The Virgin Islands Good Food Coalition is pleased to announce their new farmer-support program, “Resources for Resilient Farms,” with national partner, Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA (RAFI-USA), which aims to assist farmers with applying for USDA NRCS funding. VI farmers and producers are invited to attend the program launch event on Tuesday, December 13th, 2022 from 6-9pm at the University of the Virgin Islands’ Research & Technology Park, 64 West Building, St. Croix campus. The event will conclude with a small party to celebrate the Virgin Islands Good Food Coalition’s 10th anniversary. RSVPs are required; email event attendance confirmation to firstname.lastname@example.org or text to 340-643-4831. VI Good Food Coalition will be hosting a similar event in St. Thomas in early 2023 for St. Thomas and St. John farmers.
Every year, millions of dollars are available to farmers nationwide through US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS). However, the programs are not being accessed equitably by underserved and socially disadvantaged farmers across the U.S. Here in the U.S. Virgin Islands, a very small portion of farmers receive funding through the program.
VI Good Food Coalition and RAFI-USA’s new “Resources for Resilient Farms” program aims to increase program participation and retention rates by providing direct support through technical services. VI Good Food Coalition’s outreach and technical assistance team will set up appointments with farmers on St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John to assist with filling out required paperwork and applications, appointments with USDA NRCS agents, and meeting program deadlines.
“In many instances, the barriers that VI farmers face in successfully completing the NRCS paperwork and receiving funding are: having sufficient time, easy access to support, and understanding of the process,” said Sommer Sibilly-Brown, executive director of VI Good Food Coalition. “The ‘Resource for Resilient Farmers’ program allows us to serve as a bridge between NRCS and farmers and provide direct one-on-one assistance with the application process to ensure that more farmers, land owners and agro-business owners are accessing the funding resources available to leverage growth in their agro-businesses and help protect and conserve our islands’ limited natural resources,” added Sibilly-Brown.
Nationally, and here in the VI, USDA NRCS programs provide farmers with free consultations from local NRCS agents to assess the health and conservation needs of their land as it relates to six areas of focus: forestry, wildlife, energy, air, soil and water. Eligible farmers and landowners can apply for NRCS funding which provides 50-90% cost share for land and farm improvement projects, such as water catchment and irrigation, pond development, fencing for livestock, cover crops, and more.
The “Resources for Resilient Farmers” program is a two-year collaboration led by RAFI-USA, and partners, to assist small-scale, BIPOC farmers through the NRCS application process and conservation action plan preparation. The program aims to introduce approximately 1,500 Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) farmers to NRCS technical and financial assistance programs throughout the Southeastern US states, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
“We are pleased to be a part of this important project which centers historically underserved farmers and climate-smart agriculture,” Edna Rodriguez, Executive Director of RAFI-USA said. “This project allows us to continue focusing on serving members of our Farmers of Color Network based in the Southeast U.S. and launch our planned expansion of programs to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. We are especially excited to be working in partnership with the Virgin Islands Good Food Coalition.”
The December 13th program launch event will provide further details about USDA NRCS funding programs and the steps involved from determining eligibility to reporting on project completion - and how VI Good Food Coalition will assist farmers with each step. USDA NRCS representatives will be available at Tuesday evening’s event to answer questions about the specific funding parameters and details about conservation project qualifications. VI Good Food Coalition will conclude the event with a small party to celebrate their 10th anniversary of food system work in the VI, with local food, drinks and entertainment.
“Resources For Resilient Farms” is funded by the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service and is administered as a Cooperative Agreement between the agency and Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA.