USDA announces grants for local food operations

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LOUDON, N.H. — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently highlighted the importance of rural entrepreneurs to the U.S. economy and said investments in them are helping businesses grow, diversify and create jobs. USDA is investing $25 million to help 247 businesses nationwide expand their operations and create new products to market, according to Vilsack.

The funding is being provided through USDA Rural Development’s Value-Added Producer Grant program.

“The funding we are announcing today will have far-reaching, positive impacts in rural communities across the country,” Vilsack said. “The investments will help businesses create new products, expand their operations and support local and regional food systems.”

USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel said, “I am so pleased USDA Rural Development can invest in five unique and dynamic Maine agriculture and aquaculture businesses. The value-added funds support innovation and ingenuity and are a strong catalyst for the production of local foods, job creation, business development, and economic growth in these rural Maine communities.”

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· Apple Acres Farm in Hiram has been selected to receive a grant of $200,000, which will be used to expand the sales of fresh apples, apple-based products such as doughnuts and cider, and locally grown foods to over 120 wholesale and 20,000 retail customers. Funds will also be used to employ a sales professional and to optimize the existing website for e-commerce with a projected increase in revenue of over 200 percent. Apple Acres Farms intends to save 14 jobs and create five additional jobs as a result of this grant.

· Marble Family Farms in New Vineyard has been selected to receive a grant of $49,998. Funds will provide working capital for a market expansion of their pre-cooked and blast frozen pocket meal. The funds will be used toward increasing meal production to 20,000 units by the end of 2014 and expanding the wholesale and retail customer base. Funds will also be used to attend statewide events as a vendor and to promote the product through targeted marketing and website development. Marble Family Farms intends to save two jobs and create two additional jobs as a result of this grant.

· Farming Fungi LLC in Springvale has been selected to receive a grant of $49,912. Funds will provide working capital to market organic mushrooms in unique, compostable packaging for resale. Farming Fungi LLC intends to save six jobs and create two additional jobs as a result of this grant.

· VitaminSea LLC in Buxton has been selected to receive a grant of $99,988. Funds will support a marketing program to increase sales of seaweed-based foods, snacks and health products harvested in Maine. VitaminSea LLC intends to save three jobs and create three additional jobs.

· Maine Fresh Sea Farms LLC in Bristol has been selected to receive a grant of $71,673, which will be used to provide a planning grant to study the feasibility of delivering fresh aquacultured sea vegetable products to the marketplace using existing agricultural produce and seafood distribution systems. Maine Fresh Sea Farms intends to save 21 jobs and to create 10 additional jobs in the next 10 years.

For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill or www.rurdev.usda.gov/me.

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