Thinking about grant funding? Multiple requests for applications released

Are you a small farmer, looking at expanding your operation to local schools or to a more regional focus? Or perhaps expanding into a farmers market?  Maybe you need some assistance to stay on the land in the face of financial crisis and natural disasters.  Well, read on, as there are multiple grant opportunities currently available.

Farm to School Grant Program:

Funded through the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, up to $6 million in funding is available via four different types of grants.  Planning grants are to assist schools is starting a farm to school program whereas implementation grants are to assist in expanding current farm to school programs.  Support grants are for non-profit, tribal nations, state and local entities, and producers to assist schools with further developing and providing broad-reaching support services to farm to school initiatives.  Finally, training grants are intended to support trainings that strengthen farm to school supply chains, or trainings that provide technical assistance in the area of local procurement, food safety, culinary education, and/or integration of agriculture-based curriculum.

Grant applications are due May 20, 2015 and training grant letter of intent is due April 30, 2015.

Farmers Market Promotion Program and Local Food Promotion Program:

Funded through the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, the Farmers Market Promotion Program and Local Food Promotion Program provide a total of $26.6 million, equally divided between the program.  The Farmers Market program is aimed at supporting direct marketing avenues, such as farmers markets, community supported agricultural programs, roadside stands, and agri-tourism.  The Local Food Promotion Program, on the other hand, is aimed at supporting intermediary supply chain activities for businesses that process, distribute, aggregate, and store locally or regionally produced food.

Grant applications for each program are due on May 14, 2015.  You may submit an application to each grant but, if your proposal is accepted for both grants, you may only be funded through one program.

If you are interested, grant writing workshops in every state are scheduled.

Farm Aid:

For non-governmental grant funding, Farm Aid’s annual grants to promote family farm system are open.  Letters of inquiry are due May 1, 2015 and fully proposals by August 1, 2015.  Grants are for non-profit organizations, from $3,000 to $10,000, that focus upon one of three areas: (1) Growing the Good Food Movement; (2) Helping Farmers Thrive; and (3) Taking Action to Change the System.  Growing the Good Food Movement supports program building local and regional food systems, direct marketing, and value-added markets.  Helping Farmers Thrive focuses upon projects for getting started on the land, accessing new markets, transitioning to more sustainable farming practices, production of renewable fuels, and staying on the land in face of financial crisis and natural disasters.  Finally, Taking Action to Change the System funds organizations promoting fair farm policies and grassroots organizing campaigns.

Nebraska Cottage Food Laws

Many beginning farmers, understandably and justifiably, are looking for niche or small markets, rather than running a big crop or livestock operation.  These niche operations may also offer other goods for sale using products from the farm, such as jellies, breads, or pies.

Are there any laws regarding sales of products such as jellies, breads, and pies?  Yes there are.  These laws, known as cottage food laws, address such products.  Cottage foods are those foods which are potentially non-hazardous and therefore do not present the same food safety risks as other processed foods.  In other words, cottage foods may be made at home or in a non-commercial kitchen.  Simply, a licensed, inspected kitchen is not required for the selling of cottage foods.

Nebraska permits cottage food operations via statute.  This post discusses the highlights of the cottage food laws but, as always, contact us if you have questions.

Where can I sell?

Nebraska permits cottage foods to be sold only at farmers’ markets.  Thus, while the foods can be prepared in a private kitchen, the products must be sold at a farmers’ market.  Further, a farmer may set up a produce stand that sells only whole, uncut fruits and vegetables.

What are cottage foods?

The Nebraska Department of Agriculture explains here but to recap:

  • Certain baked goods, limited to those which are potentially non-hazardous baked goods such as breads, fruit pies, and cookies;
  • Popcorn and other seeds;
  • Fresh and/or dried herbs;
  • Jams and jellies; and
  • Prepackaged, commercially prepared snack items.

What are not cottage foods?

If you are not a licensed food establishment preparing food in an inspected, licensed facility, you may not sell:

  • All low acid canned foods, such as pickles and salsa;
  • Unpasteurized milk, cheese, or yogurt;
  • Cream pies; and
  • Food from unauthorized sources.

Okay, but do I have to tell people my cottage food was made at home?

Yes.  When selling at a farmers’ market, you are required to place a sign at the point of sale stating the product was not prepared in an inspected, licensed food preparation area.

However, if your food was made in a licensed, inspected facility, there is no need for a sign.

Does my cottage food need a label?

Yes.  The product must have a label that states:

  • Product name;
  • Business name;
  • Business address;
  • Ingredients; and
  • Net weight.

If you need inspiration for creating a label, here is an sample label.

How much money can I make?

Nebraska law places no limits on the amount of money that can be made from selling cottage foods.


Nebraska law about cottage food is both expansive and limited.  While cottage foods can only be sold at a farmers’ market, many potential items may be sold as a cottage food at an unlimited profit.  If you are considering selling cottage foods in Nebraska, feel free to contact us with any questions you may have — we’re here to help!

New Program to expand SNAP benefits for farmers markets and direct marketers

To continue the theme of discussing small/niche farmers, most of those in the know are aware that SNAP benefits (formerly known as food stamps) can be accepted at farmers markets.  The wrinkle?  The farmers market needed to find the appropriate equipment to connect wirelessly (which also meant a wireless plan), find and work with an approved USDA payment processor and understand various rates and rules of the processor.

But the last sentence is written in the past tense because the USDA has announced MarketLink, a new, one stop shop for direct marketing farmers and farmers markets to become authorized to accept SNAP benefits and acquire the equipment needed.  MarketLink also has an eligibility assessment to determine if you and/or the farmers market qualifies for free equipment.  MarketLink also includes information on how the program works and training presentations for farmers.

Is the program worth it?  This article indicates it is worth a serious look.  Not only have the number of farmers markets steadily grown with 8,000 in August 2013, SNAP redemption have almost doubled from 2011 to 2013.  In 2013 alone, SNAP accounted for $20.4 million in sales at farmers markets.

With spring approaching, it may be worth a few minutes of your time to determine if MarketLink is a good program for you.  It may just fit into your operation seamlessly and provide another consumer outlet.