Continued from our Spring 2012 newsletter…
A few months ago the USDA announced the 2012 Value Added Producer Grant awards. Several farm businesses and organizations in Washington received funding including the Northwest Agriculture Business Center who received $300,000 for Regional Food System Development.
So what does this mean? It means we remain firmly committed to providing business planning, technical and marketing assistance to producers, regional food hub developments, and producer owned cooperatives in the Puget Sound region.
We’ll also be evolving our wholesale market concept this year to further our impact through marketing, locating distribution, processing and even working with producers and logistical providers to identify efficient decentralized aggregation hubs. Our new partner, Local Orbit, an Ann Arbor, MI based company is developing four (4) “virtual hub” pilots designed to increase sales transactions between farmers and institutional and commercial food service, including universities, hospitals, restaurants and meal-sites that serve low-income seniors and preschool children in South Seattle/King County and beyond. With Local Orbit handling sales management systems and online transactions, our staff is more focused on what we do best: creating and growing business relationships between producers and buyers who have an interest in increasing local food procurement across categories. Our staff is invested in staying abreast of market trends so that producers of all scales can leverage all opportunities for growth and sustainability.
Later this year, NABC will be relaunching the NABC and PSFN websites, migrating off of PSFN’s online marketing tool launched in 2009. NABC will be integrating its marketing strategies for all projects, including PSFN.
About half of the VAPG grant funding will be to fund overhead costs for Account Management services for dues-paying members including strategic market consulting, sales representation, promotions, technical assistance and value-added product development services.
Ultimately our work helps “level the playing field” for all scales of producers. If farmers have more opportunities to achieve economic sustainability, then farming remains part of our future…not just our history.
While the grant funds cover 50% of PSFN’s existing costs to carry out our mission, we are aggressively seeking corporate sponsors to partner with NABC and join the Puget Sound Food Network. We will be working to ensure that the Network’s impact will grow rather than retrench and we’re excited to move forward with PLAN A!
In summary, this new USDA funding will be used to:
- Support value-added marketing for independent producers by providing timely and appropriate technical support.
- Implement a new on-line transaction system called PSFN powered by Local Orbit that will allow independent producers to initiate product sales directly to regional buyers.
- Support the creation of new regional food hubs owned and operated by independent producers.
- Increase the number of institutional meal sites that source value added products direct from local producers.
To learn more, please read our February press release.