Since 1996, the USDA’s Community Food Project Grant Program (CFP) has been supporting the alleviation of food insecurity in low-income communities through projects which:

  • Promote community self-reliance in meeting their own food needs;
  • Encourage comprehensive responses to local food, farm, and nutrition issues;
  • Meet food needs through food distribution, community outreach to assist in participation in Federally assisted nutrition programs, or improving access to food as part of a comprehensive service; and
  • Meet specific state, local or neighborhood food and agricultural needs including needs relating to equipment necessary for the efficient operation of a project, planning for long-term solutions, or the creation of innovative marketing activities that mutually benefit agricultural producers and low-income consumers.

Earlier this week the USDA’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) posted a Request for Applications (RFA) for the next round of CFP funding. $8.64 million dollars of funds are available. The turnaround time to submit an application is very tight, with applications due no later than 5:00 pm EST on November 30, 2015.

The application process often takes more than two weeks to complete, which is why we need your help!

Do you know of organizations or efforts in your community with experience in:

Community food work, particularly concerning small and mid-sized farms, including the provision of food to low-income communities and the development of new markets in low income communities for agricultural producers;

Job training and business development for food related activities in low-income communities or;

Efforts to reduce food insecurity in the their community, including food distribution, improving access to services, or coordinating services and programs?

If so, please forward this post and make them aware of this great opportunity!

For this round of funding, three types of grants are available:

Community Food Projects, examples of which include community gardens with market stands, value chain projects, food hubs, farmers’ markets, farm-to-institutions projects, and marketing and consumer cooperatives. All projects must involve low-income participants. The maximum Community Food Project award in a single year is $125,000 and the maximum award over four years is $400,000.

Planning Projects, examples of which include community food assessments’ coordination of collaboration development, GIS analysis, food sovereignty study, and farm-to-institution exploration.  All projects must involve low-income participants. The maximum Planning Project award is $35,000 for the total project period.  The maximum grant period is three years.

Training & Technical Assistance Projects, examples of which include workshop training, peer-to-peer interaction, one-on-one training, assistance with evaluation, webinars, and/or video-conferencing. All projects must involve low-income participants. The maximum Training & Technical Assistance Project award in a single year is $250,000. The maximum award over a two-to-four year period is $500,000.

Farm Aid is collaborating with New Entry Sustainable Farming Project and additional partners to provide free one-on-one technical assistance and resources to applicants. If you are interested in receiving assistance, please fill out this intake form.

There are three upcoming webinars available to help prepare applicants:

General CFP Information(Hosted by USDA): Thursday, October 22 at 2:00 pm EST – Go here to join for CFP Applicants (Hosted by New Entry): Monday, October 26 at 1:00 pm EST – This webinar will review the process of getting set up in for the first time. This webinar is geared towards those who have never submitted an application on Grants.govor would like a refresher. For new users to, the registration process can take as long as 2 weeks to complete, making it critical to begin the registration process as soon as possible. Register here

Evaluation component of CFP Application (Hosted by New Entry): Wednesday, October 28at 1:00 pm EST – We will review the requirements for the evaluation component of the CFP application. We will review logic models and talk about Whole Measures and Indicators of Success. This webinar is geared towards those with less experience in evaluation or those who would like to learn more about CFP specific evaluation. Register here

Only electronic applications will be accepted via For new users to, the registration process can take as long as 2 weeks to complete, making it critical to begin the registration process as soon as possible.

To learn more about inspiring Community Food Project grants, past and present, check out this great Digital Storytelling site.

New publication: Legal Guide on Contract Farming

Image courtesy of UNIDROIT

Image courtesy of UNIDROIT

The International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT), United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) just released an important new publication, Legal Guide on Contract Farming.

Divided into seven sections, the 250-page guide provides in-depth legal guidance on all aspects of the contract process, based on internationally accepted standards of practice. Sections include:

  • The legal framework for contract farming
  • Defining the parties in a contract
  • Setting the contractual obligations of each party
  • Clarifying excuses for non-performance of contract duties
  • Addressing outright breaches of a contract
  • Establishing the duration, renewal and termination of a contract
  • Resolving contract disputes

By sharing this information, the guide ultimately hopes to cultivate a contract farming environment that is equitable and sustainable for everyone involved. Download the guide here.

