KCARD News

Kentucky’s Farms to Food Banks Program

Farms to Food Banks, a program of the Kentucky Association of Food Banks (KAFB), pays farmers who bring in surplus or #2 produce to their distribution points.

 

What crops does KAFB accept?

 

More than 28 different crops commonly grown by Kentucky farmers are accepted by KAFB. Highly perishable products like blackberries are not accepted because every location is not equipped with refrigerated storage.  Also, large volumes of some products (i.e. extremely hot peppers) may not be needed based on the site’s ability to use those products. The crop list can be found on KAFB’s website: http://kafb.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/2017-Crops-List.pdf.

 

What price can I get for my surplus produce?

 

Pricing is based on current wholesale market prices and can change over the course of the growing season.  General and historic pricing information can be found on KAFB’s website: http://kafb.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/2017-Crops-List.pdf.

 

How should produce be delivered?

 

Produce should be free from soil and field debris and delivered in easily managed units. For example, a 10-pound box of tomatoes, cabbage in bags, or cantaloupes in bins.  Any clean, sturdy box can be used and your local food bank may have boxes or bins available.

 

Does KAFB want eggs?

 

KAFB is interested in buying eggs from local producers.  The food banks need the eggs to be clean and packaged in consumer-appropriate volumes (6, 12, 18, or 24).  The current payment is $0.50/dozen.  Eggs do not have to be graded, but must be packaged in new cartons.  There is no minimum amount that must be delivered.

 

How do farmers work with KAFB?

  • Fill out the paperwork to participate in the Farms to Food Bank program (http://kafb.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/2017-Participant-Agreement-.pdf) and submit to KAFB (produce@kafb.org or FAX: 606-764-1201).  This must be completed before you can receive payment!
  • Call Sarah Vaughn at KAFB (859-986-7422) to discuss what you have and when it can be delivered.  Sarah matches farmers with drop-off sites based on geography and need.  She will provide current pricing information for your produce if needed.
  • Sarah will send a purchase order (PO) to the food bank drop-off site to let them know you are planning a delivery.
  • Deliver your produce to the food bank and provide them with an invoice.  Important information to include on the invoice is your contact information, the date, and what you are delivering.  See a sample invoice here:  http://kafb.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Sample-Farms-to-Food-Banks-invoice-Bill-of-Lading.pdf
  • Food bank staff will sign the invoice and send a copy to the main office to generate payment.  Keep a copy for your records.
  • Your check will arrive in the mail in about two weeks.  Be sure your mailing address is correct on the invoice you provide at delivery.

 

In 2016, 385 Kentucky farmers from 67 counties participated the Farms to Food Banks program, which generated an average of $2000 per farm.  Food bank distribution sites also gladly take produce donations.  A portion of the retail value can be claimed as a donation on your taxes.  Consult KAFB’s website for more information about the tax credit: http://kafb.wpengine.com/farmstofoodbanks/tax-credit/.  Last year, KAFB distributed 3,110,600 pounds of fresh produce (enough to fill half a plate full of fruits and vegetables for 5,184,300 meals) that otherwise would likely have been waste product for Kentucky farmers. 

 

For more information about Kentucky Farms to Food Banks program, visit their website http://kafb.org, call (859) 986-7422, or email Produce@kafb.org.

 

For more information about KCARD, please visit our website at www.kcard.info or call us at (270) 763-8258.

 

 

Posted May 8, 2017


Money for Land, Equipment, and More: What to Consider

KCARD is often asked by individuals and businesses how to fund their business idea or latest business needs.  Many options exist for agricultural and food-based projects, but to determine what funding is a good fit, you need to have a good estimate of the amount needed and the type of needs you have and prepare a budget.   

 

Below are some funding options that range from local banks to crowdfunding websites:

 

Conventional Lenders – If you have existing lender relationships (i.e. farm or house loan), you can often work with the same lender for additional financing needs. Community banks, Farm Credit Services, and others may be interested in financing your projects if you can demonstrate that the project will make money and that you can pay back the loan. Loans with secured assets (land or buildings) are often easier for these lenders to make.  Kentucky Ag. Finance Corporation can often work with your lender to offer even better terms for some projects.

 

Microloans – This term can mean any smaller-than-usual loan, but often means a loan that is both small for the lender and also has less paperwork burden.  A popular one in Kentucky is the one offered by the USDA Farm Services Agency.  You can find out more information at your local USDA office or at the USDA website.  Typically, these loans offer low rates and favorable terms.

 

Peer-to-Peer Lending – These loans are provided by individuals or groups of individuals rather than a banker or lending agency, often at very low rates. Kiva-Zip is one example. These loans are a better fit if you have a group of supportive people within your social circle that can get the momentum started for the loan and help it attract attention from others. The loans are typically suited for small needs (less than $10,000 or even $1,000) and especially advantageous for people who may have difficulties proving they are good credit risks.

 

Crowdfunding – Many sites now provide producers a platform to “sell their story” and receive investments from individuals online.  From GoFundMe to Kickstarter to Indiegogo, many different companies are offering to help you connect up with potential funders across the globe.  Each site has different advantages/disadvantages, and to make the most of the opportunity, you need to plan out a timeline, consider how to have a strong launch (often with people you know), and have a good budget in mind.

 

Grants – Grants exist for different purposes, and each one has a different focus, different requirements, and different advantages/disadvantages. Typically, grants are scarce for land and buildings since those are assets that can be collateralized through a loan.  Some grants that are popular include the USDA Value-Added Producer Grants, USDA Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program Grants, Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Grant, and the Kentucky State University Small-Scale Farmer Grant.  Sign up for grant and funding notices by emailing info@kcard.info.  

 

If you are currently in business, do you have a clear picture of what you are making from your business?  If you are just starting out, have you come up with some basic projections for your business?  Check out freely available enterprise budgets for what you want to do, talk to others who can help you think through the numbers, and come up with some basic numbers. 

 

To start that budget, determine what records you are keeping now.  Have you put them into a profit/loss or income statement to see what the bottom line is?  If not, KCARD can help you with that.

 

For more information about business planning and developing financials for your business, KCARD has services to help you. For more information about KCARD, please visit our website at www.kcard.info or call us at (270) 763-8258.


Job Opening: Business Development Specialist
The Kentucky Center for Agriculture and Rural Development is hiring an individual to work with agricultural and rural-based businesses seeking KCARD assistance and to lead work on KCARD special projects related to the agricultural and food industries in Kentucky.
 
KCARD is an independent, non-profit organization that works with farmers markets, agritourism operations, value-added operations, cooperatives, Community-Supported Agriculture (CSAs) operations, meat processing facilities, grain handling operations, horticultural businesses, and many other agricultural-related businesses operating in Kentucky.
 
KCARD employees have flexible scheduling options available.
 
Duties:
  • Meet with producers, business owners, and organizations interested in KCARD services to gather information on their status and needs;
  • Manage projects related to agricultural and food-related business needs;
  • Work collaboratively with KCARD team to deliver assistance and be responsive;
  • Provide support to those entities by assessing needs and determining appropriate course of action, in consultation with KCARD team;
  • Draft business and marketing plans and other documents for clients; and
  • Other duties as assigned.
Qualifications:
  • Excellent communication skills (both written and verbal)
  • Excellent interpersonal skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Strong work ethic with a self-motivated nature
  • Knowledge of Kentucky agriculture and the agricultural and food sectors
  • Strong analytical skills
  • Understanding of economics, marketing, and business structures
  • BS degree in relevant field (advanced degree or significant experience preferred)
  • Experience with agricultural businesses and managing projects
  • Valid driver’s license and access to private vehicle
Location: Flexible within state of Kentucky, with significant in-state travel expected.
 
To be considered, please send a resume and cover letter to Aleta Botts via email at abotts@kcard.info no later than April 28, 2017. Questions regarding the position can be submitted to this email address as well.
 
The Kentucky Center for Agriculture and Rural Development is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

Preparing to Plan: Are you ready?

More often than not, when KCARD Staff are setting up the first meetings with a new business, we get the question “What do I need to have ready?”  Or, we get the comment “I don’t have enough information completed to work with you to develop a business plan”.  We emphasize that you do not need to have everything in perfect order to start working on your business plan. The most important thing is that you start.

 

However, there are three things to have at the table to be better prepared: 

 

Goals: KCARD cannot define the goals for your business.  Before your meeting with KCARD, think about what your goals are, when you want to accomplish each goal, and why they are important to you.  We can help you refine them, break them down into steps and phases, and walk through which ones are most important (and realistic), but we cannot set or create goals for you.  Your goals should be measurable and attainable. 

 

Financial Records: Pull together what financial records you have.  They do not need to be perfect.  Whether it is recordkeeping written in a ledger book, put into a spreadsheet, or using specific financial software, KCARD can assist you in developing a recordkeeping system that works for your business and help work on how you use it for your records. We will walk you through what different financial statements are, and even help in forecasting your future statements, based on your honest assessment of your business and your goals.

 

Honesty: This may seem odd in a list of things to be prepared to sit down with, but it is incredibly important.  You have to be honest with KCARD about your current operations and your future plans.  Is there some critical issue you are facing?  Is there something you are scared to ask?  Be honest with us and be honest with yourself.  Do you have enough time to accomplish all you are planning?  Are you great at farming but not great at marketing?

 

KCARD is here to walk through the steps with you to create a finished business plan and receive the services that are unique to your business and goals.  While working with you on a business plan, KCARD staff will ask questions and challenge your assumptions.  At the end of the process, you will have a document that is unique to your business and that can be changed as your business grows and goals are achieved, revisited, and revised. 

 

For more information about how KCARD can assist you with business planning and recordkeeping, contact KCARD at 270-763-8358 or info@kcard.info


Soliciting for SAM: Have you gotten a call?
Last month, KCARD received a phone call with a recorded message that our SAM registration was about to expire and to call a number back to renew it.  KCARD, like many of our clients, does have a SAM number as part of the federal government’s System for Award Management program.  Having this number allows businesses and organizations to apply for grant programs and do business with the US government.
 
We called the number just to see what they would say.  The phone number was for a private company that offered to update our profile with the federal government and renew our SAM registration.  Several companies provide these services and often charge hundreds of dollars to update your information.
 
Keep in mind SAM renewal is something you can do yourself for free.  You can go online and quickly check your registration status in the SAM system (https://www.sam.gov/portal/sam).  You will need to enter the SAM number, DUNS (data universal number system) number or CAGE (Commercial and Government Entity) code associated with the original registration. 
 
The system will indicate any steps left to complete the registration.  As the SAM portal states, there is NO cost to use SAM.  The portal also has free help with SAM registration, including user guides, videos, and FAQs.  
 
Typically, the federal government will send an email to whatever address is on file when you need to renew your SAM official registration.  Most businesses and organizations wait to renew their registration until receiving this renewal message from SAM.  And most businesses and organizations do not need to pay someone else to handle their SAM registration or renewal.  
 
