Fourteen Virginia agribusinesses received U.S. Department of Agriculture grants to help them expand production, distribution and marketing of agricultural products.
Among the farmers and rural entrepreneurs that received Value-Added Producer Grants, 13 were assisted by the Virginia Foundation for Agriculture, Innovation and Rural Sustainability, an affiliate of Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.
Companies aided by VA FAIRS received a combined $2.8 million in grant funding for their projects.
VAPG funds can be used by entrepreneurs to develop new merchandise from agricultural products, expand established product lines and increase marketing opportunities for them.
VA FAIRS-assisted clients received grants for value-added projects such as opening creameries, restaurants and tasting rooms. Others received funding to expand direct sales of dairy and meat products, beer, wine and other spirits, shucked oysters and lavender-derived goods.
Among the 13 recipients assisted by VA FAIRS were:
- Backroom Brewery, Warren County
- Chatham Vineyards, Northampton County
- Dida’s Distillery at Rappahannock Cellars, Rappahannock County
- Harvue Farms, Clarke County
- McNett Angus Beef, Augusta County
- Messick’s Farm Market, Fauquier County
- Philip Carter Winery, Fauquier County
- Rappahannock River Oysters LLC, Middlesex County
- Stable Craft Brewing, Augusta County
- SummerWind Vineyards, Isle of Wight County
- Sweethaven Lavender, James City County
“Our foundation is committed to helping farming families and businesses succeed, and VA FAIRS is elated to see our clients receive grant money for their value-added ventures,” said Whitney Perkins, VFBF assistant director of agriculture, development and innovation.
“These funds will provide the needed capital for businesses looking to start and expand their operations and will in turn help keep families on their farms, provide local employment opportunities and have lasting positive economic impacts on their communities.”
VA FAIRS supports its clients by helping develop strategic business plans, assisting with grant applications and providing cooperative assistance. The foundation’s program focus areas include business development, technical assistance and education.
Kerry Messer, who received a USDA grant for Sweethaven Lavender in Toano, said the foundation’s assistance during the application process was vital.
“As a first-year business, we would not have had the resources or time to pursue this grant if not for the help of VA FAIRS,” Messer said. “To have an organization that has the expertise in the grant process to guide you through it, they’re like a Sherpa to help you climb that mountain.”
With funds from the value-added grant, Sweethaven has increased staffing, expanded production and further diversified its product lines of beauty and culinary goods.
Messer noted that the funding also has allowed them to collaborate with other small businesses in the Hampton Roads region, which she said has had a positive impact on the local economy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Shopping local has been very important because we’re seeing shuttered stores everywhere. Anywhere you go, some of your favorites haven’t been able to survive,” Messer said. “That’s one way we feel the grant has had an even broader reach within our community, because we’re using that money to partner with and support local businesses.”