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 »
Executive Chef Jason Johnson explains his preschool menu to Administrator Starmer. Most of the children he cooks for have not had a lot of experience with fruits and veggies, but Chef Jason says that each week their plates come back cleaner. Photo credit: Heather Hartley, USDA
I recently traveled to Columbus, Ohio with Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Val Dolcini and stopped by Southside Roots Café, Market and Kitchen for lunch. The restaurant makes delicious food from locally-sourced seasonal ingredients, but what really sets it apart is how it charges customers for that food.
Southside Roots Café uses a pay-what-you-can approach that allows everyone to eat nutritious, delicious food, regardless of their income. Housed in a former school building owned and operated by the Mid-Ohio Food Bank, the café and an adjacent fresh food market provide fresh, affordable, nutritious food to the local community. Weekly community meals, along with a kids’ meal program for students at a nearby development center and visitors to the Boys and Girls Club of Columbus, round out the food bank’s creative approach to serving families and children in need. Read more »
Central Missouri Meat and Sausage in Fulton, MO used USDA’s Value Added Producer Grant to expand and market its retail operations.
In Fulton, Missouri lies a hidden gem, a meat-lover’s dream to say the least. Starting out as a small processing center, the Brinker family expanded their business, Central Missouri Meat and Sausage, into a retail store and food court. Filled with the aroma of smoked pork, tender beef and a large assortment of specialty sausages, this small business is making a big impact on the central Missouri meat market.
Co-owner Kenny Brinker says what makes them stand out from their competitors is their local approach and the fact that all the meat is processed and packaged on-site in their processing center. Since the beginning, the Brinkers have been looking for ways to continue expanding to eventually reach a larger market. Read more »
Grand Union Hotel owner Cheryl Gagnon gives Under Secretary Lisa Mensah a tour of the renovated historic hotel in Fort Benton, Montana. The Gagnons used a Business & Industry Loan Guarantee to finance the rehabilitation, along with financing from a revolving loan through Bear Paw Development funded by USDA’s Intermediary Relending Program. Just another example of how USDA Rural Development helps America's rural small businesses.
America’s economy rides on the wheels of small businesses.
The U.S. Small Business Administration says more than half of Americans either own or work for a small business. The contributions of these firms will be honored May 1-7 during National Small Business Week — #DreamSmallBiz — and USDA Rural Development is proud to join in the celebration.
As the leading federal agency working exclusively to foster economic opportunity in rural America, Rural Development knows Main Street businesses drive the rural economy. Money earned and spent at a small town “mom-and-pop” store, or a small-scale manufacturer gets re-invested locally. Read more »
USDA Rural Development RBS Administrator Sam Rikkers and USDA RD State Director Basil Gooden, Ph.D., visit the Shenandoah Organic Valley, a VAPG grant recipient, on April 18th, 2016.
Corwin Heatwole describes himself as quite the stubborn – though innovative – teenager. Leaving home at 17 years of age, this hardworking young man from Harrisonburg, Va. started several successful businesses in his early 20s before he discovered that there was a growing demand for organic chicken in the U.S. In 2013 he bought 300 chickens with not one buyer yet in sight. Now, with the help of USDA, he has more demand than he can handle.
Since that day, Corwin has grown the business from 35 employees to nearly 350 in just 25 months with the assistance of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In October of 2014, Corwin received $200,000 in a working capital Value Added Producers Grant from USDA Rural Development and in January of this year, he also received a $600,000 Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan (B&I). He used the guaranteed loan to upgrade a very old plant with state-of-the-art packaging and processing machines. Without the packaging machines in particular, he noted, he would have never been able to fulfill his growing orders from Costco and Whole Foods. And through this growing business, he has been able to increase his farmers’ end-of-the-year net income by 75 percent. Read more »
Eric Grandon and his family sell their local food products at a Farmer's Market in Clay County, West Virginia.
Eric Grandon of West Virginia is a war hero in the truest sense. Spending nearly 20 years in the Army, he was a combat veteran in Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom II, and participated in four peace-time missions to the Middle East. Yet, when a horrific flashback overtook him in 2011, he was unable to continue his job as a Physical Therapist Assistant and was deemed unemployable and permanently disabled from PTSD. Unable to work, he found himself wandering around his farm aimlessly for nearly two years until he met James McCormick, the present Director of the Veterans and Warriors Agriculture program under the West Virginia Department of Agriculture.
A veteran himself, McCormick encouraged Grandon to take up farming, which had helped him work through his own PTSD. It was during a USDA Armed to Farm conference hosted by the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) that Grandon officially decided to become a farmer. He even took up beekeeping which he found to be the most therapeutic of them all often bringing tears of joy to his eyes. Read more »