If you have any questions about SAM registration or renewal, please contact sam.gov itself or give us a call at KCARD.  For more information about KCARD, please visit our website at www.kcard.info or call us at (270) 763-8258.
 

KCARD Announces 2017 Winter Grant Workshops

The Agribusiness Grant Facilitation Program (AGFP) of the Kentucky Center for Agriculture and Rural Development (KCARD) will be hosting a series of grant workshops to assist agricultural producers and rural businesses identify grant opportunities and develop a strategy for seeking out those funds.

 

"The grant process can be overwhelming; that’s why KCARD is here to help. Learning what funding sources are available is the first step in the grant process," explained Aaron Shapiro, AGFP Grant Facilitator. "The workshops are a great opportunity for farmers to ask questions, learn about how different programs work, and begin working on their own grant plans."

 

The first workshop of the season will be an evening workshop at the Letcher County Cooperative Extension Office in Whitesburg, Kentucky on Tuesday, January 17th, 2017. The second workshop will be an all day workshop at the Scott County Cooperative Extension Office in Georgetown, Kentucky on Wednesday, February 1st, 2017.

 

The workshops are designed to provide individuals with an opportunity to learn how to search for grants, how to prepare strong applications, as well as how to connect with other resources available for their operations. Individuals from USDA, Kentucky Department of Agriculture, Kentucky Governor's Office of Agricultural Policy, Kentucky State University and the University of Kentucky will also be in attendance to expose participants to the different programs and services offered by these partners.

 

"Grant programs are competitive, so applicants must make a strong case for their project to receive funding. The grant workshops are designed to help identify grants that are a good match and to provide the tools needed to put together strong grant applications," explained Shapiro.

 

There will be a $10 per person fee to attend the workshop, but a meal will be provided for each workshop. For further information and to register contact Kati Bowman at kbowman@kcard.info or 859-415-4909.  

 

The third workshop will take place on Thursday, February 9th, 2017 at the Pulaski County Cooperative Extension Office in Somerset, Kentucky. The final workshop will take place at the Caldwell County Cooperative Extension Office in Princeton, Kentucky on Tuesday, February 21st, 2017.

 

The Kentucky Agribusiness Grant Facilitation Program, funded by the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board and led by KCARD, aims to help agricultural producers and rural businesses in Kentucky learn about, apply for, and receive funding available through numerous programs.

 

The Kentucky Center for Agriculture and Rural Development works with agricultural producers, rural businesses and agribusinesses across the Commonwealth to provide a range of services including business planning, strategic planning, operations and cost analysis, record keeping development, feasibility studies, and on-site business consultations. Support for KCARD is provided in part by the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board and the USDA Rural Cooperative Development Grant. To learn more about KCARD services visit www.kcard.info.

 

Posted: January 10, 2017


Lean Closer and We’ll Reveal the Super-Secret Password
Occasionally, we hear of someone offering a deal too good to be true for our clients.  Some of these deals are truly great deals and can benefit the business or producer. And then there are the others.  
 
Since we spend the vast majority of our time running through financials and talking with farmers and business owners who work really hard to make their living, we tend to be skeptical of big promises.  
 
Here are a few red flags that make us worry:
 
1) “I can get you grant money that no one else knows about, but only if you pay me.”  

The problem:  Grant programs typically publicize their funding opportunities widely because they want everyone to know about them.  

How to protect yourself:  Ask for references of other people for whom this person has helped get this super-secret grant money.  That way they do not have to reveal their “secrets”, but you have some idea if they have actually done any real “grant-getting” or not.

 

2) “I will buy everything you produce.”

The problem:  This one is tricky, because very sincere people say this, they mean it, and it can work out well for both buyer and seller.  The problem is that too often this has been said and then when the time came for delivery of the product and payment, all of a sudden the buyer has found another source, or a problem with the product, or just plain gone out of business.  

How to protect yourself:  Ask for details on how much someone will buy (quantity), what form they need it in (quality), and what price they will pay.  And cultivate other customers so that all your eggs are not in one basket.

 
3) “You can’t lose money producing this.”  

The problem:  There is always a way to lose money.  

How to protect yourself:  Get what numbers they use to justify this and then run through them yourself.  Are they realistic?  

 

While we do try hard to give the benefit of the doubt to a “great deal”, we are always going to advise you to do your homework and put in place measures that protect your interests.  

 
For assistance in determining if the deal is too good to be true or to work through various financial scenarios, KCARD has services to help you. For more information about KCARD, please visit our website at www.kcard.info, or call us at (270) 763-8258.
 

Beginning Farmer Resources

To kick start the season of conferences and workshops, two conferences are coming up in November to check out: the Kentucky-Tennessee Beginning Farmer Summit on November 11 and the Kentucky State University Small, Limited Resources/Minority Farmer Conference on November 15-17.  Check these out especially if you are a beginning farmer. 

 

In addition to these events coming up, here are a few resources that may be helpful if you are starting out:

 

Beginning Farmer Funding Resources

The Agribusiness Grant Facilitation Program, part of KCARD, has several beginning farmer funding resources available online. These resources include both state and federal low-interest loan programs, grant programs, and cost-share opportunities.

 

Veggie Compass
Developed by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Veggie Compass is a farm management tool for diversified vegetable growers. The tool consists of a spreadsheet that assists producers in calculating the cost of production for each crop and the profitability of different market channels available for fresh produce growers. Veggie Compass is continually updated to reflect changing prices and market.

 

Center for Crop Diversification Enterprise Budgets
Enterprise budgets are an essential part of understanding your financials and whether the crops you want to plant will be profitable. The Center for Crop Diversification works closely with the University of Kentucky Agriculture Economics Department and other partners to develop budgets for vegetables, berries, grapes, mushrooms, and nursery crops.

 

KCARD’s Business Plan Development Guide and Financial Template
The business plan answers the key questions about the business: who, what, where, when, why, and how.  For a developing business, it begins the process of making an idea materialize into reality and determining whether or not an idea should become reality.  It also establishes goals and benchmarks for the business. Finally, and probably most importantly, going through the process of planning forces business owners to think through every detail of the business.

 

If you are interested in business planning, funding resources, or developing financial statements for your business, KCARD can help.  For more information about KCARD, please visit our website at www.kcard.info, or call us at (270) 763-8258.

 

The Kentucky Center for Agriculture and Rural Development helps agricultural producers, agribusinesses, and others by providing assistance with business planning, grant and loan packages, strategic planning, business management reviews, operations and cost analysis, record-keeping development, feasibility studies, and on-site business consultations.  Support for KCARD is provided in part by the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board and the USDA Rural Cooperative Development Grant.  


USDA Value-Added Producer Grant awarded with over $1.7 million coming to Kentucky

USDA announced that over $1.7 million in USDA Value Added Producer Grant (VAPG) funds have been awarded to Kentucky agribusinesses: Old Goat and Young Chick Farm, Palmer Farm Meats, Lee’s Plant Farm, Hinton’s Orchard, Farmer Joe, Home Grown Direct, Chelsey’s Eggs, LanMark Farm, Six Ridges Beef, River Hill Ranch, Wildcat Mountain Cheese, Cavehill Winery, and Four Petal Farm.

 

"KCARD was privileged to work with award recipients for this competitive grant," said Aleta Botts, Executive Director of the Kentucky Center for Agriculture and Rural Development (KCARD). "Our business development specialists worked on business plans with many of them, and KCARD’s grant facilitation program helped them navigate the process."

 

The VAPG helps agricultural producers increase their income by expanding marketing opportunities, promoting new products or developing new uses for existing products. The grant is designed to have a far reaching impact by supporting local and regional food systems and financing the distribution of local and regional products.

 

"The KCARD team was instrumental in our grant process.  They were able to provide valuable feedback on many aspects of our application, from the financial plan, work plan and double checking that we met all the technical requirements.  I am thankful for the KCARD organization,” said Shannon McGuire of Six Ridges Beef.

 

KCARD assists applicants in determining eligibility, developing their project, and working through the application process. The organization also helps develop comprehensive business plans and financial projections. These plans help ensure that the business is sustainable well after the grant period is over, and that the grant funds will be put to good use.

 

“We appreciate the support and encouragement from the staff at KCARD. Their guidance was invaluable during the application process and helped us to stay on track to complete the application on time,” said Clara Patton of Wildcat Mountain Cheese.  “We look forward to working with them during the grant period.” 

 

Kentucky's grant recipients will use the funds to expand their businesses and create economic growth in the rural communities where they are located. This year's recipients are receiving grant funds for an array of projects across Kentucky.

 

  • Old Goat and Young Chick Farm located in Hardinsburg will use funds to process and market goat jerky.
  • Palmer Farms Meats located in Almo will use funds to expand processing and marketing of farm fresh, local, beef packaged beef.
  • Lee's Plant Farm located in Hodgenville will use funds to expand marketing of value-added and “local” vegetables for wholesale markets.
  • Hinton's Orchard located in Hodgenville will use funds to expand retail sales of “local” vegetables.
  • Farmer Joe’s located in Salvisa will use funds to expand processing and marketing of pasture poultry.
  • Home Grown Direct located in Georgetown will use funds to expand “locally” grown wholesale vegetable sales.
  • Chelsey's Eggs located in Pleasureville will use funds for egg processing and a local market expansion campaign.
  • LanMark Farm located in Paris will use to expand the processing and sales of wool textiles.
  • Six Ridges Beef located in Bourbon County will expand sales and processing of high quality, packaged beef for direct to consumer and restaurant markets.
  • River Hill Ranch located in Richmond will expand processing and marketing of an Alpaca product line including textiles and meat.
  • Wildcat Mountain Cheese located in East Bernstadt will use funds to expand production and marketing of local artisan cheese.
  • Cavehill Winery located in Eubank will use the funds to pay for processing and market expansion of local wines.
  • Four Petal Farm located in Banner will use funds to expand the production and marketing of native serenade syrups. 

 

“We worked with a diverse group of dedicated Value Added Producer Grant applicants this round to help them pull together successful grants applications that will help their businesses grow,” explained Aaron Shapiro, KCARD’s Grant Facilitator. “We are pleased to see 13 awards coming home to Kentucky this year!”

 

This grant program usually makes awards annually, so businesses interested in learning more about it should contact KCARD now to start the process and be ready for the next application period.

 

KCARD works with rural businesses and agribusinesses across the Commonwealth to provide specialized assistance increasing the chances for success. KCARD provides a range of services to their clients including strategic planning, feasibility assessments, business management, operations analysis, recordkeeping development, cost analysis, and on-site business consultations.

 

KCARD's work is supported by the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board, the US Department of Agriculture's Rural Cooperative Development Grant, and other sources. To learn more about KCARD's services, visit www.kcard.info.

