Written by Jim Gage
Jim Gage is a long-time value-added agricultural business strategist. He has assisted more than 100 clients with VAPG clients since 2005 and will be providing guidance to applicants as part of a blog throughout the 60-day writing period. Gage is also working with the University of Wisconsin Food Finance Institute to conduct two half-day “Boot Camps” on writing the VAPG. Thanks also to the consulting group Sustaining Farmers and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition for their support of this effort. The efforts of USDA VAPG desk officers across the country to answer questions over the next 60-days are also very much appreciated.
The USDA Rural Development office announced Notice of Funding Availability (NOSA) last week. This annual grant program has been used by thousands of rural entrepreneurs over its 15+ year history, and I have had the pleasure (and challenge) of being involved in the application process with many clients.
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has summarized the specifics of the 2022 version of the VAPG at Value-Added Producer Grants Are Now Open – National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. Also see Value-Added Producer Grants | Rural Development (usda.gov) for the USDA rules, paperwork, and application for the grant.
I am working with Food Finance Institute over the next two months to help guide farm applicants and their teams through the grant writing process. Later this week, we will release a video “Tool-Kit Walk Through” to help agricultural entrepreneurs with a page-by-page review of the 47-page working capital application. Our next blog will release the remaining schedule for additional webinars, one-on-one consulting “office hours” and additional materials.
Last thoughts for those that are new to this grant – below we suggest a few starting points for understanding the VAPG:
- USDA website – we suggest that you print out the forms and toolkits –the printed toolkit will be useful as a guide to the aforementioned “walk-through”.
- Your USDA Rural Development representative – we strongly recommend that you contact your state USDA Rural Development office when you have any questions on the grant.
- Three FFI VAPG web pages available for viewing:
- Raising Money for Your Farm Through Value-Added Producer Grants | Edible-Alpha® Learning Center – from January 2021, a general discussion on writing strategy and how to approach the VAPG.
- VAPG Update: Deadline Extended to May 4th | Edible-Alpha® Learning Center – when the grant was extended in 2021, we did a quick outline that outlines options for writing the grant in 50 days. This is very helpful for this year with the shortened writing period.
- It’s closer than you think – Preparing to apply for the next round of Value-Added Producer Grants (edible-alpha.org) This podcast featured my colleagues Sara Huber and Andy Larsen, and we emphasize effective strategies for grant writing. Sara does an excellent job talking about VAPG eligibility requirements in this session – and all of those requirements still hold for 2022.
- The AgMRC videos (see Agricultural Marketing Resource Center | Agricultural Marketing Resource Center (agmrc.org) has excellent short videos that share the experience of VAPG awardees. An excellent way to get excited about the grant!
- The National Sustainable Agriculture mentioned above also has a “Farmer’s Guide to Applying for the Value Added Producers Grant” which will help simplify some of the more difficult concepts. The guide also provides excellent examples for the new applicant. See 2022-NSAC-VAPG-Farmers-Guide.pdf (sustainableagriculture.net)
- Finally, it may help to find out who else has been awarded a VAPG in your region or state. What was their experience with writing the grant, and did it help them advance their business?
I wish you luck over the next two months of writing and look forward to helping you with your VAPG.