Region due to benefit from millions in USDA grants

Associate Editor

WASHINGTON (Oct. 13, 2015) — The USDA announced earlier this month more than $26 million in grants awarded across the nation to boost local and regional food systems, including farmers’ markets.
Several million of that will flow into Maryland, Delaware and Virginia.
The number of farmers markets nationwide has surged from 5,274 in 2009 to more than 8,500 now, the USDA said.
USDA grants awarded in Maryland include:
• Engaged Community Offshoots Inc. in Riverdale will receive $100,000 to expand low-income resident access to healthy, locally grown food while simultaneously making it possible and desirable for area farmers, ranchers and value-added local producers to sell to this untapped market by establishing a market;
• Future Harvest of the Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture in Cockeysville will receive $100,000 to build new market opportunities for farm and ranch operations serving local markets by developing and implementing outreach, training and networking opportunities while increasing domestic consumption of and access to locally and regionally agricultural products;
In Delaware:
• Delaware State University’s Agriculture Business Training and Development Initiative will receive $100,000 to help enhance the quality of life, wealth creation and self-employment opportunities for farmers by providing farm management education and training to community-supported programs in rural Delaware;
• Historic Lewes Farmers Market Society Inc. will receive nearly $100,000 to support the economic viability of an expanded market season, improve market access in underserved areas and increase awareness and marketing of local producers by expanding shoulder season products (early spring and fall); and
• The University of Delaware will receive more than $87,000 to explore market opportunities in Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania for watermelon labeled with a Delaware Preserved Farm label that could lead to higher price premiums and higher participation of farmers in farm preservation programs;
In Virginia:
• Appalachian Sustainable Development in Abingdon will receive nearly $100,000 to increase the visibility and viability of farmers’ markets and participating farmers in northeast Tennessee and southwest Virginia by designing and implementing a promotional campaign that incorporates monthly themes through social media, newspaper, television and radio and facilitating a road show that will highlight regional farmers via traveling throughout Appalachia.
• Grayson Landcare Inc. in Fries will receive more than $80,000 for the Independence Farmers Market Connector Project that seeks to increase overall access to locally grown foods and spur increased production of those foods in Independence, Va., by extending the operating hours of the market, among other initiatives;
• The Conservation Fund in Arlington will receive nearly $100,000 to diversify the market-base for local food producers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, increase access to local, fresh and safe food products for Bay region consumers and area markets that certifiably can sell safe locally produced agriculture goods by coordinating on-farm Good Agricultural Practices certification trainings;
• Local Environment Agriculture Project Inc. in Roanoke will receive $100,000 to create a shared commercial small business incubator kitchen space, a small-scale food hub and a mobile market;
• The Richmond City Health District will receive nearly $100,000 to expand the number of corner stores, increase the number of local farmers engaged as suppliers and evaluate the program to better serve producers, store owners and community members;
• Shenandoah Processing LLC in Harrisonburg will receive $100,000 to buy new equipment for their local, organic chicken processing facility; and
• The Highland Center in Monterey will receive $100,000 to help local livestock producers promote their products, expand processing operations, create a roadmap for aggregating and distributing local meat products, develop a cohesive regional brand and promote entrepreneurial ventures using local meat;
In Washington:
• CentroNia will receive $25,000 to conduct market research and business planning to expand a local processing and food distribution business;
• DC Central Kitchen Inc. receive nearly $100,000 to boost revenue for local growers, enhance its infrastructure to process and distribute food and increase the amount of local product available in low-income/low-access communities;
• Union Kitchen LLC will receive $100,000 to support the implementation of processing resources within the kitchen’s food incubator to enable larger-scale production; and
• Dreaming Out Loud Inc. will receive nearly $100,000 for The AyaUplift Project to improve access to local food in low-income communities and provide direct-to-consumer access for farmers from Westmoreland County, Va., by purchasing and installing a walk-in cooler to store produce at farm sites;
The USDA also announced an additional $8.1 million in grants for 23 states to improve Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — or SNAP — operations at farmers markets.