 

Posted: October 28, 2016


Is a Cooperative the Right Choice?
KCARD is often contacted by individuals and groups that have a business idea and are interested in forming a cooperative. A cooperative can be a great choice and we help people form cooperatives all the time, but many times the cooperative business structure is misunderstood and people have the wrong idea about what a cooperative is and when it is the right business structure. 
 
A cooperative is a business formed and owned by the people that use its services or in some cases, the workers that are employed there. Cooperatives solve a common need shared by a group that finds it difficult to attain certain products, services, or jobs individually. Cooperatives allow individuals to work together to find a solution to a shared need while empowering their member/owners. Co-op businesses typically return most profits earned to the member/owners of the business in addition to providing the needed product, service, or employment.
 
Below are a few common misconceptions about cooperatives that KCARD often hears:
 
“I – and I alone – want to start a cooperative.”
A single person cannot be a cooperative.  Legally, a cooperative in Kentucky must have a minimum of five members at the time of formation. Signatures of the original five incorporating members are required on the articles of incorporation filed with the Kentucky Secretary of State.  
 
To be successful, a cooperative needs to provide a product or service that is needed by multiple parties, but currently is not offered in the marketplace or not offered in a way that is needed. The cooperative business structure capitalizes on strength in numbers.  When it is not feasible for an individual to do something by themselves, sometimes it is feasible for people to do it as a group. Agricultural purchasing cooperatives are a good example of multiple parties purchasing in larger quantities to procure supplies at a more reasonable cost. Farmers’ markets are another example of people successfully coming together to provide a service at cheaper cost, in many cases than each individual could do so by themselves.
 
“I – or our organization – will control the cooperative.” 
Cooperatives are democratically owned and controlled businesses. Each member has one vote and the governing board is elected by the membership.  While profits are distributed based on patronage, or the level of business that each individual or organization does with the co-op, each member has one vote regardless of how much business they do with the co-op.
 
When an individual or single organization tries to control or influence cooperative decisions or policy, it often has a detrimental effect on the organization as a whole. When members act with the “good of the whole” in mind, the cooperative becomes stronger as a result, to the benefit of all the members.
 
“Co-ops can only do business with co-op members.”
Cooperatives are allowed to do business with non-members, as long as it does not make up the majority of their business. The benefits to cooperative members are greater than for non-members for doing business with the co-op. Members are the true owners of the business, and they receive benefits as a result. In some cases, members are able to do business on more favorable terms than non-members, and any profits returned are paid to members, while non-members do not share in any of the profits. In general, if an individual or organization plans to do routine business with a cooperative, it often makes sense to become a member of the cooperative.
 
“Cooperatives do not care about profits.”
Cooperatives are businesses and should be operated with the intent of making a profit.  Otherwise, they will not be in business very long!  However, the goal of the cooperative structure is for business profit and cost savings to be passed on to cooperative members, and not to the cooperative itself.  Many times, cooperatives do operate on a “not for profit basis”. They strive to keep net income low by providing products and services to members at or near cost, and profits are returned back to members in the form of patronage dividends. 
 
Depending on the business idea, a cooperative may or may not be the best business structure. KCARD is Kentucky’s cooperative development center, and can assist in determining if the cooperative structure would best fit your business. For more information about KCARD, please visit our website at www.kcard.info, or call us at (270) 763-8258.
 
Posted: October 5, 2016
 

KCARD Awarded USDA Rural Cooperative Development Grant

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced today that the Kentucky Center for Agriculture and Rural Development (KCARD) is one of 29 organizations across the U.S. that has been awarded a Rural Cooperative Development Grant (RCDG) to provide technical and business development assistance in rural areas.

 

The grants are awarded to non-profit groups and higher education institutions to create and operate centers that help establish, expand, or operate rural businesses, especially cooperatives and mutually-owned businesses.

 

"The $200,000 grant awarded to KCARD will be used to provide direct business and marketing assistance to Kentucky's rural cooperatives, agricultural producers, and other food and ag-related businesses," stated Aleta Botts, KCARD Executive Director. “These funds allow KCARD staff to continue to provide business planning support, work with agribusinesses on financial projections, and help new businesses start and grow, all with the end result of new jobs and economic development in Kentucky.”

 

Kentucky Agricultural Development Board funds provide the match necessary for KCARD to attract these federal grant dollars.

 

Posted: October 4, 2016


USDA Awards Over $1.63 million for Farmers Market and Local Food Projects in Kentucky

USDA Awards Over $1.63 million for Farmers Market and Local Food Projects in Kentucky:
State to Receive Over 6% of the Total Funds Awarded Nationally

 

The Kentucky Center for Agriculture and Rural Development (KCARD) congratulates the six Kentucky entities who have been awarded over $1.6 million in grants from the USDA Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP) and the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP)!  KCARD worked with many of the applicants through its Agribusiness Grant Facilitation Program, funded by the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board. These grants provide ways for local farmers to increase sales to consumers and support businesses that aggregate, process, and market locally-produced agricultural products. 

 

“Kentucky has so many great local food projects and farmers markets, and these funds can help those projects grow faster for the benefit of Kentucky’s farmers,” said Aaron Shapiro, Coordinator of KCARD’s Agribusiness Grant Facilitation Program.  “These USDA programs are competitive and tough to navigate.  For Kentucky to receive over 6% of the national amount awarded speaks to the energy behind these projects in the state and the preparation that these applicants are doing to receive these funds.”

 

Kentucky awardees of the Local Food Promotion Program are listed below:

  • University of Kentucky Research Foundation:  This implementation grant will support Bluegrass Harvest in expanding CSA markets for farmers, consumers, and healthcare providers in central and eastern Kentucky.
  • The Berry Center:  The Local Beef Initiative grant will help producers in Henry County gain more value for their cattle through a regional coordinated marketing program.
  • High South Foods:  This planning grant will be used to conduct a feasibility study and develop a business plan to assist in the development, improvement, and expansion of small to medium Kentuckiana food business enterprises.

 

You can find the complete list of USDA Local Food Promotion Program awardees at https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/2016LFPPDescriptionofFundedProjects.pdf.

 

Kentucky awardees of the Farmers Market Promotion Program are listed below:

  • City of Pikeville:  The Pikeville Farmers Market Capacity Building project will help increase production capacity in the area and marketing for the farmers market in its new location. 
  • Community Farm Alliance:  The Kentucky Statewide Farmers Market Support Program will provide community development, training, and technical assistance to farmers markets across Kentucky.
  • Gateway Farmers Market:  This capacity building project will expand marketing and programming of the SoKY Marketplace farmers market in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

 

You can find the complete list of USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program awardees at https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/2016FMPPDescriptionofFundedProjects.pdf.

 

This fall and winter, KCARD will be seeking entities interested in applying for next year’s funding round for these programs.  The national pool of funding for the two programs is expected to be around $30 million. To learn more about grant opportunities and how KCARD can assist with business planning and development contact Cindy Finneseth at cfinneseth@kcard.info or visit www.kcard.info.

 

The Kentucky Agribusiness Grant Facilitation Program, funded by the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board and led by the KCARD, aims to help agricultural producers and rural businesses in Kentucky learn about, apply for, and receive funding available through numerous program.

 

Posted: September 28, 2016


Life as a KCARD Intern

KCARD hires part-time interns throughout the year to assist in its work with Kentucky farmers and agribusinesses.  This month, we visited with our current intern, Madeline Dant of Bardstown, Kentucky, an Agricultural Economics graduate student at the University of Kentucky to learn more about her internship experience.

 

“Interning with KCARD has been a great opportunity to learn more about Kentucky agriculture and to apply skills that I learned in college in a real life setting” stated summer intern Madeline Dant.  “I researched industry trends and competitors and contacted potential customers, putting together information that was used for writing business plans and feasibility studies that KCARD was conducting.”

 

Best Experience

 

As an intern, Madeline attended various programs that KCARD was taking part in, visited client farms and businesses, and attended staff meetings. Her favorite experiences were the on-farm visits with staff members. “This experience allowed me to not only build upon my communication skills, but also to gain knowledge in areas of agriculture I was unfamiliar with,” states Madeline, citing a high-tunnel tomato operation and a goat operation as two examples.  “The on-farm visits gave me the opportunity to learn more about farming ventures in Kentucky.”

 

Madeline also attended the MarketReady producer training programs and the Meet the Buyer program hosted by KCARD, the University of Kentucky, and Kentucky State University.

 

“Attending MarketReady allowed me to network with different producers, buyers, and entities that assist producers in getting their products ‘market ready’,” explained Madeline. “This training was also useful for me since it provided great information that might be useful in my career.  The most enjoyable part of attending these trainings was meeting new people, learning about who those people were, how they are involved in Kentucky’s agriculture and food industry, and learning about the program itself. Taste testing ice cream from two different Kentucky producers was a perk as well.” Madeline said.

 

Keys to Being a KCARD Intern

 

“As a KCARD intern, time management is huge. You are given several projects to work on simultaneously, and staff are dependent on you as part of the KCARD team,” explains Madeline. Projects are dispersed throughout the summer, and she says it was important to keep a calendar with due dates to stay on top of the projects to complete them in a timely manner. Good research skills and writing skills are critical when helping staff members with business plans and feasibility studies.

 

As an intern, Madeline sat in on staff meetings allowing her to learn more about KCARD’s work. Staff members talked about their current client and project workload, upcoming projects, and news about Kentucky’s agriculture and food industry. Staying in contact with KCARD staff members helped Madeline keep up with current projects. Madeline says, “The staff members of KCARD are very knowledgeable and have taught me valuable skills that I will be able to carry with me throughout my future career.”  

 

Madeline says she would recommend this internship to other students because it is a great experience, allows opportunities to network with Kentuckians in agriculture, and improves your skills in writing, research and communication. She states, “The internship gave me the opportunity to help improve Kentucky agriculture by helping producers with their business plans or feasibility studies.” She goes on to say that this internship is a great way to get involved with and to learn more about business development while helping staff complete various projects for clients across the state.

 

KCARD thanks Madeline for her tremendous work this summer and continuing into the fall!

 

KCARD accepts internship applications throughout the year through our Lexington office.  If you are interested in a KCARD internship, contact Nathan Routt on KCARD’s staff at nroutt@kcard.info or call 270-763-8258. 

 


Farmers Markets: Trends, Issues, and Resources

Farmers markets help communities support local farmers, contribute to the local economy, and connect producers and consumers.  As the number of markets have increased, the variety of the product sold is changing to reflect changing production practices on the farm and changing consumer demands.  How can producers and markets themselves adapt and continue to grow?  Below we talk about some of the trends, issues, and the resources we offer for farmers markets. 

 

How can farmers market vendors in Kentucky use consumer sales and marketing trends to their advantage?

 

Awareness of consumer buying trends can help producers anticipate and plan for historic and emerging demand.  These include:

 

  • “HOT” Foods: According to the National Restaurant Association, locally grown produce, artisan pickles, heirloom apples, unusual/uncommon herbs (i.e. chervil, lovage), dark greens; micro-vegetables/micro-greens, extra hot peppers, heirloom tomatoes, and root vegetables made the Top 100 Hot Foods in 2016 list.  Also on the list were locally-sourced meats, new cuts of meat, and fresh sausage. 

