Farm Fresh's Warehouse Manager Alex Mendonca (middle) and Market Mobile Manager Kimberly Garofolo (right) work on the early morning packline. They work together to perform a final quality inspection before orders are packed onto delivery trucks.
Open any food magazine these days and you’re bound to find a profile of the latest locavore start-up turning cream and cantaloupe into craft popsicles or maple sap into a whole new category of bottled beverages. As consumer demand for local foods continues to climb like pole beans, venture capitalists are scouring this sector in search of the next hot investment.
USDA has long been investing in this space too, for the good of rural economies. And now we’re unveiling a new online interactive training to help other funders understand the work of regional food enterprises that are connecting local producers with local markets, and why they might want to invest in a piece of this pie. Read more »
USDA Rural Development's investment in the Three Rivers Energy biorefinery in Coshocton, OH brought it back online after eight years of sitting idle. It now produces corn-based ethanol and employs 30 people in the mid-Ohio region. Photo courtesy Three Rivers Energy.
This Thursday, July 16, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and I, along with staff from my Rural Business Energy Division, will have the honor to host a national stakeholder forum on the improvements to, and opportunities available, under the new Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program (Section 9003), formerly the Biorefinery Assistance Program.
The forum begins at 12:30 Eastern Time. While seating is limited, you can participate via a webinar, which can be accessed at: https://www.webcaster4.com/Webcast/Page/789/9401. Read more »
Lilian Salerno, Administrator, Rural Development Rural Business-Cooperative Services (third from right), met with the Sacramento County of Governments and other partners to discuss food hubs in the greater Sacramento area. Rural Development’s new report Running a Food Hub: Lessons Learned From the Field, is part of USDA’s ongoing commitment to food hub development and other local food enterprises.
Since 2009, USDA has invested in 29,100 local food opportunities, including food hubs, small scale processing and farmers markets across all 50 states and the US territories. These investments include over 12,000 loans and micro-loans to small-scale producers who often sell products locally and over 13,000 high tunnels (low-cost covered structures that extend the growing season and make locally-grown products available later in the year).
However, as with any investment, the success of a business depends not just on an infusion of capital, but also on good planning. Technical assistance services such as feasibility studies, business planning, financing strategies, supply chain logistics, marketing, and guidance with the policy and regulatory environment are equally important. Read more »
The recently installed solar panels on the roof of Ideal Dairy in Richfield, Utah save them around $400 per month in utility costs on average.
Last month, Secretary Vilsack announced the opening of the new application cycle for our Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). In addition to the announcement, RBS conducted a national REAP stakeholder forum which discussed program changes and provided examples of successful projects from previous years.
For example, Ideal Dairy restaurant of Richfield, Utah used a REAP grant to leverage a loan from Zions Bank and install an array of solar panels on the roof of its retail location. The addition has saved an average of $400 a month in electricity expenditures for owners Kristi and Gary Sorenson. A larger scale solar project in Guayanila, Puerto Rico allowed a major employer – Master Paints and Chemicals Corporation – to completely offset its $180,000 annual energy expenses and give it independence from fossil fuel-based energy. Read more »
USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service Administrator Lillian Salerno listens as Erik Chaffer, environmental health, safety and logistics manager for Three Rivers Energy, recounts the long-hoped for reopening of the ethanol plant he helped mothball in 2008 during the Great Recession. Located in rural Coshocton County, Ohio, the plant employs nearly 40 area residents and purchases corn from local farmers. (USDA photo: Heather Hartley)
Erik Chaffer considers himself an optimist. Still, he found himself feeling pretty low as he watched the Great Recession knock the legs out from under the rural Ohio ethanol plant he helped manage.
“Everything was pretty good until July 2008. It was just a ‘perfect storm’ type of situation,” said Chaffer. “The unknown is the worst part of it. You can’t make plans for the future. It’s a very stressful, unnerving way of life.” Read more »
Zena Forest Products' owner and Value Added Producer Grant recipient, Ben Deumling, explains the uses and values of different sizes of sustainably harvested Oregon white oak to USDA Rural Development Administrator for Rural Business Service Lillian Salerno at the company site near Salem, OR.
In his Small Business Week Proclamation earlier this week, President Obama said, “Small businesses represent an idea at the heart of our Nation’s promise — that with ingenuity and hard work, anyone can build a better life.”
Having started my own manufacturing company in rural Texas many years ago, I believe small business folks are American heroes. What it takes to get a business going and the immense responsibility of employing others and developing markets is very hard work especially in rural areas. The work of an entrepreneur is also rewarding and those relationships with employees, customers and the community are lifelong. For rural entrepreneurs, their companies are part of the fabric of the community.
One of the main obstacles getting a business off the ground is locating the capital to invest in communities. Seeking a business loan or receiving an equity investment is such a critical path for startups and to keep entrepreneurship vibrant in rural America because we know the type of jobs created by small business are the ladders of opportunity. Read more »