Foundation helps small farms secure grant money

Published 6:27 pm Tuesday, November 24, 2015

More than 250 agricultural businesses nationwide recently were awarded a total of $34 million to help expand their operations and create value-added products.

The money was awarded as cost-share Value-Added Producer Grants by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Of the funds awarded, more than $3 million is going to Virginia farmers. The Virginia Foundation for Agriculture, Innovation and Rural Sustainability assisted 15 of those producers in obtaining grants, said Julia Schlosser, project manager for VA FAIRS.

“All 15 of the Virginia applicants we assisted were awarded grant money for a total of $2.5 million,” Schlosser said. “The working capital provided by these grants is key to small business expansion and will help these producers with various projects, including funding marketing activities, processing products, addressing costs for new operations and much more.”

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Part of VA FAIRS’ mission is to help small businesses expand and diversify. The nonprofit foundation formed in 2004 and is housed by the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. It helps rural business owners with strategic planning, grant writing and securing loans.

“Often a big barrier that small businesses face is the cash crunch involved with transitioning from small-scale production to a larger business model. Value-added grants help facilitate this transition,” Schlosser said. “Producers are able to use the money to expand product lines, hire more staff, purchase professional packaging or place their goods in new markets.”

In addition to helping individual farmers and their businesses, the grants have a positive impact on the agriculture industry as a whole, she added.

“Because the grants involve matching funds, $3 million represents a minimum of $6 million in expenditures for supply purchases, worker wages and countless more local sales dollars.”