  • Value-Added Products: Value-added products can be an important component of product offerings at farmers markets.  Consumers are interested in purchasing artisan and novel products that showcase locally-grown products and skills.  Kentucky producers can process limited food products in their farm kitchens for sale at farmers markets, certified roadside stands and from the farm provided they grow the predominate agronomic ingredient. For more information, contact the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, Department of Public Health Food Safety Branch.

  • Diet Changes:  People are trying to incorporate more vegetables in the diet, reducing sodium intake, limiting processed foods, and choosing whole grains.  Fresh fruits and vegetables are the foundation of farmers markets and many vendors are now offering dried legumes, nuts, farm-fresh eggs, un-refined grains, and hormone-free meats and dairy products.  Popularity of vegetarian, vegan, Paleo and Mediterranean diets as well as bowl meals require significant amounts of fresh produce that can be easily found at farmers markets.

  • Snacking:  Child-sized portions and “clean” snacks are popular with consumers. With the appropriate certification, farmers market vendors can offer samples and packaged snack-sized portions of products for customers to eat “on-the-go”.  An example would be packaging berries in small cups or putting cherry tomatoes in small packages.

  • Events:  Agritainment and agritourism provide an experience that the public cannot find elsewhere and are increasing in popularity.  Markets can be a “staycation” or tourist destination, attracting customers through planned programming.  Several markets in Kentucky have successfully drawn in customers through live music, performing artists, tastings and cooking demonstrations by local chefs or celebrities, nutritional programs, and children’s activities.

 

Identification of these trends does not mean vendors should immediately change their core products or production plan.  However, being aware of current trends and customer demand allows producers to incorporate aspects of these trends in a measured way to increase sales and think about ways these trends affect their overall product mix. For example, customers may need advice on best use, cooking techniques, taste, and storability of less well-known products.

 

It’s not a new trend, but certainly using social media to communicate with your customers at the market is vital.  Social media – primarily Facebook – is a valuable tool for generating interest in the market, creating customer loyalty, and informing customers of market days and product availability.

 

What are common issues facing farmers markets?

 

Inconsistent vendor attendance, irregular supply of popular items, and products being offered for sale that were produced outside the local geography are issues facing farmers’ markets.  Market organization has been shown to influence vendor success through establishment of market goals, written rules, and general operating guidelines.  Vendor-led markets have strong ties with producers but may have weaker links to the host community and small budgets that restrict marketing, offering activities, and pursuing fundraising. Community-led and organization-supported markets often have a larger number of volunteers, greater access to resources, and can leverage expertise of board members, but under these structures, management may not be as inter-connected with the vendors. Regardless of the market structure, active involvement of vendors and market volunteers, steps to reduce the distance between producers and consumers, and communication are critical to a successful market. 

 

How does KCARD support farmers markets?

 

KCARD offers many services to support individual producers and farmers markets.  These services include business development (including assisting with business and marketing plans) and business fundamentals training (recordkeeping as well as social media and online marketing), as well as consulting on organizational structure for markets. We also work with other great resources for markets in Kentucky:

                Kentucky Department of Agriculture

                University of Kentucky Center for Crop Diversification Market Reports

                USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program

                Kentucky Agricultural Development Board

 

For assistance in business planning, marketing plan development, or organizational and market structure, KCARD has services to help you. For more information about KCARD, please visit our website at www.kcard.info, or call us at (270) 763-8258.

 

Support for KCARD is provided in part by the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board and the USDA Rural Cooperative Development Grant. 


Facebook Ads: The How Tos

Facebook and social media are now a crucial part of promoting your business and reaching the potential customers who want to buy your products and services. With over one billion users worldwide, Facebook is the most visited social media site, and you can create targeted ads on Facebook to reach different audiences and meet different business goals.

 

Before creating your Facebook ad campaign, consider the following five things:

 

1. What do you want to promote? Facebook lets you decide what you want to promote, whether it is to “Like” your page, visit your website, sign up for your e-newsletter, or attend your event.  You can create multiple ads for your business based on what you want the viewer of the ad to do. When deciding what to promote there are a few key questions to ask yourself: What do I want those who see my ad to do? What is my main objective of the ad?

 

2. Who do you want to target? When developing your Facebook ad, Facebook allows you to target an audience based on a variety of characteristics and demographics. You can choose an “audience” based on location, age, gender, languages, and through detailed targeting (interests), and connections (those who like your page, friends of those who like your page, or anyone). Based on how you choose your audience, Facebook can tell you what your estimated daily reach is.

 

To determine the best audience for your ad, take a look at who “Likes” your page currently and who purchases your products, and ask yourself: Who are you currently selling to? Where are they located? What is the age range of your customers? What are specific characteristics of your target audience? For example, do they like to cook? Are they interested in local food? Are they interested in DIY and crafting projects? You don’t want to limit yourself to such a small target audience, but you also don’t want to advertise to people who are unable to have access to your products, so it is often best to experiment with targeting features, such as location, demographics, and interests to reach the people you want. 
 

3. What’s your budget? Facebook lets you allocate certain amounts of money to specific markets or objectives. No matter if you set your budget to a daily limit for one ad or for the total campaign, you are able to control how much you spend. Start with a minimum investment of $5 to test different ad formats and target audiences to grow your campaign without breaking the bank.

 

4. How will you design your ad? Every great Facebook campaign has an attention-getter. Whether that is an interesting headline, a fantastic photo, or a great offer, getting your target audience’s attention is important. One key to Facebook ad success is to have a great design to reel your audience in. Finding your “great design” often takes a little bit of time (unless you love design or are a graphic designer/advertiser). The best way to start creating your ad “design” is to look at what makes your business unique: Does your produce have an irresistible color profile? Does your farm offer impeccable views? If so, use the color palate and various photos of your farm as the background, and add minimal text. Does your event offer live music, a specialty meal, or family-fun activities? Does your business offer easy home delivery options? You’ve got great headlines with these! Develop wording that gets your audience excited and motivated to come to your event or order your product. Remember: Keep it short and simple. No one wants to read a ton of text when viewing an ad.

 

5. Be sure to measure Ad Performance. Once you’ve created your ad and successfully launched it, you will be able to see and measure your ad’s performance. To do this, click the top right arrow of your profile and click “Manage Ads”. You will be able to get an overview of all your campaigns, including how much you’ve spent over the last week for each campaign. You will also be able to view each active campaign individually to see how they are performing. When you take a closer look at your active ads, you can see where your ads reached people to help you better define your target audience.

 

Once you’ve determined what you want to promote, who you want to target, what your budget is, how your ad will look, and how you are going to measure your ad, it’s time to start! To begin creating your Facebook Ad, login to your personal Facebook account. On your “home page”, you will see a column on the left with all sorts of options for Favorites, Pages, Groups, Apps, Developer, and Events. Under the header “Pages” you will see a green box with a plus sign (+) inside it, and it will say “Create Ad” next to it. Click on “Create Ad” and Facebook will direct you to your Ads Manager page, where you can create all your ads. From this page, Facebook will prompt you to begin creating your ad by choosing an objective (what you want to promote), and will walk you through each of the steps mentioned above. 

 

If you want to consider your marketing plans and how these ads might figure into them, KCARD can help.  For more information about KCARD, please visit our website at www.kcard.info, or call us at (270) 763-8258. 


Smash Those Berries and Slap a Label on that Jar: First Steps on Creating a Value-Added Business

Maybe it is a jam, barbecue sauce, or pickled jar of goodness.  Adding value to your produce brings more of the food dollar home to the producer, and having shelf-stable items means your farm product has a whole year to make you money, so we encourage producers to look at those opportunities.  Producing a value-added product can be a good business move, however, you have to look at a few key questions.  Below are ones KCARD staffers typically start with:

 

1. How much does it cost to produce each jar?  Add up the cost of ingredients, any labor or kitchen rental cost of processing it, jar cost, and label cost.

 

2. How much can you charge for that jar?  Look around at what other similar products sell for.  Do market research at grocery stores, specialty stores, farmers’ markets, and wherever else has similar products.

 

3. Is the difference in how much it costs to produce and how much you will sell the product for (also known as your profit margin) enough for you?  This depends on your situation and how much you intend to spend to market the product and pay other costs associated with the business that we did not include in question #1 above (insurance and advertising, for example).

 

4. Where are you allowed to sell your value-added product?  This depends on the product and your particular situation.  Farmers in Kentucky can receive
home-based microprocessor certification for some items, allowing sales at a farmers’ market or their farm.  To sell products to others for resell (for example, a grocery store, specialty store or even online), the product has to be produced in a commercial facility.

 

5. Have potential customers tried your product?  Try to find a good group of people who do not like you. Nah, we are just kidding, but it would be great to find someone outside of your immediate family, friends, and church who will give you an unbiased opinion.  You want to know their reactions, whether they would buy it, and if so, how much they would pay for it.  We love the University of Kentucky’s Food Systems Innovation Center for their ability to conduct that type of customer research, so it is worth working with them before taking the plunge into larger scale production.

 

Give us a call if we can help you evaluate your value-added product.  A lot of great funding sources exist for value-added products, but those funds go to businesses who can answer these questions and show they represent a good investment for those dollars. 

 

For more information about how KCARD can assist you with your value-added enterprise, contact KCARD at 270-763-8358 or info@kcard.info


Working It During the Workshop Season

Last month, we finished our busiest workshop season yet.  While we still have a few targeted trainings coming up (are you on our MarketReady training list for May 18th?), this is a good time to review the workshops we held last year and start thinking about what might be good options for next year. 

 

Creating effective workshops in a variety of topics is no easy task. KCARD talks with a variety of partners throughout the year to plan useful workshops for Kentucky producers and agribusinesses.

 

Have you liked KCARD on Facebook?  We post all our workshops (and those provided by our partners as well) on Facebook and our website, so that is a great way to stay up-to-date on the latest opportunities.

 

KCARD determines what workshops to hold each fall and winter by listening to what producers and businesses tell us throughout the year and what we see as recurring themes in our one-on-one business, marketing, and strategic planning work. Typically, enough people mention a topic that we decide we need to talk to our other partners to see if they have done a similar workshop in the past or have planned one for the future.  If they have not done one and do not have one in the planning process, we begin to look for good sites to host the workshop and start figuring out who else might be interested.  We like to schedule workshop events with enough lead time to allow people to plan ahead.

 

In the past, KCARD has hosted a variety of workshops including grant workshops, marketing workshops, and business planning workshops as well as co-hosted several other workshops:

 

Grant Workshops:  These workshops are designed to help agricultural producers and rural businesses identify grant opportunities and develop a strategy for seeking out those funds. The workshops provide individuals with an opportunity to learn how to search for grants and how to prepare strong applications as well as how to connect with other resources available for their operations.

