RICHMOND, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Governor Ralph Northam has announced a grant to support the development of an innovative local foods program and share that program with other communities.
The planning grant from the Governor's Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund was given to Augusta, Rockingham and Shenandoah counties.
According to a release, the planning grant program helps localities engage and promote the agriculture industry by providing and expanding new market opportunities at the local and regional level.
Shenandoah County is acting as the lead for the project, which will leverage the AFID award of $11,885 with an additional $14,000 in local funding.
“Supporting regional efforts to grow and develop the Commonwealth's agriculture sector, our largest industry, is key to ensuring long-term economic success,” said Northam. “Bringing opportunity to all parts of Virginia demands innovation and partnership like that which is on display with this project, and I commend Augusta, Rockingham and Shenandoah counties for thinking strategically about how to best integrate regional agricultural assets into their larger economic development plans.”
The release says many small and mid-sized farmers face a challenge when selling to larger, local buyers like restaurants and institutions.
This project will attempt to address that challenge by leveraging the Shenandoah Valley Farm2Fork Affair, a local foods trade show.
In the lead-up to that event, training will be provided to farmers and producers on how to network and market their products to wholesale buyers.
Then after the show, a toolkit will be developed for use by other local governments in the Commonwealth on how to host their own local foods event and train their producers to take advantage of opportunities to market and sell their products.
Since the AFID planning grant program was created in 2012, it has awarded more than $807,000 to 38 projects covering 58 localities across Virginia.