The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded more than $27 million in competitive grants to expand urban agriculture through the new Local Food Marketing Promotion Program – one of five grant programs the department offers to fuel urban farming initiatives.
The USDA’s Local Food Marketing Promotion Program offers grant funds with a 25 percent match to support the development and expansion of local food businesses. The goals of the program include:
- Increase public access to locally-produced agriculture products
- Develop new market opportunities for farm and ranch operations
- Improve sustainability of agriculture markets
The program offers one of two types of funding to awardees: planning and implementation grants:
- Planning Grants: Support the planning stages of establishing or expanding a local food business. Activities eligible for these grants include market research, feasibility studies and business planning. Each proposal can receive up to $25,000 in funding from the grants.
- Implementation Grants: Support the establishment of a new local food business, or improvements and expansion of an existing business. Eligible activities under these grants include training and technical assistance, outreach and marketing to buyers and consumers, working capital and non-construction infrastructure improvements. Recipients of these grants can receive up to $100,000 in funding.
The grants are designed to aid farmers and ranchers in reaching customers, establishing strong business ties in urban and rural settings, as well as connect communities with access to fresh food options.
Grants in Action
The Boston Office of Food Initiatives recently received a $25,000 planning grant from the USDA Local Food Promotion Program to connect the city’s growing population of urban farmers with the necessary resources to succeed in the local food market. The grant will also ensure the urban growing market is working to build food system resilience throughout the city by connecting local producers with local consumers, BostInno reported.
The city plans to allocate the planning grant toward developing an Urban Agriculture Visioning Group as well as hire a facilitator to organize the group and all urban growing in the city.
Similarly, an organization in Toledo, Ohio, has received $25,000 planning grant from the USDA to evaluate the viability of food distribution hubs in local markets. The Maumee Valley Growers will use the funding to conduct a one-year feasibility study to determine how best to develop an urban farming center to connect farmers, distributors, industry suppliers and consumers, the Toledo Blade reported.
Just Starting Out
The USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture is also offering grants to help build local agriculture businesses from scratch. The Beginning Farmers and Rancher grants will distribute $19.2 million to beginning farmers or ranchers programs across the country focused on supporting:
- Technical assistance
The USDA will pay special consideration to partnerships between local governments, private producers and school-based education programs. About 5 percent of the funds will be set aside specifically for beginning farmers and ranchers with limited resources or who are socially disadvantaged. Another 5 percent will be used to address the needs of struggling veteran farmers and ranchers as well.