 

Locally Grown Meat Workshops:  This workshop is designed for producers who are engaged in or interested in marketing their own meat directly to the consumer or to retail stores and restaurants. The workshop provides producers information on regulations, marketing issues, and customer demands.

 

Social Media Workshops:  This workshop assists producers and rural businesses with learning about various social media platforms, the dos and don’ts of posting, social media etiquette, and how to best utilize social media for their business.

 

Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program Grant Writing Workshops:  This grant-specific workshop was a result of a partnership with the University of Kentucky, the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, and the Regional Rural Development Centers (RRDC).

 

Value Added Producer Grant (VAPG) Writing Workshops:  This grant-specific series of workshops was conducted with Kentucky State University.

 

MarketReady Training Programs:  KCARD is proud to be partnering with the University of Kentucky on this long-standing program to help producers navigate the demands of supplying new markets.

 

Farmers Market Support Program Social Media Webinars (coming soon!) with Community Farm Alliance (CFA) to provide social media information and techniques for farmers’ markets across the state.

 

KCARD typically holds workshops in the fall and winter to accommodate as many producers as possible. For more information about KCARD’s workshops or how to partner with KCARD on various workshops, please visit our website at www.kcard.info or call us at (270) 763-8258. 


USDA accepting applications for the Value Added Producer Grant

The USDA Value Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program is designed to help producers that want to add value to an agricultural commodity. The most popular methods we see are changing the physical state (think milk to cheese, berries to jelly), marketing a commodity locally (premium on local product), and produced in a manner that enhances value (think organic/sustainable).

 

This program can be a great help to producers looking to retain more of that food dollar from what they produce on their farm or to investigate new business ideas, but it is not a simple porgram. Like many federal programs, it involves a great deal of paperwork and justification to ensure that the grant dollars are well spent. Successful applicants must show how they are going to increase their sales and expand their customer base with the project funds.

 

KCARD's business development specialists can help develop business plans and feasibility studies for applicants applying for this grant. KCARD's grant facilitator, Aaron Shapiro, can help producers navigate the grant process. In the past four years, KCARD has worked with over 90% of the successful Kentucky applicants to the program.

 

The application deadline for the Value Added Producer Grant is July 1, 2016. If you are interested in applying for a grant, KCARD encourages you to start now on the process. 


USDA accepting applications for the Local Food Promotion Program and Farmers’ Market Promotion Program Grants

The USDA Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP) and Farmers' Market Promotion Program (FMPP) grants are designed to provide ways for local farmers to increase sales to consumers and support businesses that aggregate, process, and market locally-produced agricultural products.

 

This program can be a great help to producers looking to retain more of that food dollar from what they produce on their farm or to investigate new business ideas, but it is not a simple program. Like many federal programs, it involves a great deal of paperwork and justification to ensure that the grant dollars are well spent. 

 

KCARD's business development specialists can help develop business plans, marketing plans, and feasibility studies for applicants applying for the LFPP and FMPP grants. Aaron Shapiro can help people navigate the grant process. In the past four years, KCARD has worked with over 90% of the successful Kentucky applicants to the program.

 

The application deadline for both the Farmers' Market Promotion Program and the Local Food Promotion Program is May 12, 2016. If you are interested in applying for a grant, KCARD encourages you to start on the process now. 


Do You Really NEED It?

Making an investment in buildings and equipment is an important decision. With the endless options for implements and building add-ons it can be hard to figure out where you should spend your money. For additional infrastructure to be a good business decision, you should determine how that expense fits your broader business goals, if it is the right time to make that big purchase, and, ultimately, determine if the investment adds to your bottom line.

 

Below are some questions KCARD staffers typically start with when figuring out if additional infrastructure is a good fit:

 

1. Evaluate your goals for the business - How does this investment support your goals? Why are you considering this item? For example, does it allow you to grow you production, become more efficient, or produce a new or better product?

 

2. Evaluate the timing of the investment and effect on cash flow - Do current conditions make the investment feasibile? Is the business in a good position to take on additional debt or not? Can the business pay for it out of existing cash flow? If so, what is the effect on cash flow? Will you still be able to meet your other expenses if you purchase this new asset? How do the answers to these questions change if we have a bad 2016 either due to weather or prices?

 

3. When will you recoup your costs? You will need to find out the payback period, net present value, and internal rate of return if possible (KCARD can help!) to help you determine if the investment adds to your bottom line in an acceptable time period. If it makes sense at this stage, it's probably a good investment. But take time to "turn over all the rocks" to make sure you're not missing anything that could bias your decision making process.

 

For assistance in determining if a purchase is worth your while or matches the goals of your business, or to just have a sounding board for your thinking on these issues, KCARD has services to help you. For more infomation about KCARD, please visit our website at www.kcard.info, or call us at (270) 763-8258. 


Palmer Farms Meats: Grass-Fed Beef in Calloway County

Stacie Palmer and her family have always raised cattle on their farm in Almo, in Calloway County Kentucky. When the opportunity arose for Stacie to try her hand at selling grass-fed beef directly to the customer, she took it head on and soon learned she was great at marketing their products.

 

“In 2011, we had eleven heifers that weren’t bred. The heifers were a little hefty and would have had to wait till the following breeding season to try to be bred again, so I decided to try my hand at selling grass-finished beef. Within a month, I had all 11 heifers sold. Now, we are selling 45 to 50 head of beef per year as retail cuts,” explained Stacie Palmer, owner of Palmer Farms Meats.

 

Palmer Farms Meats offers grass fed and finished beef, sold by the retail cut. In 2016, Palmer Farms Meats introduced pastured Berkshire pork and chicken, which are raised by local producers and purchased by Palmer Farms Meats.

 

“I wanted to be able to offer my customers more than just beef. We knew several farmers in the area who use similar farming practices as we do, so it was only natural to partner with them to raise the hogs and chickens, then we purchase the live animal and take it to the processor,” stated Stacie.

 

In addition to the new pork and chicken product lines, Palmer Farms Meats offers convenience items for its customers including fully cooked hams, barbeque, summer sausage, bratwursts, hot dogs, and bologna.

 

“Today, people’s lives are so busy and so many don’t have the time or knowledge to cook up a delicious meal. With my pre-cooked items, I wanted to provide the convenience of not having to cook the meat perfectly to make a great dinner,” said Stacie. “In addition to pre-cooked items, I try to share recipes I have through the blog on our website and as customers purchase meat. I can’t count how many times I get calls from customers asking for recipes or cooking advice.”

 

Palmer Farms Meats first heard of the Kentucky Center for Agriculture and Rural Development (KCARD) several years ago through the local United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) office. It wasn’t until later that Stacie Palmer reached out to KCARD about applying for the USDA Value Added Producer Grant (VAPG).

 

“Stacie wanted to apply for a VAPG to help grow her packaged beef sales, which made them a great fit for the VAPG,” explained Kevin Heidemann, KCARD Business Development Specialist. “After a few minutes of talking with Stacie on the farm, it was clear that she knew what she was doing and had great products, but that she would need help meeting the grant application deadline while running her business and working on the farm.”

 

Stacie worked with KCARD and its Agribusiness Grant Facilitation Program (AGFP) to complete a USDA Rural Development Value-Added Producer Grant application, which was awarded in late 2016 to assist with the expansion of her beef products. The application for this program requires the producer to consider which product lines to expand, what markets are underserved or untapped that would benefit from the business’s products, and how best to reach those markets.

 

“The Value Added Producer grant would have never happened if it wasn’t for KCARD and the AGFP. They gave me deadlines, kept me on track, and worked with me every step of the way,” stated Stacie.

 

“Stacie worked hard to pull the application together with assistance from the KCARD team. The grant funds will be used for processing and marketing costs to expand their value-added beef sales in western Kentucky,” said Aaron Shapiro, AGFP’s Grant Facilitator.

 

Palmer Farms Meats plans to continue to work with KCARD beyond grant services, including social media marketing and market development.

 

Palmer Farms Meats is still expanding their herd to offer grass-finished beef products to an expanded customer base. They are also still growing the pork and chicken products and will continue to develop those product lines.

 

“We have made some amazing friendships through selling beef. I love to visit with my customers, and show their kids the cows,” explained Stacie. “My biggest customer base is young moms, and being a wife who farms with her husband and homeschools three kids, I know how busy they are, so I try to cater my business to them."

 

Palmer Farms Meats sells its products at the Murray Farmers Market, Paducah Farmers Markets, and to various health food stores. Palmer Farms Meats also offers delivery services to Paducah, KY, Nashville, TN, Clarksville, TN, Evansville, IN, and Mount Vernon, IL. Products can also be purchased directly off the farm through their on-farm meat market.

 

In addition to selling at local markets and off the farm, Palmer Farms Meats offers a fundraising option for local charities and non-profit organizations to sell select Palmer Farms Meats products, and receive 10% of sales made over a certain period. Throughout the last few years, Palmer Farms Meats has done a lot of fundraisers with local ministries, such as Starfish Orphan Ministry and Joy Beyond Tears.

 

To learn more about Palmer Farms Meats, check out Palmer Farms Meats on Facebook, visit their website at www.palmerfarmsbeef.com, or contact Stacie directly at palmerfarmsbeef@gmail.com or (270) 227-1614.

 

The Kentucky Center for Agriculture and Rural Development helps agricultural producers, agribusinesses, and others by providing assistance with business planning, grant and loan packages, strategic planning, business management reviews, operations and cost analysis, record-keeping development, feasibility studies, and on-site business consultations. Support for KCARD is provided in part by the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board and the USDA Rural Cooperative Development Grant. The Agribusiness Grant Facilitation Program is funded by the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board. To learn more about KCARD services visit www.kcard.info

 

Posted May 11, 2017


Sustainable Harvest Farm: Offering a Full Basket of Farm Goods out of London, Kentucky

Nestled off a country road in London, Kentucky, Sustainable Harvest Farm offers fields of greens, fruits, vegetables, and pastures dotted with cattle and hogs.  The farm grew out of a love of the outdoors, wholesome food, environmental stewardship, and rural community life by the owners Ford and Amanda Waterstrat.

 

Ford, a former physical education teacher, began his career in agriculture in 2006 while working a summer job at Elmwood Stock Farm in Georgetown, Kentucky. This sparked his interest in agriculture and gave him experience in the field, where he could produce nourishing food for his family and community. In 2009, Ford started Sustainable Harvest Farm with his wife Amanda, where they live with their three boys.

 

“As a school teacher, I couldn’t keep doing a good job at teaching, being a parent to my children, and farming. Something had to give, and as much as teaching was enjoyable, farming is my true passion,” explained Ford.

 

Ford turned to the Kentucky Center for Agriculture and Rural Development (KCARD) starting in 2016 to begin work on a business plan and financial statements.  Additionally, Ford used KCARD for something many businesses appreciate:  bouncing ideas off someone with experience in the industry.

