While small food producers in some states want to eliminate government involvement, such as licensing and inspection, in the food they sell, others are seeking the government’s help to expand their ventures, add new products and increase the availability of local food.


Last week the U.S. Department of Agriculture gave 298 dairies, creameries, produce growers, wineries, distilleries, cideries, ranchers and other independent local food producers in 44 states a total of $40.2 million in business development assistance through the federal government’s competitive Value-Added Producer Grant program.

“These projects will provide financial returns and help create jobs for agricultural producers, businesses and families across the country,” USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleeen Merrigan said in announcing the awards.

“This funding will promote small business expansion and entrepreneurship opportunities by providing local businesses with access capital, technical assistance and new markets for products and services.”

In agriculture, the term “value-added” means changing a basic commodity to enhance its value and expand its market, such as making cider from apples. 

Funds from the Value-Added Producer Grant may be used for feasibility studies or business plans, working capital for marketing value-added agricultural products and for farm-based renewable energy projects. 

Some of those receiving the grants:

— Living Water Farms in Illinois is a three-year-old family company that produces hydroponic greens to supply fresh produce year-round to specialty markets in the Midwest. Located in Strawn, two hours south of Chicago’s Loop, three generations of the Kilgus family are part of a group called Stewards of the Land which was organized to market produce from small farms. 

– Agriberry, near Mechanicsville, VA, the dream of Anne and Chuck Geyer whose vision is to establish a consumer-supported summer berry farm and become an agricultural training facility for first-time workers. Agriberry has expanded to more than 35 acres of red raspberries and other fruit. They hire a number of local workers each growing season.

– Green Mountain Organic Creamery in North Ferrisburgh, VT markets certified organic, bottled pasteurized milk, butter, ice cream and other dairy products. Owners Cheryl and John DeVos founded the dairy to provide local, organic dairy products to the community and throughout the Northeast. Green Mountain was recognized as the Vermont Dairy of the Year in 2011.

Go here for the full list of grant awards.

The grants are part of USDA’s Rural Development programs, which include a portfolio of more than $155 billion in loans and loan guarantees to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers.