Virginia Governor Announces Grants For Local Food Systems

Agriculture and Forestry Program partners with local governments to build new food and farming infrastructure

RICHMOND, VA (STL.NewsGovernor Ralph Northam announced eight projects that will receive nearly $160,000 in funding through the inaugural round of the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industry Development (AFID) Fund Infrastructure Grant Program.  Projects supported through this round of funding support local food systems and include new and existing meat processors, goat dairies, farmers’ markets, and community canneries.

“With agriculture as our largest industry and often the biggest driver of our rural economies, making targeted investments that our farmers and food producers rely on is vitally important,” said Governor Northam.  “These grants will help to diversify Virginia’s agriculture across every corner of the Commonwealth.  I congratulate the communities on putting forward such compelling projects and thank them for their partnership.”

The AFID Infrastructure Program funds a wide variety of projects that will have a direct impact both on producers through infrastructure improvements, and on consumers by expanding access to fresh, local products.  In addition, over half of the project are in economically distressed communities, with several focusing on expanding fresh food access to underserved communities through the use of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and Virginia Fresh Match.

“Virginia agriculture is in many ways sustained by the community of small farmers and food producers making high-quality products for their local communities.  By partnering with these communities to make small, but meaningful investments in these local food systems, we are helping to unlock the potential of these farmers and food producers to do even more,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring.  “I am pleased with the quality and variety of projects that this new program from the AFID Fund is able to support and look forward to many more shared successes supporting sustainable agriculture in the Commonwealth.”

In 2021, Governor Northam signed House Bill 2068, creating the AFID Infrastructure Program.  The new program competitively awards matching grants of up to $25,000 in partnership with local governments to develop community infrastructure development supporting local food production and sustainable agriculture.  Targeted projects include food hubs, farmers markets, commercial kitchens and other value-added facilities such as those for the processing and packaging of meats, dairy products, produce, or other Virginia-grown products.  The AFID Infrastructure Program provides reduced match requirements for economically distressed and underserved localities, and promotes projects that serve multiple producers.

“The Local Food and Farming Infrastructure program benefits both our communities and farmers,” said Delegate Sam Rasoul.  “In the first round of grants, more than half of the projects are in economically distressed communities giving these communities access to fresh food and produce.  This is exactly the way building a sustainable future should look.”

The following projects are receiving funding in the inaugural round of the AFID Infrastructure Grant Program:

Equipment for New Meat Processor, Floyd County | $23,124
The Economic Development Authority of Floyd County is partnering with Firehouse Farms to establish a new meat processing facility for local livestock farmers.  The facility will open as a custom-exempt facility later this winter and will become a USDA-inspected facility in two to three years.  Funding will be used to purchase needed equipment for the facility, including meat saws, a meat grinder, and a vacuum sealer.

New Boilers for Community Canneries, Franklin County | $25,000
Funding for this project will support infrastructure improvements for the Callaway Cannery and Glade Hill Community Canneries.  The canneries allow for community members and local producers to support each other and preserve their harvests.  Funds will go toward replacing the boilers at the facilities, which have been in operation for 80 years.

Meat Processor Improvements, City of Harrisonburg | $25,000
The City of Harrisonburg seeks funding to make necessary infrastructure improvements to T&E Meats, a small, USDA-inspected red meat slaughterhouse and meat packing facility that has been in operation since 1940 and serves roughly 300 producers each year.  Funding for this project will be used to replace the packing room’s outdated cooling system and purchase a new patty making machine.

Farmers’ Market Improvements, Henrico County | $16,000
The County of Henrico seeks funding to support the Dorey Park Farmers’ Market (DPFM).  DPFM recently completed their fourth year in operation, hosting 25-30 vendors, 17 of whom are producers or create value-added agriculture products from Virginia-grown products.  DPFM offers SNAP benefits and a SNAP Match program for purchases of fresh food.  Funding will be used to add electricity for vendors, landscaping to outline the market space, signage, and a structure to house market management and SNAP benefits.

Processing Equipment for Goat Dairies, King William County | $16,675
King William and King & Queen Counties partnered to apply for funding for new equipment that will serve three goat dairies (Bees Knees Farm, Riverwatch Farm, and Cardinal Lane Farm).  The farms practice sustainable agriculture, source local hay, and sell their products to local retailers and wineries.  Funding will be utilized to purchase a commercial milking system, cheese processing equipment, and milk house expansion.

Farmers’ Market Improvements, City of Martinsville | $4,088
This project will assist the City of Martinsville in improving the Uptown Martinsville Farmers’ Market.  Funds will be used to purchase shades to protect produce and vendors from the sun, new commercial grade scales to speed transactions, and a storage shed. In addition to securing valuable items when the market is closed, it will serve as an office for the market manager and provide an easily identifiable location for customers to go to take advantage of SNAP benefits.

New Boiler for Community Cannery, Prince Edward County | $25,000
Prince Edward County seeks funds to replace the nearly 50 year old boiler system at the Prince Edward County Cannery, which has been unable to keep pace with growing demand.  As an FDA-registered Food Canning Establishment and VDACS-inspected commercial kitchen, the facility serves both public and commercial clients through an innovative partnership with the non-profit Virginia Food Works.

Produce Aggregation Infrastructure, Shenandoah County | $25,000
Shenandoah County, in partnership with Town of New Market, requests funding to enable local produce aggregator Jon Henry General Store to flash-freeze high volumes of Virginia-grown fruits and vegetables from producers in the Shenandoah Valley region and then package the frozen produce into retail ready bags for wholesale distribution to local retailers.  Funds will be used to offset the cost of the purchase and installation of a new flash freezing unit and walk-in freezer.

The next application period of the AFID Infrastructure Grant Program is this spring from April 1 to May 15, 2022 with award announcements to be made by June 30, 2022.