 

“It has been very helpful to have Myrisa to talk to,” explained Ford. “She helps us think more deeply on the future of our business and where it can go.”

 

“Ford and I have spent a lot of time discussing market opportunities and how to diversify the farm,” states Myrisa Christy. “Working with Sustainable Harvest Farm has been rewarding. I’ve seen not only seen the vision and goals of the business put into action, but also their commitment.”

 

Sustainable Harvest Farm offers USDA certified organic fresh fruit and vegetables May through October to its customers through CSA shares.  CSAs – Community Supported Agriculture – allow consumers to participate in the growing cycle of the farm by purchasing at the beginning of the season when farmers most need money for inputs and then receive a portion of the farm’s products regularly throughout the year.

 

Sustainable Harvest Farm also sells at several farmers markets, including the Knoxville Farmers Market, London Farmers Market, the EKU-Richmond Farmers Market, and the Berea Farmers Market during market seasons.  During the winter months, Sustainable Harvest Farm offers USDA certified organic winter vegetable CSA shares. In addition to farmers markets and winter and summer produce CSAs, Sustainable Harvest Farm offers year around options for a grass-fed meat CSA share, which includes beef and pork.

 

“Our goal with our farming practices is to make the land more productive, through the organic practices we follow. We want to improve the quality of our farm and the ecosystem that supports it instead of making it worse,” states Ford.

 

Sustainable Harvest Farm is one operation that KCARD has assisted as part of a grant the organization received from the Economic Development Administration in late 2015. 

 

“Through our EDA and ARC Power grants, KCARD and our partners can work intensively in eastern Kentucky and help connect farmers to markets,” said Myrisa Christy, Project Director for the Power grant. With The Power of Food: Local Food Supply Chain Development in Eastern Kentucky, KCARD is working one-on-one with agricultural producers, food entrepreneurs, and agribusinesses in southeastern Kentucky to help businesses develop, scale up, and create jobs.  In the last year, KCARD has worked with over 50 farmers, agribusinesses, and support organizations in southeastern Kentucky.

 

Christy began working with Sustainable Harvest Farm over a year ago, providing business planning support and recordkeeping assistance.  In addition, Sustainable Harvest is now considering options to fund their growing operation, such as the USDA Value Added Producer Grant (VAPG), and will be obtaining a GAP audit and selling some organic produce wholesale.

 

“By bringing partners together, including Community Farm Alliance and the University of Kentucky, we can get resources to producers and agribusinesses that help them enter the food supply chain,” states Christy.  

 

In 2018, Sustainable Harvest Farm will begin offering a “customizable” CSA. Customers will be able to choose what products and quantities they want each week. Currently, customers pick the size of the share they want during the season but are not given the choice of produce or how much of each vegetable or fruit they want.

 

 “Many people want to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, but get overwhelmed with a typical CSA basket and don’t sign back up. The current CSA model we are using makes it hard for us to retain customers season after season. With our new customizable model, we are going to try to cater to the customer more while keeping with the convenience of a CSA,” explained Ford.

 

Sustainable Harvest Farm still has 2017 Summer CSA Shares available. Shares include a variety of fruit and vegetables, May through October. There are three sizes to choose from: Small (1-2 people), Regular (2-4 people), and Extra Large (6+ people). They offer 9 different pick up locations including Knoxville, TN, London, KY, Somerset, KY, Richmond, KY, and Lexington, KY. Sustainable Harvest Farm also offers various events during the summer months.

 

To learn more about Sustainable Harvest Farm’s events and its CSA, visit their website at www.sustainableharvestfarm.com to sign up for the CSA and their Facebook Page to keep up with what is going on at the farm. For any additional questions, contact Ford Waterstrat at (859) 227-5101, or via email at ford.waterstrat@gmail.com.

 

Posted April 17, 2017


Jackson County Regional Food Center: Serving the Appalachian Area and Beyond

Jackson County Regional Food Center – located in Tyner, Kentucky – is providing new ways for farmers and food entrepreneurs to develop their businesses and add to their sales by offering expanded copacking services and partnering with other organizations to provide business support.  The mission of the Jackson County Regional Food Center has been to provide Appalachian farmers and small businesses with an opportunity to tap a growing market with locally-produced, value-added products.  Now, instead of being just a commercial kitchen, JCRFC is working towards becoming a “total food campus”.

 

“Our goal at the Center is to be a place for food production and education on healthy living and the culture of the region,” explains Rebecca Woods, JCRFC manager.

 

The Center has a pavilion for events, a state-of-the-art commercial kitchen, a docking station for the Kentucky State University (KSU) mobile poultry processing unit, and equipment for honey extraction. JCRFC staff provide educational opportunities, processing assistance, and outreach. The facility has the capacity to process canned goods including jams, jellies, hot sauces, salad dressings, and barbecue sauces.  In addition, they can make baked good and dried goods (seasonings, spices, etc.).

 

Individuals and companies can rent the facility to develop recipes and produce value-added food products on a commercial scale. This lets customers efficiently make large quantities of their product. The Center also offers copacking services (processing product for individuals), storage, and works with various partners to provide consulting services as needed by clients, including nutritional analysis.

 

“The Jackson County Food Center provides a unique food manufacturing resource for entrepreneurs in the region,” explains Myrisa Christy, Program Director for KCARD. “The Center is a valuable link in Eastern Kentucky’s supply chain and the developing local food movement.”

 

The Center serves many different groups in the region:  local farmers who make value-added food products, food entrepreneurs who want to create their own food products, restaurants and caterers, and students who learn about food production and agribusiness.

 

Powdered products can be produced at the facility and there is a dry fill machine available to assist in the speedy filling of packages. There are also several pieces of specialized equipment to assist with food production including dehydrators, a double convection oven, and 40-, 60-, and 100-gallon kettles, which allows the user to make a total of 200-gallons of liquid product at one time.

 

“The wide variety of equipment, ample production space, and knowledgeable staff make the center a great value for both large and small producers”, said Nathan Routt, Business Development Specialist for KCARD.  “The Jackson County Regional Food Center has worked with KCARD for several years.  KCARD has worked to further the Center’s efforts to establish good processes, develop the board, and derive financial projections to help the board focus on efforts to become sustainable.”

 

“Working with KCARD has allowed the JCRFC Board to focus on the nuts and bolts of the Center,” stated Woods. “The technical assistance KCARD provided helped us to redevelop a solid foundation for the Center,” explained Woods. “We will continue to utilize KCARD and the resources they provide for as long as we are able.”

 

JCRFC has three upcoming workshops planned in partnership with KSU to benefit producers and one in partnership with the University of Kentucky Jackson County Cooperative Extension office:

 

  • Chicken Care 101 – (three-part series) Thursdays, March 30 and April 6 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Participants will learn the basics of chicken care and work with Steve Skelton from KSU to put together a 10' x 10' pen. Participants will receive the pen as well as feeding and watering systems. * The final day will be scheduled shortly. Participants must attend all three sessions to receive the items.

 

  • Grape Vines in the Mountains - Wednesday, April 26 from 10 a.m. till noon. Participants will learn how to cultivate and care for grape vines. They will receive pots, soil, and grape vine cuttings.

 

  • Drones Helping Drones - Wednesday, May 3 from 10 a.m. till noon. Participants will learn how to use drones to plot the best place to put honey bees and where to plant their garden. Exploring the workings of bee hives and honey production will also be covered.

 

  • Canning Your Harvest – Thursday, June 15th, 22nd, 29th, and July 6th at 10 a.m. till noon or 5 p.m. till 7 p.m. This workshop is in partnership with the UK Cooperative Extension Office and is a great opportunity for home gardeners who want to preserve their harvest for personal use as well as those who may be interested in becoming food entrepreneurs.

JCRFC is located 17 miles from London (exit 41) off Interstate-75. With the new route 30, JCRFC is easily accessible for all types of vehicles. “We keep flexible hours knowing that most of our clients are farmers, and try hard to work around their schedules,” explains Woods.

 

If you are interested in signing up for one or all of the workshops, want to know more about the Center, or would like to schedule a tour, contact JCRFC via their website at www.regionalfoodcenterky.com, their Facebook page, or via phone at (606) 364-3436.

 

The Kentucky Center for Agriculture and Rural Development helps agricultural producers, agribusinesses, and others by providing assistance with business planning, grant and loan packages, strategic planning, business management reviews, operations and cost analysis, record-keeping development, feasibility studies, and on-site business consultations. Support for KCARD is provided in part by the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board and the USDA Rural Cooperative Development Grant. To learn more about KCARD services visit www.kcard.info


Farmer Joe’s: A New Generation Enters the Family Farm

Joe Weber always enjoyed raising cattle on his family farm in Salvisa, Kentucky when he was younger. College pulled him away, but in 2013, he decided to follow his passion and go back to the family farm and create a business doing what he loves. Joe changed careers from being an environmental engineer to taking over the family farm in Salvisa, Kentucky.  Soon after, “Farmer Joe’s” was developed.

 

“I never thought you could make a living farming,” explained Joe Weber, owner and operator of Farmer Joe’s. “After reading one of Joel Salatin’s books, I realized it could be possible and gave it a shot.”

 

Farmer Joe’s products are pasture raised on certified organic pastures, and Farmer Joe’s finishes its beef on grass.  In addition to cattle, chickens, and sheep, Farmer Joe’s added turkeys, hogs, and ducks in 2014 to create more income in a shorter time frame than it takes to finish the lambs and beef.

 

Over the years, Joe has found breeds that work best on pasture for him including Devon influenced cattle, Katahdin sheep, Pekin ducks, and two chicken breeds for laying and meat.  Farmer Joe’s sells grass fed and finished beef and lamb, pastured pork, and pastured poultry including ducks, turkeys, chickens, and eggs.

 

The Kentucky Center for Agriculture and Rural Development (KCARD) has worked closely with Farmer Joe’s over the last two years to develop a comprehensive business plan, including pro-forma financial projections, marketing and sales outlook, and operations plan.

 

 “Joe’s hard work and dedication really showed through the whole process,” stated Kati Bowman, KCARD Business Development Assistant. “Joe communicated his goals, the challenges to his business, and what changes he was seeing, providing critical details to help us learn about his business.” 

 

 “KCARD’s assistance in creating a business plan has helped improve Farmer Joe’s significantly,” said Joe. “Before KCARD’s involvement, my business plan consisted of an envelope with the sales goals I wanted to hit. Now with KCARD’s help, my goals have gone from scribbles on the back of an envelope to part of an all-inclusive document that I am proud of,” explained Joe.

 

KCARD continues to work with Farmer Joe’s as the business continues to develop by updating the business plan and financials yearly.

 

“Developing a solid business plan gives a business the ability to see their ideas laid out, and make realistic goals to achieve the various expansions or changes to the business they wish to accomplish,” states Bowman. “Farmer Joe’s business plan gives him the opportunity to review where he has been and continue planning for the future.”

