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2024 VAPG Boot Camp

January 10, 2024 @ 8:00 am - 12:00 pm CST

|Recurring Event (See all)

One event on January 10, 2024 at 8:00 am

Virtual Event Virtual Event

USDA VAPGs present a great opportunity to access federal funds for planning a new value-added operation or garnering working capital funds to support a new or expand value-added project.

At this Boot Camp, renowned VAPG writer and consultant Jim Gage of JDG Consulting will prepare you with tools, resources, and strategies to win the VAPG. Over the course of two days and two one-on-one consulting sessions, Jim will walk you through the VAPG application, translate the application language into actionable insights you can understand, and provide examples and options so you and your team can write a successful proposal in 2024. This will be the focused instruction and coaching you need to develop your strategy, organize your content, and develop a compelling story that will win over reviewers.

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.

FFI is excited to launch its third year of VAPG Boot Camp training. Participants of VAPG Boot Camps to date have been awarded over $1M in grants.


All Boot Camp days will run from 8:00am – 12:00pm CST on January 8 & 10. Each team will meet with Jim for a 30-minute one-on-one consultation scheduled on January 9 & 11.

Day 1 – January 8 – Eligibility and Working with the USDA

Topics to be covered include:

  • VAPG background
  • 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 – January 10 – 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

Boot Camp Optional Add-On: Writing Assistance from FFI

Boot Camp doesn’t have to end here! As a Boot Camp participant, you will be given the option to purchase additional VAPG writing assistance from Jim and Andy, providing you with the ongoing support and coaching you need to submit a winning 2024 application.

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 20 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.

Note: Your Boot Camp registration includes admittance for you and a business partner. Working with a partner is highly encouraged! There will be an option to add a business partner’s name on the checkout page.


January 10, 2024
8:00 am - 12:00 pm
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2024 VAPG Boot Camp
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.
$ 500.00
10 available