The Vermont Farm Viability Program announced today the award of $95,000 in grants and $62,700 in technical assistance awards to Vermont farmers to assist them in implementing their farm business plans completed through the program. In this latest round of funding, 21 farmers around the state received grants ranging from $650 to $7,000. An additional 21 farmers received technical assistance awards ranging from $700 to $4,000 to cover the cost of consulting with specialists. Among the implementation grants presented:Manchester Center – At Earth Sky Time Community Farm, Oliver and Bonnie Levis grow vegetables and orchard fruits and run a commercial kitchen to make value-added products such as breads, spreads, pickles, and a new product, the VT Goldburger, a veggie burger made with Vermont produce. Following completion of their business plan in 2009, Oliver and Bonnie applied for a Farm Viability Implementation Grant in November 2010 to upgrade their farmstand and to purchase veggie burger production equipment. They were awarded $7,000 towards a total project cost of $20,000. After purchasing the equipment, Oliver said, ‘Though we have been making VT Goldburgers in our farm kitchen for several years, we had neither the equipment we needed to ramp up production or a clear understanding of what the veggie burgers cost us to make. The Farm Viability Program helped us get a handle on the finances of the project, and the grant funding for equipment purchase made our regional product launch a reality. We are thrilled that VT Goldburgers are now available in 15 natural food co-ops in Vermont, New York and Massachusetts. Thanks to this program we are utilizing thousands of pounds of organic VT grown produce and supporting our farm with year-round income.’Hinesburg – Linsday Harris and Evan Reiss own The Family Cow Farmstand, a small grass-based dairy farm. They sell state-certified raw milk directly to customers from their farmstand and by delivery. Lindsay and Evan started Family Cow in 2008. They wrote a business plan through the Farm Viability Program in 2010. They applied for an Implementation Grant in November 2010 to renovate their milk room and improve the milk handling system. They were awarded $4,000 in February towards the $8,676 project, quickly set to work, and completed the project in April. The grant helped to fund a new sink, bulk tank, dishwasher, floor, and washable ceiling. Lindsay said of the renovations, ‘We are really happy with how our project came out. It has already made our day-to-day farming operation a lot safer, easier and cleaner.’Three of the farmers receiving technical assistance awards to work with specialists were: Ray Shatney and Janet Steward (Greenfield Highland Beef, Plainfield and Greensboro Bend) received an award to cover development of promotion materials for the farm and consultation on their watering system;Reynolds and Celia Hackett (Hackett’s Orchard, South Hero) will receive consulting on the intergenerational transfer of their orchard;An award to Jeremy Michaud (Clair-A-Den Farm, East Hardwick) will cover the costs of construction engineering for a new on-farm value-added processing facility, Kingdom Creamery of Vermont. The Farm Viability Program accepts applications for business planning assistance quarterly. To request an application, call 802 828 3370 or see www.vhcb.org/viability.html(link is external). Farmers who complete business plans with the program are eligible to apply for implementation grants to help with capital expenses or additional technical support to launch new on-farm projects identified in the business planning process. The technical assistance awards pay for consultants to work one-on-one with farmers to further the goals of the business plan, such as meeting with crop or animal health specialists, planning for new farm enterprises, estate or farm transfer, or to develop ideas for value-added processing, for instance. There is a $75 fee to enroll in the Vermont Farm Viability Enhancement Program. Aside from this enrollment fee, business planning and technical assistance services are provided free of charge if your farm is chosen to participate. The Farm Viability Enhancement Program is funded by the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board in collaboration with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, with funding assistance provided by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), USDA Rural Development and private foundations, including the John Merck Fund. In addition to private consultants contracting with the program, consultants are provided by the University of Vermont, the Intervale Center, and NOFA-VT. More than 350 Vermont farmers have used the services of the Farm Viability Program since it was established in 2003.