 

Joe has also worked for two years with KCARD and its Agribusiness Grant Facilitation Program (AGFP) to complete a USDA Rural Development Value-Added Producer Grant application, which was awarded in late 2016 to assist with the expansion of his poultry products. The application for this program requires the producer to consider which product lines to expand, what markets are underserved or untapped that would benefit from the business’s products, and how to best reach those markets.

 

“The Value Added Producer grant would have never happened if it wasn’t for KCARD and the AGFP. They put things into perspective, and worked with me every step of the way,” stated Joe.

 

KCARD and the AGFP continue to work with Farmer Joe’s providing recordkeeping assistance for that grant. 

 

In addition to the Value Added Producer Grant, Joe also received funds from the Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy for the purchase of energy efficient freezers to assist in on-farm storage of Farmer Joe’s products.

 

Farmer Joe’s sells its products at the Boyle County Farmers Market, to various restaurants in Lexington, Louisville, and Danville, and to Good Foods Co-Op in Lexington, KY. Products can also be purchased directly off the farm through contacting Joe via Facebook or email.

 

In late spring 2017, Farmer Joe’s will be launching a Buying Club for customers to purchase various Farmer Joe’s products monthly. Details are still being determined.

 

To learn more about Farmer Joe’s, check out Farmer Joe’s on Facebook, or give Joe a call at (859) 321-1691.

 

The Kentucky Center for Agriculture and Rural Development helps agricultural producers, agribusinesses, and others by providing assistance with business planning, grant and loan packages, strategic planning, business management reviews, operations and cost analysis, record-keeping development, feasibility studies, and on-site business consultations. Support for KCARD is provided in part by the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board and the USDA Rural Cooperative Development Grant. To learn more about KCARD services visit www.kcard.info.

 

Posted February 8, 2017


KCARD in Review 2016
In 2016: 
  • KCARD assisted clients in over 90 counties in Kentucky.
  • Helped Kentucky producers and rural businesses bring in over $3.3 million in federal grant funds.
  • Assisted 358 different producers and businesses in 2016, an increase of 76% from 2015.
KCARD has been assisting Kentucky agricultural producers and agribusinesses for 15 years, but a lot has changed since we first formed in 2001.  We are always looking to improve, so if you recently received a survey from us asking for feedback, we hope you will be able to fill it out and send it our way.  If you need that survey, just email Cindy Finneseth at cfinneseth@kcard.info or call her at 859-494-6516.
 
The Kentucky Center for Agriculture and Rural Development helps agricultural producers, agribusinesses, and others by providing assistance with business planning, grant and loan packages, strategic planning, business management reviews, operations and cost analysis, record-keeping development, feasibility studies, and on-site business consultations.  Support for KCARD is provided in part by the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board and the USDA Rural Cooperative Development Grant. To learn more about KCARD services, visit www.kcard.info or give us a call at (270) 763-8258.
 
Posted January 10, 2017
Edited January 19, 2017

Give the Gift of Local

This holiday season, you do not have to look far for a great gift! The Kentucky Center for Agriculture and Rural Development is showcasing products of producers and agribusinesses on Facebook and Twitter this holiday season.

 

Beginning December 5th through December 23rd, we will post a gift idea each day on our Facebook page and Twitter feed. Each post will contain information about the product and links to either the vendor’s Facebook Page or website.

 

Use these posts to find the perfect gifts for your loved ones, local food for your tables, and all your holiday needs for this time of year: 

 

For the Foodie in Your Life – Treat yourself and add to your holiday traditions by bringing fresh, flavorful, and local food to your table.

 

Secret Santa Gifts Anyone Will Want -  Feel good about getting that one-of-a-kind gift while supporting the local economy all at the same time.

 

Holiday Hostess Gifts - Delight a friend or relative with one of these creative picks. Our guide includes local Kentucky wines, cheeses, and handmade bath and body products.

 

Share your purchases with us by posting to our Facebook or Twitter page and using the hashtag #KeepItLocalKY and #ShopSmall. You can see a full range of local producers and agribusinesses on our Facebook page. The Give the Gift of Local campaign will conclude on December 23, 2016. Be sure to shop local this holiday season! 

 

Posted December 6, 2016


Summit Meat Processing: A Family Tradition Brought Into the 21st Century

Since the late 1800s, the Turpen family has operated local, family-owned meat processing facilities in southcentral Kentucky, owned a meat processing facility in Nancy, and raised quality beef and pork. The August opening of Summit Meat Processing continues the Turpen family passion for the business that has been passed down through generations. This new business will serve Pulaski County and area producers through processing fresh, high quality local meats in Kentucky.

 

“Along with being a 6th generation farmer myself, my grandfather started processing quality meats in the 1960's and passed down his passion to me,” said Kyle Turpen, owner of Summit Meat Processing. “By partnering with local farm families, we can offer the freshest, highest quality meat with direct traceability back to its home farm.”

 

Kyle lives in a county with some of the highest cattle numbers in Kentucky, yet Pulaski County did not have a processing facility for area producers. In 2012, Kyle envisioned a processing facility in southcentral Kentucky that would offer custom processing as well as USDA-inspected products to be sold at a small retail store.  Before making the decision to open a processing facility, Kyle turned to the Kentucky Center for Agriculture and Rural Development (KCARD) to help conduct market research.

 

“KCARD worked with us to research the market, see how many producers would be willing to use a new processing facility in the area, and if a facility was even feasible in Pulaski County,” explained Kyle. “We were able to see what a facility would need to offer to producers and create financial projections that would ensure success for the facility.”

 

“From the first meeting, it was obvious that Kyle is very passionate about establishing a business that can benefit both local livestock producers and local consumers,” said Brent Lackey, KCARD Business Development Specialist. “Kyle put a lot of time and effort into planning Summit Meat Processing and making his vision become reality.”

 

Summit Meat Processing applied for county and state Agriculture Development Funds with assistance from KCARD. From those applications, Summit Meat Processing secured a forgivable loan from the Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund and received funding through the Pulaski, Lincoln, and Laurel County Agricultural Development Boards to assist with the building and development of Summit Meat Processing.

 

Construction was completed late summer 2016 and Summit Meat Processing opened its doors for custom processing at the beginning of August 2016.

 

“We put the customer first, and let them know that we do care and want to make their order right every time. If the order isn’t right, we will try to make it right by the customer at the end of the day,” explained Kyle. “At the end of each day, we thoroughly clean the entire facility to ensure that the meat processed the next day is processed in a clean environment.”

 

Summit Meat Processing has big plans for the future, including opening a retail store to offer high quality pork and beef products like custom sausage, cured and smoked hams and bacons, and many more signature pork and beef products. Eventually, they want to offer online ordering with a shipping or delivery option.

 

“We are working on becoming USDA certified to begin offering Summit Meat Processing labeled beef and pork products in a retail store and online store,” said Kyle. “Right now though we are focused on perfecting our processes and making sure the products we put out are of the highest quality.”

 

In an effort to support the local community, Summit Meat Processing is working with the local God’s Food Pantry and Hunters with Heart. Hunters with Heart allows local hunters to donate their deer meat to the local food pantry and provide a quality protein source to numerous families in need in the region.

 

“Many food banks cannot afford to provide adequate protein to all those who use the services,” explains Kyle. “Our hope for Hunters with Heart is to provide ground venison to local food banks so they can feed those who are in need of a healthy meal.”

 

Hunters who want to participate in Hunters with Heart can donate the entire animal to Summit Meat Processing at the time of processing. The cost of the deer tag is the only cost to the hunter. Hunters who wish to keep the back strap can donate $25 to the program, which will help cover the cost of processing and delivery to God’s Food Pantry.

 

Summit Meat Processing is located at 244 Ware Road in Science Hill and is open Monday through Friday from 7am to 5pm. The business has extended hours during deer season. To learn more about Summit Meat Processing visit www.summitmeat.com, call (606)423-9369, or check out their Facebook page.

 

The Kentucky Center for Agriculture and Rural Development helps agricultural producers, agribusinesses, and others by providing assistance with business planning, grant and loan packages, strategic planning, business management reviews, operations and cost analysis, record-keeping development, feasibility studies, and on-site business consultations. Support for KCARD is provided in part by the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board and the USDA Rural Cooperative Development Grant. To learn more about KCARD services visit www.kcard.info

 

Posted: November 9, 2016


Hopkinsville Elevator: A farmer-owned cooperative returning value to members
Founded in 1968, Hopkinsville Elevator in Kentucky began when a group of farmers recognized that there would be more value in their grain if they had ownership in where they sold it. Since then, the cooperative has grown to 3,500 members and has annual revenue of more than $600 million. While offering its members a place to sell grain is its core mission, Hopkinsville Elevator also owns an ethanol plant, a farm supply business, a finance company and crop insurance company.
 
The growth of the cooperative is due to the vision of its members, according to Jerry Good, general manager of Hopkinsville Elevator. Good has worked at the co-op for 41 years and has served as the general manager since 2009. 
 
“It has grown because of the patron-owner,” says Good. “The farmers themselves are the ones that have made Hopkinsville Elevator as successful as it is today, along with a group of good, dedicated employees.”
The co-op has members in 64 counties in Kentucky and about 30 counties in Tennessee.  Good believes that returning profits to the co-op members has played a large role in attracting new members.
 
“Returning profits to members is the biggest reason the co-op has experienced growth,” Good says. “This shows that the cooperative system really works and has attracted a lot of its new members. Over the last 20 years, we have returned over $130 million in cash back to the farmers, and that money goes back into local communities.”
 
Milestones critical to co-op’s success
Good cites two major milestones for sparking the growth and increased profitability of the co-op. First, in 1978, the co-op opened its river terminal facility in Clarksville, Tenn.  
 
“Before we opened the facility in Clarksville, we were just a rail facility here in Hopkinsville; we realized that we needed another market besides rail,” explains Good. “Opening the Clarksville location gave us the ability to be more competitive with prices. This led to the biggest boom in membership and expansion into Tennessee and other counties in Kentucky.” 
 
The second critical milestone was the opening of Commonwealth Agri-Energy in 2004, an ethanol plant owned by the co-op. 
 
“A lot of the success and growth over the last 10 years has been due to the ethanol plant,” says Good. “It has been a great asset for our farmers.”
 
Dedicated board points the way
No co-op will succeed without a strong board of directors, and Hopkinsville Elevator has benefited from a strong group of farmer-members on its board to provide direction and leadership for the co-op. 
 
“The board has the best interest of the co-op and its members in mind,” says Good. “As a group, they are all looking in the same direction down the road. They might not be seeing the same thing, but they are all looking in the same direction, which makes it easier to make decisions.”
 
Over the past couple of years, Hopkinsville Elevator has turned to the Kentucky Center for Agriculture and Rural Development (KCARD) for assistance in researching the feasibility of possible expansions. “Working with KCARD has worked well for us,” Good says. “It was very helpful to us to have KCARD compile the information and present it all in one package where it was easier for us to review and make an informed decision. A lot of businesses don’t utilize assets like KCARD enough.” 
 
