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Thu, Mar 28


UM North Central Research and Outreach

AITKIN/ITASCA COUNTY USDA OFFICE VISIT: Intro to Ag Programs and Farmers Market Opportunities

This group visit with USDA Farm Services staff in Grand Rapids, MN, will help Market Farmers learn about federal ag programs, loans, grants and new farmers market opportunities.

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AITKIN/ITASCA COUNTY USDA OFFICE VISIT: Intro to Ag Programs and Farmers Market Opportunities
AITKIN/ITASCA COUNTY USDA OFFICE VISIT: Intro to Ag Programs and Farmers Market Opportunities

Time & Location

Mar 28, 2024, 2:00 PM – 4:30 PM

UM North Central Research and Outreach , 1861 US-169, Grand Rapids, MN 55744, USA

About the event

Curious about federal programs to help pay for high tunnels, walk-in coolers, pack sheds and crop failures? 

Go Farm Connect is partnering with the Grand Rapids Farmers Market Food Hub and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Aitkin/Itasca Farm Service Center in Grand Rapids to host this facilitated group visit. Beginning farmers and specialty crop producers will learn about federal farm programs and loan, grant, insurance and disaster assistance opportunities. Growers will learn about new farm market selling opportunities through the Food Hub. You do not need to own land to participate.

The hosts will be Erik Heimark of Maple Ridge Produce in Aitkin, and Wililyn Dowell, of Dowell Farm and Gardens in Grand Rapids. They are both Connectors with Go Farm Connect, trained to help new and emerging farmers access helpful federal programs. Dowell is the Grand Rapids Farmers Market Food Hub manager. Heimark is also a specialist with Go Farm Connect in farm business recordkeeping and high tunnel construction. They will be joined by USDA staff from the Farm Service Agency who will explain disaster assistance (NAP Coverage) and other federal programs available for specialty crop farmers. Dowell is also a specialist in high tunnel growing, and will talk about the Farmers Market and new aggregation hub sales opportunities. For more information, contact Erik at 218-232-1303 or Wililyn at 218-910-6799 

Who Should Attend

All interested parties are invited to attend and learn, including beginning and prospective farmers, landowners, family, friends, cultural advocates, and agricultural support professionals. No prior experience with federal farm agencies is required. Land ownership is not a requirement to participate in assistance programs.  Attendees do not have to reside in Itasca or Aitkin Counties - this information will pertain to all federal programs. Language interpretation will be provided if requested at pre-registration.

 What To Expect

This brief visit will cover the basics of farm programs and market hubs and introduce participants to the staff at the USDA Farm Services Center in Grand Rapids. Time will be provided for individual assistance and questions, and Heimark and Dowell will follow up with interested participants after the event. 

About Go Farm Connect

Are you lost in an alphabet soup of federal acronyms? Need help finding the right resources?

Navigating USDA programs can be overwhelming, confusing and intimidating. We get that! We've pulled together an experienced team of farmers to help you connect to the right programs. We offer FREE services that focus on different aspects of building a successful farm business. We can provide a Connector to be your personal guide, coach, and ally who shares your goal of running a successful farm operation.

Go Farm Connect is a farmer-led initiative to build relationships between historically underserved specialty crop farmers (beginning, women, veterans, BIPOC and new Americans) and federal farm agencies.  Our Connectors are trained to help farms of all sizes and specialties in Minnesota and Wisconsin access agricultural assistance programs. The three-year project is led by Renewing The Countryside in partnership with the US Department of Agriculture, Farm Service Agency, and Natural Resources Conservation Service. Registration through this link is helpful so that USDA staff can be aware of what questions you might want answered. Go Farm Connect staff may take photos and videos at this event to promote programs and future events. Your RSVP gives your permission to be photographed. Please let Erik or Wililyn know if you want to be kept out of photos.

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