found a mission and my purpose. Agriculture saved me.”

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