The Mortgage Lifter Lift for Small Farms

The Mortgage Lifter Pasta Sauce

The Mortgage Lifter Pasta Sauce

We’re excited to announce that this year we’ll again be helping the Beekman Boys give away the profits from their Mortgage Lifter Pasta Sauce to strengthen family farmers! If you’re a farmer in need of a lift, apply now!

Can a jar of pasta sauce help save small farms in America? When it’s an heirloom tomato sauce that returns 25% of its profits to farmers, it just might. Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge – best known as The Fabulous Beekman Boys from their television reality show – launched their “Beekman 1802 Mortgage Lifter Pasta Sauce” back in 2013. The sauce’s name was inspired by a Great Depression-era heirloom tomato variety named “Mortgage Lifter” because its bountiful harvest helped farmers pay off their mortgages!

The idea was to create a delicious food product that gives back. Last year, Josh and Brent give away more than $15,000 to four farms, and this year they’ll be giving away more than $18,000!

Josh Kilmer-Purcell & Brent Ridge

Josh Kilmer-Purcell & Brent Ridge

On May 1st, one lucky small farm will net a $15,000 check, which the pair calls the “Grand Prize Lift.” Three other farms will also receive $1049 “mini-lifts.” Small farms can learn more and apply for the “lifts” on

An expert panel of agricultural judges (Farm Aid among them!) reward the farms based on their innovative approach to small agriculture, their overall business plan, and their current growth pattern. These awards are designed to give vibrant small farms the ‘lift’ they need to take their business to the next level.

Mortgage Lifter Pasta Sauce is produced locally, in Schenectady, using tomatoes grown at Denison Farms in Schaghticoke, NY. Denison Farms is set to grow the next crop of Mortgage Lifter heirloom tomatoes this summer (and, incidentally, supplied farm-fresh produce to Farm Aid for our HOMEGROWN Concessions at Farm Aid 2013 in Saratoga Springs, NY).



Food Safety Modernization Act Webinar

Join the Practical Farmers of Iowa on Tuesday, March 31st for a webinar about how the Food Safety Modernization Act will impact farmers. This is the last in a series of free winter farminars that are open to all and allow participants to ask questions in real-time.

The upcoming seminar will feature Sophia Kruszewski from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, who will introduce the Food Safety Modernization Act and will talk about what implementation will mean for farmers. Chris Blanchard, an Organic farmer and farm consultant at Flying Rutabaga Works, will then discuss how farmers can comply with the new rules and regulations.

Details: Tuesday, March 31st from 7-8:30 p.m. CST; log on at and sign in as “Guest” to participate.

USDA Community Food Project Applications Available

The 2015 Request for Applications (RFA) for the USDA Community Food Projects Grant Program through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture has been released. Applications have a strict deadline of Tuesday, March 17, 2015 at 5 pm EST.

Farm Aid is collaborating with New Entry Sustainable Farming Project and additional partners to provide free one-on-one technical assistance and resources to applicants. If you are interested in receiving assistance, please fill out this intake form.

There will be 2 upcoming webinars to help prepare applicants.

  • Overview of using and the application process on Monday, February 23 at 2 pm EST. *Pre-registration required – Registration link
  • Evaluation for Community Food Projects Applications on Thursday, February 26 at 2 pm EST. *Pre-registration required – Registration Link

For more information and to apply for technical assistance, please visit New Entry’s website or fill out the request for assistance form.

New report released on food system policies in New England

The American Farmland Trust, Conservation Law Foundation and the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group joined forces to release the exciting new survey, New England Food Policy: Building a Sustainable Food System. This report examines different policies impacting the food system in New England that either hinder or support its capacity to grow sustainably. The survey was created through interviews with people in food and farming in combination with two years of research.

Through this research, the survey explores opportunities for new or amended policies that can help New England’s food system thrive. In doing so, the report specifically looks into five topics in public policy: land, food production, food safety, markets and waste streams. The survey looks into ways that policies can improve on a state and national level, but also how the New England states can work together to achieve collaboration and change.

