RICHMOND, Va. — Governor Glenn Youngkin kicked off Virginia Ag Week today by announcing that eleven Virginia cities and counties will receive $214,000 in state funds to support new investments into the infrastructure supporting their local food and farming systems. These competitively-awarded, matching grant awards from the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industry Development (AFID) Fund Infrastructure Grant Program support strategic investments into missing infrastructure that is impeding small-scale farmers and food producers from growing their operations. Producers supported through this round of funding include those involved in meat processing, grain milling, oyster production, food and beverage, and shepherding. There is also support for new and expanded farmers markets and a commercial kitchen.
“As we begin this weeklong celebration of agriculture, Virginia’s largest industry, I am pleased to partner with our local governments through the AFID program to make strategic investments into the infrastructure our farmers and food producers need to be successful,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “It is through innovative partnerships like these, where the private and public sectors come together to identify and address critical needs, that we can keep the Commonwealth moving forward.”
Virginia Ag Week provides us an opportunity to not just appreciate the many positive impacts agriculture brings to our daily lives, from the delicious food on our plate to the beautiful farmland out our window, but to also think about how agriculture can be made even better,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Matt Lohr. “There is no better time to announce these awards that highlight the strength and diversity of Virginia’s agriculture industry, while also showing how the thoughtful commitment and innovation of our farmers and food producers is driving the industry forward.”
Created in 2021 and administered by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the AFID Infrastructure Grant Program makes awards of up to $25,000 in partnership with local governments to develop community infrastructure supporting local food production and sustainable agriculture. Applications for the next round of this semi-annual grant program will be accepted from October 1 through November 15 of this year, with the award announcement to be made in December. Additional information about the Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Infrastructure program is available here. Questions about the program should be directed to Jennifer.Perkins@vdacs.
The following projects are receiving funding in this round of the AFID Infrastructure Grant Program:
Commercial Kitchen Expansion, Bedford County
Bedford County is requesting funding to expand the commercial kitchen facility located at Bramble Hollow Farm, a member of a small, sustainable food-focused farming collective known as Edible Goose Creek. Few commercial kitchen facilities exist in the area, so this facility is serving a local community need for producing value-added products. The funding request is for the purchase of a commercial tilt kettle for producing Bramble Hollow Farm’s popular chicken stock and other members’ products.
Farmers Market Improvements, Fauquier County
The County of Fauquier recently completed a Farmers Market Feasibility Study in 2021 and is requesting funding to implement recommendations from the study to increase both consumer and producer participation. Funding will be used to purchase signage and infrastructure upgrades, including tables, tents, and a sound system, as well as the purchase of two cold storage units.
Grain Milling Upgrades, Franklin County
Franklin County is requesting funding to support Green Sprig Ag (GSA), a grain milling operation run by a 5th generation farmer and a member of the Common Grain Alliance, a mid-Atlantic network of grain farmers. GSA produces both feed and food grade grains and needs to make facility upgrades to more efficiently process grains entering the food system. Funds will be used to renovate an existing building to meet food grade standards for the purpose of cleaning, storing, and processing grain for members of the Common Grain Alliance.
Sheep Wool Baler, Grayson County
Grayson County is partnering with the New River Valley Sheep & Goat Club to purchase a baler in support of regional sheep wool production. The discrepancy in the value of baled wool versus non-baled wool is extreme, and the purchase of the baler will allow producers to sell directly to the end buyer and see as much as a 400% increase in profit. This project is also receiving grant funding from the Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission.
Grain Milling Upgrades, Nelson County
Nelson County has requested funding to help Deep Roots Milling (DRM), a founding member of the Common Grain Alliance and a leader in regional grain processing, grow both retail and wholesale sales. DRM operates at Woodson’s Mill, c. 1794, the only water-powered mill still in operation in Virginia. Funding will be used to upgrade the mill’s third floor to create a sifting room and to purchase new bagging equipment.
Oyster Processing, Northampton County
Northampton County is requesting funding to support the Ruby Salts Oyster Cooperative, a collective of five oyster farms. Funding will be used to purchase a pontoon barge to act as a mobile processing facility that will efficiently perform all farming and oyster husbandry activities, from seed to harvest. Customizable attachments will streamline production and the use of on-site solar power will reduce the Cooperative’s environmental impact.
Meat Processing Upgrades, Orange County
Orange County seeks funding to increase Piedmont Processing’s meat processing capacity, helping both Piedmont Processing and the 75 to 100 local producers that rely on the facility to process their meat locally. Piedmont Processing’s growth is currently limited by insufficient cooler space for aging beef. Funding will be used to purchase a walk-in freezer that will increase Piedmont Processing’s cooler space by 40%.
Mobile Market, City of Richmond
The City of Richmond requests funding to support RVA Street Foodies, an Urban Social Enterprise Mobile Market that provides SNAP eligible foods using a food cart model. This Mobile Market model creates employment and entrepreneurship opportunities, and strengthens the local food system by increasing access to healthy food options. Funding will be used to purchase additional food carts that will be used to reach targeted underserved communities to offer fresh fruits and vegetables sourced from Virginia farmers.
Farmers Market Construction, Scott County
Scott County seeks funding to construct a farmers market within the town of Nickelsville. Currently, Nickelsville residents must travel a minimum of 20 miles to access the nearest grocery store or farmers market, a burden both for consumers and farmers. Funds will be used to design and construct the facility in Nickelsville.
Oil Tank Installation, Shenandoah County
Shenandoah County is requesting funding to support Route 11 Potato Chips’ urgent need for oil storage, as global supply chain disruptions have threatened the reliability of sunflower oil delivery. Route 11 has been in operation for over 25 years and purchases more than one million pounds of Virginia-grown potatoes each year. Funding will be used to purchase and install four oil tanks, enabling Route 11 to purchase in bulk and guarantee a continuous, lower cost supply of oil.
Craft Beverage Support, Westmoreland County
Westmoreland County is pursuing the tourism- and local food-focused community development strategy of recruiting a new brewery and pub to downtown Montross. A vacant, former retail facility will be renovated into the new home of Northern Neck Brewing Company with the goal of creating a family-friendly destination for tourists and residents alike. Funding will be used to purchase brewery equipment and will leverage nearly $250,000 in additional investment to create a new brewery and pub focused on locally sourced produce, meat, and seafood.
–Michael Wallace, VDACS