GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. (NEWS10) – Berkshire Agricultural Ventures (BAV) was named the only 2021 recipient nationwide of funding from both the USDA’s Regional Food System Partnership (RFSP) and the Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP). The organization announced the grant awards Monday, which total nearly $1 million.

Over the course of three years, these grants will allow BAV to address food system issues in the region’s livestock supply chain, improve access to food for Berkshire region residents and grow sales for local food products. Grants from the RFSP support partnerships that connect public and private resources to plan and develop local or regional food systems.

Over the project period, BAV will leverage the $480,948 RFSP grant to enhance existing relationships with livestock supply chain enterprises, economic development, planning agencies, and agricultural service providers to build capacity for the grant activities. These activities included further developing BAV’s Local Meat Processing Support Program, coordinating a livestock working group in partnership with Berkshire Grown (a sub-award of BAV’s RFSP grant) to improve value chain coordination and identify next steps for infrastructure improvements and regional marketing opportunities. The outcomes for the project are improved meat processing, new supply chain infrastructure, and enhanced marketing opportunities for meat processors and livestock producers within the Berkshire-Taconic Region.

“Our nation’s consolidated meat processing industry is unhealthy for farmers, for consumers, and for the environment,” said Dan Carr, BAV Outreach & Technical Assistance Coordinator. “While the Berkshire-Taconic/Litchfield Hills region is an ideal landscape for regenerative livestock farmers, current demand for local meat far outstrips what our region’s farmers can produce, due to bottlenecks in meat processing capacity. Supporting the growth of local small-scale meat processors can help secure our region’s meat supply, and also support local livestock producers.”

Besides helping growers increase their materials by 25% over the next three years, BAV is also researching how to help farmers, processors, and restaurants with low-cost product storage.

In addition to federal funding, BAV has received funding from local foundations and individuals to help improve the availability of regional meat processing and storage. “Without the support of area funders, we wouldn’t have been able to successfully apply to the USDA to continue this work,” said Carr.

The second grant, the USDA’s Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP), funds projects that develop, coordinate, and expand local and regional food business enterprises that engage as intermediaries in indirect producer-to-consumer marketing to help increase access to and availability of locally and regionally produced agricultural products. 

To fulfill this $498,068 grant, BAV is partnering with Berkshire Organics – an online food marketplace and home delivery service – to grow sales for local food producers and improve access to local foods for customers. With this support, Berkshire Organics will better meet the needs of local producers by providing year-round sales opportunities through the online marketplace, along with home delivery service, while also addressing accessibility barriers for customers, such as transportation, work, life schedule conflicts, and local food availability.

“The LFPP award gives BAV a huge boost to carry out what we’re already good at – supporting the growth and long-term viability of local food businesses,” said Ciana Barnaba, BAV Special Projects Manager. “Additionally, we have amazing partnerships written into the grant, especially Kitchen Table Consultants and Taste Profit Marketing, who are experts in working with local food hubs.” As a key grant activity, BAV plans to help significantly increase Berkshire Organics’ purchases of local foods, while increasing its home delivery distribution.

“This a win for Berkshire Organics, for local food producers, and for the consumers throughout the greater Berkshire community,” Barnaba said. “Everyone will benefit from this project.”