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2023 Tribal Producer VAPG Boot Camp

March 6, 2023 @ 8:00 am - 12:00 pm CST

|Recurring Event (See all)

One event on March 20, 2023 at 8:00 am

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USDA Value-Added Producer grants present a great opportunity to access federal money to grow your farm business. At this Boot Camp, renowned VAPG writer and consultant Jim Gage of JDG Consulting will walk you through the VAPG application, translate the RFA language into actionable insights you can understand, help you successfully outline your ideas and provide examples and options so you can write a successful proposal right now.

Sure, VAPG grants are an important source of working capital financing for your farm, but how exactly will a VAPG impact your farm? FFI Farm Outreach Specialist, Andy Larson will guide you through how to prepare for your VAPG award.


All Boot Camp days will run from 8:00am – 12:00pm CST then each team will meet with Jim for a 30-minute one-on-one consultation scheduled later in the day.

Day 1 – March 6 – Eligibility and Working with the USDA

Topics to be covered include:

  • Is your proposed project eligible?
  • Is the product you’re making eligible?
  • Are you expanding the market and increasing profitability?
  • Do you have a USDA-eligible work plan and budget?

Day 2 – March 20 – Writing Strategy for Winning the VAPG Award

Topics to be covered include:

  • The nature of the proposed venture
  • Qualifications of your team
  • Letters of commitment and support
  • Technical nature of work plan and budget
  • Priority points and reserve funds
  • Administrative points

Day 3 – Beyond VAPG/ Integrating VAPG into your overall business model (scheduled after VAPG submission deadline)

Topics to be covered include:

  • Laying the market research foundation for your VAPG project
  • Fitting VAPG into your overall capital stack
  • Leveraging additional federal/state/local grant & finance opportunities
  • Examples of how VAPG changed our customers’ food and farm businesses

About the Instructors

James D. Gage is the principal for James D. Gage Consulting, Inc and a Food Finance institute (FFI) Expert in Residence.  He specializes in value added dairy and local foods business development. Gage is currently designing and leading programming to specialty clients, grant writers and agricultural entrepreneurs as they access and author the USDA Value Added Producer Grant.  He is the past manager of the Wisconsin Dairy Business Innovation Center, and has worked on business and marketing issues with over 400 value added clients over the last 18 years.

Specific consulting has included conducting market research, writing feasibility studies, business plans and grants, and providing small business management services.  He served as the business-strategist in residence for the American Cheese Society (2013-17), and is a certified Wisconsin Value-Added Food & Farm Business Consultant. Gage worked extensively with the private sector high technology community as part of the University of Wisconsin’s Environmental Remote Sensing Center, and has been part of agricultural research and management consulting teams in more than 40 countries worldwide while working with the Land Tenure Center (University of Wisconsin), the International Development Management Center (University of Maryland), and the Peace Corps.  Mr. Gage holds an MS in Horticulture and Plant Physiology from University of Maryland- College Park, and a BA in Political Science from Fordham University.

As Farm Outreach Specialist for FFI, Andy Larson works with entrepreneurial farm businesses to build farm financial management capacity and access the capital they need to grow. He brings his expertise in farm business and marketing, agricultural lending, and grantsmanship to Farm Boot Camp.

Andy’s background includes working as an Agriculture and Commercial Loan Officer at a community bank, providing commercial credit to family farms and small businesses in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. His portfolio included crop farms, dairy farms, and a wide variety of local food farms. Andy also worked in university extension in both Iowa and Illinois, providing programming on the business and marketing side of small farms, local foods, and sustainable agriculture. In addition, Andy grew up on a dairy farm, and now lives with his wife and three daughters on a small-scale poultry farm just down the road, where they produce free-range brown eggs for local restaurants, retail stores, and farmers markets.


March 6, 2023
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