USDA Rural Business Services Administrator Sam Rikkers enjoys a honey crisp apple from Leffel Roots Orchard in Eau Claire, Wisconsin
After 21 years of dedicated service in the United States Air Force, Jim and Laura Leffel looked to establish their “forever home.” Both natives of the Midwest, they moved to a small farm south of Eau Claire, Wisconsin to plant their roots, quite literally. Laura and Jim are now owners of Leffel Roots Apple Orchard, a 40 acre property that includes 2,500 apple trees and an on-site store where they sell bakery items, jams, cider, honey and more.
With the help of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Leffels will be able to expand their product lines further. Last month, I visited their orchard with Wisconsin Congressman Ron Kind to announce the Leffels were among 325 recipients of Value Added Producer Grant (VAPG) funding totaling over $45 million. 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 »
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 »
Rory Hagerty, a seventh grade student from Alice Deal Middle School, plants beans in USDA’s Three Sisters Garden, part of the People’s Garden on the National Mall in Washington. USDA’s Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships office sponsored the event. USDA photo by Bob Nichols.
USDA celebrates National Native American Heritage Month in November with a blog series focused on USDA’s support of Tribal Nations and highlighting a number of our efforts throughout Indian Country and Alaska. Follow along on the USDA blog.
For centuries, Native Americans have cultivated the soil and produced corn, beans and squash. Stories, ceremonies, songs and cultural traditions surround the annual planting, growing and harvest of gardens. Life lessons were learned throughout the gardening season. Stories of the Three Sisters refer to a tradition of interplanting corn, beans and squash in the same mound. It is a sophisticated, sustainable planting system that provided long term soil fertility and a healthy diet to generations of Native Americans. Read more »
Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Patrice Kunesh admires an official USA Winter Olympic Team sweater made with wool from the Imperial Stock Ranch in Shiniko, Oregon. The Ranch used a USDA Value Added Producer Grant to develop the yarn.
“When you are a small farm, you don’t have a lot of capital.” says Julie Donnelly of Deepwoods Farm, a small tomato farm she runs with her husband in Bradley County, Arkansas. Despite being in an area known for its tomatoes, Deepwoods Farms was having a hard time getting ahead. “We couldn’t get past the commercial tomatoes.” Julie remembers. “We were almost bankrupt. I thought ‘I’ve got to do something!’ ”
What Julie decided to do was diversify her tomato crop to produce more varietals, including heirlooms and different colored tomatoes. She believed this would give her farm a competitive edge and open up new market opportunities. The tomatoes were growing well and tasted good. However, no one knew the Donnelleys were doing something different than before. Deepwoods Farms needed marketing and branding support to tell customers why their tomatoes were different. “When I heard about the Value Added Producer Grant, I thought this might be the answer,” said Julie. Read more »
A sampling of the signature 'Emilia' blend from George Paul Vinegars of Cody, Nebraska. (Photo Credit Alan J. Bartels / NebraskaLife)
Fifteen years ago, George Johnson and his daughter, Emily, began their first foray into winemaking, vinifying local wild grapes and other fruits in their home in rural Cody, Nebraska. At the suggestion of a family friend, they began to experiment with turning their uniquely flavored wines into vinegar, and today, Johnson operates one of the most successful independent vinegar businesses in the nation. With customers in every state and the loyalty of top chefs in Omaha, St. Louis, and Chicago, George Paul Vinegars offers a product ripe with old-world methodology and modern entrepreneurial spirit.
With the help of a $40,000 USDA Value-Added Producer Grant, the Johnsons conducted a feasibility study to gauge the likelihood of success for an independent vinegary in rural Nebraska, and were thrilled when the study indicated enormous potential for their unique product. With continued support from a Nebraska Agricultural Innovation Value-Added Agriculture grant from the Nebraska Rural Development Commission, George Paul Vinegars produces seven handcrafted varieties ranging from standards like apple cider and raspberry vinegars to more specialized flavors, including Johnson’s signature “Emilia” blend. Read more »