James H. Jensen, field management specialist
Iowa State University Extension has been working with individual producers and producer groups for four years in an effort to help them improve profitability by differentiating their products. They have keyed in on quality factors and gained a reputation for being on the cutting edge for this type of work at a national level. The problem was that local producers and producer groups can only go so far without additional capital and labor assistance. The task was getting to be overwhelming for the small producer group.
To help keep the project and ideas flowing, Iowa State University Extension worked with the farmers to apply for a USDA producer grant that would bring in needed capital to hire labor and make contracts to establish markets for a quality differentiated product. The group would need to match any dollars received in the grant with cash and in-kind labor. Much effort was put into writing the grant and much additional work is going into implementation now that the grant has been received.
Once the grant was received, the group is trying to make the idea bear fruit. The producer group is expanding and has hired a full time employee to assist them in the development of the project. The $184,410 in grant money has also provided area jobs for a number of part-time people associated with the project. The producers have contributed $1,000 each in cash to the project as well as many hours of donated time. Time will only tell how the project will affect the community and farming as a whole, but at least it has shown that a small producer group can work toward making a difference.
Page last updated:
July 8, 2006
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