Building Food Systems, One Business At A Time
December 21, 2011
There are lots of federal programs to help build food systems (Really! For information about all of them, check out our Building Sustainable Places Guide). But how do we make it easier for farmers to access these programs?
One of the many things we do here at MFAI is provide a unique service called “Grants Advising.” This is a free service that helps farmers and any rural entrepreneurs in ag-related businesses to use federal and state grant and loan programs. For example, one of our successes was that Brittany Wheeler in Illinois was able to get a Value-Added Producer Planning Grant that paid half the costs for a feasibility study and business plan that they used to help save their 7th generation Jersey dairy farm. Rather than send their high-value, all grass-fed, high butterfat, milk off-farm, they are making it into cheeses on their farm. They have created four new jobs in barely a year and a half, and expect to create more as their business keeps expanding, including the number of cows they graze.
Brittany was also successful in getting a Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Farmer-Rancher grant to help them buy cheese molds to make diverse, cave-aged cheeses and to inform the public about the value of their grass-fed cows and cheeses. They host individuals and groups to tour their farm and creamery.
This is exactly what we continue to do with our Grants Advising. Brittany wrote the Value-Added Producer Planning Grant proposal with planning and writing assistance from MFAI. By accessing federal programs she now has a growing business. And Michael Fields Agricultural Institute is helping better the food system, one business at a time.