The Conservation Law Foundation’s website explains:

The New England states have a deep history of cooperation. This history offers promise for our states to work together on complex food system issues. We hope this report serves as a call to action to help policymakers, food and farming leaders, and citizens in each New England state to identify, support, and implement public policies that can have the most significant impact on strengthening our food system.

For more detailed information on the findings from each of the five public policy areas, click here for the conclusion from the report. 

Growing Change: Family Farm Defenders

It’s no secret that today’s global food system doesn’t do its best by family farmers or eaters. Most of the world’s food economy is designed as a commodity market that drives down the price paid to farmers and drives up the cost of food to consumers. This thought of food a commodity like any other widget is just one concept that Family Farm Defenders (FFD) is working to dismantle in pursuit of food sovereignty and a more just and sustainable food system in America and across the world.

Family Farm Defenders, a small yet unyielding organization based in Wisconsin, would not exist without its late founder John Kinsman, who passed away at age 87 this January. After nearly dying from chemical exposure to agricultural pesticides, he made the switch to organic farming decades ago. But that was just the beginning. It wasn’t long before Kinsman transformed from a dairy farmer in Wisconsin with 36 cows to a global advocate for a just food system.

Food sovereignty rooted much of John Kinsman’s and Family Farm Defenders’ work. The term food sovereignty was coined by La Via Campesina, an international group that began in 1993 as a collection of peasants and farmers working to defend sustainable agriculture as a means of gaining global social justice. After travelling with Via Campesina and aiding in its formation, Kinsman brought the idea of food sovereignty back to FFD. While FFD had really started as a grassroots reaction to pressing issues related to milk and dairy farmers, the notion of food sovereignty broadened the organization’s mission and found resonance with several other organizations fighting for a just food system in the U.S., in no small part because of John’s dedicated work.

John Kinsman

There was magic in Kinsman’s seemingly effortless ability to unify individuals in a common fight — a fight against “corporate agri-business and institutionalized oppression,” as John Peck, the current executive director of Family Farm Defenders, puts it. “Meeting peasant leaders from all around the world, [Kinsman] saw that we have more commonalities with, say, peasant farmers in Mexico than we do with someone working for Monsanto here in the U.S.,” Peck explains. “Our farm workers and farmers together are both struggling for a living wage and dignity.”

Family Farm Defenders’ work expanded to include other threats American family farmers face. One of those concerns is land grabs, whereby corporations and wealthy investors buy up farmland. These investments drive up the cost of farmland so that farmers can no longer afford it and are driven out of business. In Wisconsin, where natural resources are so abundant, this has become a major problem with the growth of the natural gas and mining industries. The folks at FFD offer a listening ear for farmers in need and a grassroots approach to rallying against this kind of corporate power.

Family Farm Defenders also promotes the concept of “fair trade” (as opposed to free trade). Beginning in 1996, Kinsman spearheaded the Family Farmer Fair Trade Project. At the time, Peck was a University of Wisconsin-Madison student involved in a campaign to bring Fair Trade Certified coffee to campus. With Kinsman as his mentor, Peck questioned why Fair Trade only applies to foreign goods. Shouldn’t farmers here in the U.S. also benefit from fair trade? In response, Kinsman created FFD’s own Fair Trade Certification that applied to Wisconsin cheeses. Farmers with the certification doubled their profit per pound of cheese sold, when compared to their regular markets. Though FFD no longer sells the Fair Trade cheese, the model stands as a successful method for farmers to secure a fair price for their products.

Through this work, Family Farm Defenders’ strength has resided in educating and organizing. FFD works locally through town hall meetings and pushes for local ordinances that give the community control over their own resources. The organization hosts a number of farm tours — or as Peck calls them, “farm reality tours” — for the public, including many international visitors. FFD also leads protests related to its campaigns, primarily holding them in Chicago where many citizens they encounter have never met a family farmer before. The group is active at conferences across the country and holds its own annual meeting in Wisconsin. To educate the public, FFD hosts forums, panels, church groups and does outreach to bring awareness to its constituents.

