Pro*Act announced the 14 winners of its Cultivating Change Local Farm Grant Program, which awards $75,000 in grants to local farmers who have taken the initiative to improve the safety, efficiency, or sustainability of their operations.
Launched in 2015, the Cultivating Change program has awarded over $400,000 to 52 farms in 18 states and 1 Canadian province. Funded by Pro*Act's distributor network, Cultivating Change is committed to supporting local farms to improve their ability to grow, market, and distribute safe and sustainable food.
With more than 40 applicants across 27 states and our first-ever Canadian applicants, Pro*Act was encouraged to see the engagement from local farmers who are working to implement goals of improved safety, sustainability, and growth.
After hearing that East Texas Aquaponics in Mineola, Texas was receiving $10,000 for their renewable energy expansion project, Managing Partner Sharon Hasting excitedly shared that they "want to make sure that we are making the right choices for the environment – this allows us to do the right thing as we grow the operation." "Are you okay seeing a grown man cry?" added Managing Partner Richard Hastings.
Frecon Fruit Farm in Boyertown, Pennsylvania, which grows apples, peaches, and cherries for their community, received $10,000 for new fencing around their orchard, which improves food safety. "You have no idea what a relief and how exciting this is for us," said Stephen Frecon, 3rd generation owner of Frecon Fruit Farm. "We've tried a variety of ways to manage the whitetail deer population; this grant makes the fencing project so much easier."
Additional winning projects included greenhouse expansion, pathogen testing laboratory, food safety compliant bin purchasing, bioluminescence meter for in-house food safety testing, and high tunnel construction. Selected by a panel of industry professionals who carefully reviewed and scored all projects on a variety of criteria, applicants focused improvements across all three new panel categories: food safety, sustainability, and wholesale readiness.
"Our distributors work year-round with family farms to bring their locally-grown product to foodservice and retail customers, this program is a way to continue those investments, and build local farms that are so vital to their communities," shared Pro*Act Director of Marketing Brian Denton. "Cultivating Change grants allow these farms to fund projects that will allow them to invest in their current and future operations and pave the way for the next generation of farmers."
Pro*Act is committed to real, verifiable sustainability improvements across its supply chain, reflected in these meaningful investments to North America's finest family farms. Past winners have used the grant funds to purchase new equipment, implement conservation efforts, educate the community, install automation systems, construct new facilities, increase production square footage, and launch innovative sustainability programs.
Applications to participate in the Cultivating Change competition in 2020 will be accepted beginning on October 1. Requirements and contest rules, as well as profiles of all of our winners, can be found here.