Good is not exactly sure what the future of Hopkinsville Elevator or agriculture will look like with the changing technology and regulations, but he is sure of one thing. “As a co-op, we will still do what we do best, which is to provide a service to our patron-members.”
 
For more information about Hopkinsville Elevator, check out their website at http://www.hopelevator.com/
 
Posted: October 5, 2016.
 

Seven Springs Sorghum Producers: A community inspired business

In 2007 when Harry Irwin bought his Metcalfe County farm and became friends with farming neighbor Frankie Froggett, the two never imagined their mutual interest in growing cane and making sorghum would lead to becoming business partners.  Nine years later, the farmers are looking forward to inviting the community out on September 24, 2016 for the 4th Annual Seven Springs Sorghum Festival at the new Barn at Node on Irwin’s farm in Sulphur Well.  

 

“Seven Springs Sorghum Producers and the annual festival have grown out of our love of making sorghum and the enjoyment of sharing the experience with our community,” said Rebecca Froggett, daughter-in-law of Frankie and a partner in Seven Springs Sorghum.  “We are really excited about the new Barn at Node and how we are expanding our operations. We have the Kentucky Center for Agriculture and Rural Development (KCARD) to thank for helping us make it happen.”

 

Rebecca explained that today there are five families behind Seven Springs Sorghum Producers: Frankie Froggett, Harry Irwin, Gary Harlow, Derick Harlow, and Rebecca’s family. The partners decided to establish a business entity after completing a couple of successful festivals and having continuous requests from locals in the community to buy their sorghum.  Her business partner, Harry Irwin, reached out to KCARD to explore options for the business.

 

“KCARD met with us in Edmonton, and we shared with them about the families involved, the business to date, and what we had been doing at the festival,” said Rebecca. “They helped us set up our business plan and financials.  Then, we began to explore grant options for expanding the business.” 

 

“Harry has a vision and passion for creating an old-time farm experience for the community to enjoy and for educating today’s youth that spotlights the tradition of making sorghum,” said Brent Lackey, KCARD Business Specialist. “Harry, Rebecca, and the other owners have put a lot of time and effort into planning and creating Seven Springs Sorghum Producers.”

 

“KCARD has helped us every step of the way during our expansion, from helping us structure our finances to reviewing our grant applications,” said Rebecca Froggett. “KCARD worked with us to identify and develop applications for three main grants that are really allowing us to expand our facilities and the festival itself.”

 

Seven Springs Sorghum Producers applied for three grants in 2015 with assistance from KCARD, including a Kentucky Agriculture Development Fund (KADF) grant, the Kentucky State University (KSU) Small Farmer grant, and a USDA Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG). Rebecca explained that KCARD recommended these three grants to allow Seven Springs Sorghum to potentially secure funding that would allow them to work on both the infrastructure and marketing of the operation in tandem.

 

“We turned to the Ag Development Fund to assist with infrastructure.  Mr. Irwin and I had to present our application to Green, Metcalfe, Hart, and Barren County Ag Development committees and then had to go before the state board and that can be daunting,” said Rebecca. “KCARD went above anything I had expected with the grant process.”

 

The hard work paid off and in August 2015, Seven Springs Sorghum Producers, LLC was approved for $30,000 in state and $30,000 in county Ag Development Funds as a grant to be used to construct an event barn.  The almost-finished Barn at Node event facility is going to be open at the 2016 Sorghum Festival and Rebecca says they plan to expand and have other agricultural-related events at the barn.

 

“It was just so exciting to have our community and the surrounding counties support our project,” said Rebecca. “Then just a few short weeks later we learned that the USDA approved our application for the USDA VAPG.  There is no way our organization could have received both of these grants without the help of KCARD.”

 

The USDA VAPG grant is allowing Seven Spring Sorghum Producers to expand the marketing of their sorghum products beyond the circle of friends that attend the festival each fall.  Rebecca explained that the owners have worked this past spring to launch the new website for the company and begin development of labeling for their product.

 

“Seven Springs’ careful planning and hard work really paid off,” said Aaron Shapiro, KCARD Grant Facilitator. “The funding will be well spent to help them build a brighter future for ’local’ sorghum producers in Kentucky.”

 

“We are wrapping up the construction on the Barn at Node, but we still have much to do on the marketing side using the Value-Added Producer Grant funds,” said Rebecca. “Right now though we are focused on the Sorghum Festival and making this year’s festival the best one yet for our community.”

 

In an effort to say thank you to the Metcalfe County agriculture community that supported the building of the Barn at Node with a $15,000 grant, Seven Springs Sorghum has selected the Metcalfe County 4-H and the Metcalfe County Farmers Market as the charities to fund this year with proceeds from the festival.

 

“Since we began the festival, we have always donated proceeds from the festival to a local charity and this year we wanted to give back to our agriculture community,” said Rebecca. “The local farmers market is running on a grant and the grant funding will stop after this year and we hope we can help them take a step toward sustainability.”

 

“Seven Springs is very community-oriented and wants to create a destination for the community to enjoy,” said Lackey.  “The focus of the festival and their continuing effort to make significant donations to local non-profit organizations highlights what makes this business and these individuals unique and successful.”

 

The new Barn at Node and other marketing efforts have inspired the team at Seven Springs Sorghum Producers to make some exciting changes for the Sorghum Festival this year. 

 

They have secured new vendors for the festival, new activities for the children, and new musicians to perform.  Yet they haven’t lost sight of what makes this festival special, which is the old fashioned festival experience.  The festival will continue to feature sorghum-making demonstrations, the classic car cruise-in, an antique tractor display, the corn hole tournament, and focus on giving participants a chance to learn about the community and agriculture.

 

To learn more about Seven Springs Sorghum Producers visit www.sevenspringssorghum.com.

 

The Kentucky Center for Agriculture and Rural Development helps agricultural producers, agribusinesses, and others by providing assistance with business planning, grant and loan packages, strategic planning, business management reviews, operations and cost analysis, record-keeping development, feasibility studies, and on-site business consultations. Support for KCARD is provided in part by the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board and the USDA Rural Cooperative Development Grant. To learn more about KCARD services visit www.kcard.info.


Celebrating National Farmers Market Week: Berea Farmers Market

Berea Farmers Market is one of the oldest continuous working farmers markets in Kentucky.  After years of moving locations around town, this farmer cooperative is ready for a permanent home, and the Berea Farmers Market board is working with KCARD to make it happen.

 

“KCARD works with cooperatives on business development, so the board asked them to help Berea Farmers Market with a feasibility study to focus on the establishment of a permanent location for the market,” explained Drew Elliott, the board President and owner of Clementine’s Bake Shop in Berea. “The market membership has grown and we have a waiting list most years for spots, so we are ready for more than just an empty parking lot.  We wanted a permanent home for our farmers.”

 

“KCARD provides business assistance to cooperatives through our USDA Rural Cooperative Development Grant, and we used these funds to help the Berea Farmers Market with this project,” explained Nathan Routt, KCARD Business Specialist. “We helped them look into the feasibility of changing locations to a more permanent spot with a covered pavilion and indoor retail area for year-round sales of produce and prepared foods/deli/coffee.”

 

“Everybody from KCARD has been great,” said Elliott. “There was no way we could have done this feasibility study on our own.  While the assistance provided by KCARD was instrumental in making this happen, I also know that from a time perspective and knowledge base it is a challenge to take on a project such as this and having KCARD involved every step of the way was the key to making this happen.”

 

The study showed that a new more permanent location away from planned construction near the Berea College Farm Store was feasible.  Also, given the number of vendors and the status of the established market, a covered pavilion was feasible with help from outside entities that could provide funding and access to land.

 

“The study showed that an indoor retail sales area was not feasible at the current time,” said Routt. “We advised them that if they got the chance to build a covered pavilion they should design it so they could enclose a section at a later date, if an indoor retail sales area became feasible.”

 

Routt explained that the study identified that most of the established larger public markets in larger cities looked at added infrastructure and broadened product offerings at a pace that matched customer demand. In working with the market, KCARD knew the path of growth for the Berea market could be similar and as the customer base grows, the market may be able to reach a point where an indoor retail area is feasible.

 

“They have a good base of current customers, and if growth experienced in the past couple of years continues, they could make the case for adding it in the future,” said Routt.

 

The board of the Berea Farmers Market plan to use the recently completed feasibility study as they plan for the future of the market.

 

“We are hoping to take the study and information gained in the process and use it as we begin talks with the city to partner on a permanent location for the farmers market,” said Elliott.  “We would like to see a partnership develop between the market and the City of Berea like we have seen develop in other cities. We realize everyone has a tight budget, and that is the main reason we want to have a study with that outside independent professional perspective to take with our proposal to the city.”

 

This year’s market season is going full force at its current location downtown, as the board is planning for the future of the market behind the scenes. The market has 30 members, who range from specialized small farmers to large scale farmers, both organic and conventional, who offer a wide range of products. Elliott noted that in the last five years both membership and aggregate sales have grown rapidly.

 

“We are a 100% producer market, so our customers know if they are buying from a vendor, they are buying produce or value-added products made by that individual,” said Elliott.  “We offer our customers a great experience at the market and a wide range of products. The increase in sales and vendors loading up at the end of the day with empty trucks show that we are providing a service to our customers in the community.”

 

The market received a USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program grant a few years ago to begin offering customers more than just produce at the market.  The market utilized the grant funds to start a special 2nd Saturday promotion for the market.  On the 2nd Saturday each month the market offers special educational activities related to the season for the kids and adults at the market.

 

“We have farmers and other specialists come in and conduct demonstrations and educational activities at the market and really use this as an opportunity to reach out to new customers in the community to engage them at the market,” said Elliott. “We have also reached out beyond the community by mentoring with individuals in Eastern Kentucky interested in starting a market.”

 

Elliott said the board of the Berea Farmers Market recognizes that farmers markets in general offer an engine for entrepreneurship, and they want to foster those entrepreneurs in the area by offering more opportunities to sell products. At the same time the local market can provide a great resource for local foods and programs for the community.

 

“I think you have to look at a farmers market as an onion with many layers,” laughed Elliott. “On the outside most people see it as market for farmers to sell produce.  But when you start peeling the layers you see it is also a place for customers to buy fresh local foods; it is a community gathering place; it is a springboard for entrepreneurs; it is a place to learn more about healthy eating; and, it is an economic driver in a community. Thanks to the help and guidance from KCARD, we now have a professional study to take to our community leaders to showcase the many roles of the market and begin planning a partnership for the future.”

 

The Berea Farmers Market is open Saturday from 9 am to 1 pm and Tuesday from 3 pm to 6 pm at 416 Chestnut Street in the grassy lot across from People’s Bank. To learn more about the market visit http://bereafarmersmarket.org.