Family Farm Defenders Protest Photo
Family Farm Defenders lead a rally in support of family farmers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin the day before Farm Aid 25. Photo © Paul Natkin.

Today, Peck is the only Family Farm Defenders employee, but a team of dedicated volunteers and passionate board members join him in carrying on the work. The organization will celebrate its 20th anniversary at its annual meeting this March, where the winner of the annual John Kinsman Food Sovereignty Award will be presented. While the future of FFD remains uncertain, Peck is confident that Kinsman’s work and legacy will endure.

Mentored for years by Kinsman, Peck sums him up this way, “He was able to take all of that negative energy and awareness and turn it into something positive, to try to figure out how we can build coalitions around the struggle, how we can change. He was a quintessential grassroots organizer. He was very good at telling stories that were empowering and gave people hope… He made connections between people that maybe didn’t know they had anything in common. If they sat down and talked together they realized that they all care about dignity and justice and fairness and peace in the world.”

Learn More

Growing Change — Farmer Veteran Coalition

From serving the nation in the military to serving the nation food and fiber, many U.S. veterans are returning from combat to jobs in agriculture. Farming—with its taxing schedule and intense physical labor demands—is a good fit for such a hardworking and dedicated group.

Today, there are over 23 million veterans in the United States. Agriculture can provide an important source of income for veterans, particularly at a time when unemployment rates have skyrocketed. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, throughout 2012 veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan had an unemployment rate of 9.9 percent—compared to about 7.9 percent for the general U.S. population. Particularly hard hit are female post-9/11 veterans with an unemployment rate of 12.5 percent. All in all, there are more than 200,000 unemployed Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in this country.

That’s where the Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC) comes in. Their mission is to mobilize veterans to work in sustainable farming jobs, creating a smooth transition into civilian life. Michael O’Gorman founded the organization and is its current leader, with 40-plus years under his belt as an organic farmer. He started FVC because of two converging trends: the aging farmer population in the U.S., and the high unemployment rate of veterans. Helping recent veterans find farming jobs hit the two issues with one stone, and FVC was created in 2008. The organization has taken off and now works with 1,000 veterans in 48 states.

Farmer Veteran Coalition

Tia Christopher is chief of staff at FVC. She says that while some of the organization’s veterans grew up on farms or have an agricultural connection, this is not universally the case. “Some of them get a brilliant idea that they want to be farmers, even though they have no experience whatsoever,” she says. They come from different professional backgrounds, geographic locations and military experiences. FVC finds a unique opportunity for each returning veteran through one of its many programs.

FVC is chock full of programming, from farm retreats, to financial planning and business courses, to a small grants program that helps aspiring farmer veterans build up their initial infrastructure. Another FVC program is the farm equipment exchange and donation program, or FEED, where individuals or dealers can donate used or new farm equipment to the organization. This equipment is given to disabled or financially challenged veteran farmers.

The FVC staff members represent all of the military branches (except for the Coast Guard). Being veterans themselves makes the organization’s work personal. “For us as veterans they’re our peers, they’re our brothers and sisters and so we really care about the people who contact us,” Tia says. This dedication and passion shows with each and every veteran they help.

One veteran in particular who stands out for Tia is Mickey Clayton, a single mother who is half Lakota Indian and half Puerto Rican. She is also an Army combat veteran who sustained a severe leg injury in Iraq. Having grown up on a South Dakota reservation among sheep, Mickey became mesmerized by the nomadic Awassi sheepherders in Iraq. Upon returning home, she decided to start a farm with FVC’s help. Now Mickey raises unusual breeds—that garner higher prices—like Navajo-Churro Sheep and Muscovy Ducks on Dot Ranch in Northwestern Oregon. She is one of FVC’s Bob Woodruff Farming Fellows, a program that has helped her secure adaptive farming equipment, making it possible for her to wrangle sheep even with her injury. And if being a single mother and raising all of those breeds wasn’t enough, Mickey also has a successful Etsy business selling her wool.

With Dot Ranch thriving, Mickey is now able to give back. She’s an ambassador for the FVC at Native American sheepherder events, and has ushered other vets into the FVC family. Tia says giving back like this demonstrates the program’s success. “Success for us honestly is when the veterans are able to mentor their peers, employ their peers, and pay it forward.”

