Largest grant round ever for program investing in local food and farming infrastructure
Gov. Glenn Youngkin today announced the largest ever award round from the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) Fund Infrastructure Grant Program supporting local farms and food producers. A total of ten projects will receive $368,885 in competitively awarded, matching grants for new community infrastructure development projects that support local food production and sustainable agriculture. Created by the General Assembly in 2021, AFID Infrastructure grants are awarded biannually to support locally identified investments that aid small-scale farmers and food producers in growing their operations. This largest ever grant round is a result of the 2022 General Assembly’s decision to double the maximum award to $50,000. Independent businesses engaged in the processing of meat, poultry, and vegetables will benefit from funding this round, alongside multiple food processing facilities that are operated by non-profits or local governments.
“I am pleased to announce the AFID Infrastructure investments to support local producers and non-profits grow their operations and achieve success,” said Youngkin. “Given the importance of agriculture and forestry to the foundation of Virginia’s economy, my administration is committed to supporting the continued development of these industries as a growth engine and source of jobs throughout rural Virginia.”
“As a farmer myself, I understand how important it is for producers to have access to the processing infrastructure they need to get their products to their customers,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Matthew Lohr. “This latest round of funding demonstrates the ability of the AFID program to deliver on the Commonwealth’s commitment to supporting and growing our entire agricultural sector by supporting producers of all sizes.”
Administered by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the AFID Infrastructure Grant Program, in partnership with local governments, awards grants to develop community infrastructure in support of local food production and sustainable agriculture. Applications for the next round of this semi-annual grant program will be accepted from April 1 through May 15, 2023, with the awards announced in June. Additional information about the program is available here. Questions about the program should be directed to Jennifer.Perkins@vdacs.virginia.gov.
The following projects are receiving funding in this round of the AFID Infrastructure Grant Program:
Turkey Processing, Albemarle County
Albemarle County requests funding to purchase grinding, vacuum packaging, and freezing
equipment for Kelly Turkeys to expand its existing product line of whole birds and bone-in breasts by adding ground turkey to its offerings. In operation since 2015, Kelly Turkeys grows and processes KellyBronze birds, an internationally known breed of heritage turkeys raised using sustainable farming methods.
Commercial Kitchen, Bedford County
Bedford County seeks funding to support a new commercial kitchen by established meat processor EcoFriendly Foods. The company has had success selling value-added products, such as hand pies, soups, and stews, which are prepared in rented kitchen space. The company anticipates sales to double with consistent access to a kitchen facility. Grant funds will purchase commercial kitchen equipment, including a tilt skillet and additional refrigerated storage space.
Vegetable Processing, Carroll County
Carroll County seeks funding to support the Virginia Produce Company with the purchase and installation of high-efficiency vacuum cooling equipment for produce. Vacuum cooling safely chills produce and removes problematic surface moisture in a fraction of the time as conventional methods, while also using 75% less energy. This rapid and efficient cooling method reduces product lost through moisture damage and increases shelf life, which expands the potential customer market. The Virginia Produce Company sources from more than 40 farms in the region to supply fresh produce to major food retailers.
Commercial Kitchen, City of Charlottesville
The Charlottesville Economic Development Authority requests funding to support New Hill Development Corporation, an African American led non-profit community development corporation, in the construction of a shared-use commercial kitchen. The Black Entrepreneurial Advancement and Community Opportunity Network (BEACON) kitchen will include packaging and production equipment to house up to 16 local food businesses. The BEACON kitchen will offer lower rental fees, helping producers overcome a barrier to entry for food startups.
Commercial Kitchen, Culpeper County
Culpeper County seeks funding to purchase and install a walk-in freezer and cooler as part of a larger commercial kitchen project in the George Washington Carver Food Enterprise Center, a non-profit focused on food security and training in the Piedmont. This facility will serve as a food business incubator and will offer courses on value-added food production, food safety, and business management. The center will primarily serve the broader Rappahannock-Rapidan region, as well as users from beyond.
Meat Processing, Franklin County
Franklin County seeks funding to support an expansion by KC Farms Meats, a family-owned custom meat processing business. KC Farms Meats offers custom meat processing services to 39 livestock producers in the region who sell directly to their customers. Funds will be used to purchase a new smoker and walk-in freezer, which will allow the business to expand its product offerings to include specialty sausages, hotdogs, bacon, and ham.
Farmers’ Market, City of Galax
The city of Galax seeks funding to improve the Galax Farmers’ Market. When the Galax Farmers’ Market was constructed in 2000, brick pavers were built around two oak trees that have since died. As a result, the remaining space is unsightly and inaccessible to people with disabilities. This funding will be used to rebuild the patio, which will improve the appearance and overall customer experience. In addition, the new patio will increase the space available for vendors and market opportunities for local producers. Appalachian Independence, a group that advocates for people with disabilities, has provided strong support for this project.
Apple Processing, Nelson County
Nelson County requests funding to purchase new UltraUV processing equipment for two apple orchards, Silver Creek and Seamans’ Orchards. Due to the increased demand for fresh sweet cider, the orchards seek to upgrade to a larger UV processing machine to triple production. The equipment will be located at a packing shed owned by the orchards and will be able to process the majority of juice apples grown in Nelson County. The UV treatment allows orchards to produce an FDA-approved product with an extended shelf life, which will allow locally produced cider to be distributed throughout the region.
Community Cannery, Prince Edward County
Prince Edward County seeks funding for equipment upgrades at its community cannery, a shared-use facility that is operated commercially by the food business incubator non-profit Virginia Food Works. Since 2020, the non-profit reports that nearly 100 clients have clocked nearly 1,700 hours of facility usage preparing foods for commercial sale. The public also relies on the cannery’s services to prepare and process seasonal vegetables and meats to supply foods for their families and businesses. This project builds on the AFID-funded installation of a new boiler at the facility. New funding will be used to replace many vital components of the cannery’s infrastructure, to include steam pipes, traps, valves, gauges, a half-ton chain hoist, pressure/temperature recorders, steam pot stems, and other equipment.
Food Hub, City of Roanoke
The city of Roanoke requests funding to support the Local Environmental Agriculture Project (LEAP), a non-profit focused on creating economically viable outlets for local farmers and food producers, such as farmers markets and commercial kitchens. LEAP aggregates and distributes food to an estimated 10,000 people each year. In addition, LEAP’s commercial kitchen supports over 40 food businesses with equipment, resources, and training. Their farmers markets host 50 local vendors, the majority of which are meat, produce, and dairy producers. In 2021, LEAP received support from the city of Roanoke to create a commercial kitchen and food hub in the underserved West End neighborhood. Funds will be used for the purchase and installation of a large walk-in cooler at the new food hub.