ELIZABETHTOWN, Ky. – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced five Kentucky agribusinesses will be awarded $412,846 for the USDA Value-Added Producer Grants (VAPG): Equus Run Winery, Hill and Hollow Farm, Lazy Eight Stock Farm, Need More Acres Farm, and Reid's Orchard.

"KCARD was privileged to work with all of the award recipients for this competitive grant," said Aleta Botts, executive director of the Kentucky Center for Agriculture and Rural Development (KCARD). "Our business development specialists worked on business plans with many of them, and we used our grant facilitation program to help them navigate the process. The Kentucky Agricultural Development Board's support allows us to work as a team to assist Kentucky's farmers, which paid off in this round of funding."

"KCARD provides a whole potpourri of services to producers. I attended the educational seminars focused on grant opportunities, and they were just top notch," said Cynthia Bohn of Equus Run Vineyards. "I believe their input during the application review was critical to our application's success."

The VAPG awards help agricultural producers increase their income by expanding marketing opportunities, creating new products or developing new uses for existing products. The grants are designed to have a far-reaching impact by supporting local and regional food systems and financing the distribution of local and regional products.

Kentucky's grant recipients will use the funds to expand their businesses and create economic growth in the rural communities where they are located. This year's recipients are receiving grant funds for an array of projects across Kentucky.

Equus Run Vineyards in Midway will use the funds to expand the marketing area of its Kentucky-branded fruit beverages. Lazy Eight Stock Farm, LLC in Berea plans to expand the market for Kentucky-grown certified organic produce. Hill and Hollow Farm in Metcalfe County will add value to raw fleece by producing organic natural yarn and wool roving, including using its own organic indigo and goldenrod dyes. Need More Acres Farm, LLC in Bowling Green will use the funds to expand the customer base and introduce new value-added products. Reid's Orchard, a 140-year-old family farm in Owensboro, will expand the marketing area of its products.

"We began working with the grant recipients early, giving us time to effectively demonstrate that they are a good investment for the USDA," explained Myrisa Christy, Agricultural Grant Facilitation Program (AGFP) coordinator. "It's rewarding when that work translates to real sources of new capital assistance for farmers."

"Myrisa was a valuable resource helping us understand the terminology and the process as we applied for the Value-Added Producer Grant," said Carla Baumann of Lazy Eight Stock Farm. "Nathan (Routt) also helped us hone in on our business plan and tweaked it for the application. I just can't say enough good stuff about the team."

KCARD is already working with USDA Rural Development State Director Tom Fern and Kentucky's USDA Rural Development team to identify applicants for the 2015 funding cycle. The AGFP developed an eight-week webinar series on the application, tackling different aspects of writing the VAPG and providing guidance on application scoring. This free resource is available to interested Kentucky farmers.

"KCARD can assist you in determining your eligibility and work with you on project development. Often, this is an outgrowth of our development of business plans, which makes the grant more competitive, and ensures that the business is more sustainable long term," said Botts. "We encourage any agribusiness interested in applying for the VAPG to contact Myrisa for assistance now."

KCARD works with rural businesses and agribusinesses across the Commonwealth to provide specialized assistance increasing the chances for success. KCARD provides a range of services to clients including strategic planning, feasibility assessments, business management, operations analysis, recordkeeping development, cost analysis, and on-site business consultations. KCARD's work is supported by the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Cooperative Development Grant, and other sources. To learn more about KCARD's services, visit www.kcard.info.