The FVC has a strong connection to Farm Aid’s work of supporting the family farmer. Farm Aid was one of FVC’s earliest supporters, granting them $17,000 since 2009 to support their programming, most recently supporting their work training more than 100 veterans in farming skills, offering business planning to 31 veterans, and helping veterans secure legal counseling and disaster assistance in times of crisis. But that’s not all; Farmer Veteran Coalition has a huge presence at the Farm Aid concert each year, as part of the farmer meetings that take place before the concert and as part of the HOMEGROWN Village at the concert. FVC brings farmer veterans to Farm Aid from across the country to network with other farmers and spread the mission of the organization. Tia finds the jovial spirit of the Farm Aid concert conducive for recruiting would-be veteran farmers. “It’s really cool because we get awesome mentors and farmers to sign on with us when we’re at Farm Aid each year,” she says. Last year they recruited a veteran mushroom farmer and an entomologist.

Tia and her colleagues see the importance of the work they do everyday—not only finding employment for veterans, but also encouraging them to keep their spirits up and put their strong sense of service to use. Each and every farmer veteran motivates and inspires Tia. “It is often stated that farming and the military are two of the hardest professions; at FVC we believe that it takes a special type of person to do either, let alone both. I think the quality that’s most important for both is determination, and our farmer veterans have it in droves.” Helping military heroes and growing new farmers makes the Farmer Veteran Coalition a true Farmer Resource Network provider hero!

Learn More

Photo above provided courtesy of Jim Carroll Photography.

FDA’s proposal to the Food Safety Modernization Act threatens family farmers and sustainable practices

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) that was passed by Congress in 2010 was the first major update to federal food safety laws in 72 years. Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released proposed laws to implement the provisions in the FSMA. These new rules leave out crucial aspects of the bill that were initially created to protect small, mid-sized and sustainable farmers.

While there needs to be an up-to-date and feasibly implemented food safety law, the FDA’s current proposal would force many family farmers to pay significant compliant costs. These fees could cost farmers up to half of their profits without many of the protections currently allotted to them. If passed the law potentially threatens local food sources, placing any farm with a profit of over $500,000 on the same level as any industrial agricultural conglomerate. The proposal also ignores Congress’ initial mandate that the FSMA must comply with The National Organic Program, making it difficult for farmers to implement natural or organic practices.

At this year’s concert, Farm Aid teamed up with our resource partner, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), to form a petition that concertgoers could sign against the FDA’s proposal. You can take a stand for family farmers and sustainable agriculture by signing that petition here. There is a comment period on the proposed rules until November 15, so NSAC created a comprehensive guide to form comments to the FDA for consumers and farmers alike supporting local food systems and family farmers.

Webinar and FDA Hearings on Food Safety Rules In Northeast

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) passed in January of 2011. Now the Food and Drug Administration is presenting its proposed rules about how it plans to carry out this law. Public hearings allow farmers, processors, retailers and consumers to ask questions of the FDA, express concerns and better understand the regulations and their complexities, as well as figure out how to operate under the new rules.

There are two upcoming hearings in the Northeast this August. The first will be held on August 19th in Augusta, Maine from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm. The second will be held on the Vermont/New Hampshire border on August 20th.

The New England Farmers Union has expressed concerns that small farmers, like those in New England, could be negatively impacted by the new regulations. They have been pushing members to learn more about the FSMA, to comment on the proposed rules and to attend the upcoming hearings. Click here to learn more about their take on the issue and to find out more information about the hearings.

Also, the New England Food System Policy Project (a project of American Farmland Trust, Conservation Law Foundation, and Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group); Food Solutions New England; Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation; New England Farmers Union; Rhode Island Division of Agriculture; UMass Extension; University of Rhode Island are hosting a free webinar on FSMA for New England food producers, buyers, and those working toward a resilient New England food system. The webinar will be August 13, 2013, from 12:00-1:30 PM. Click here to register.

For additional information about the FSMA visit the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s issue page, and the FDA’s FSMA page.