Funding available to help Colorado farmers, ranchers, farmer’s markets adjust to COVID-19 supply-chain crisis |

Funding available to help Colorado farmers, ranchers, farmer’s markets adjust to COVID-19 supply-chain crisis

National Western Center
Shanyn Cascia raises poultry on Pronghorn Ridge Farm near Strasburg, Colo.
Photo courtesy Shanyn Cascia

DENVER — Colorado farmers, ranchers, farmer’s markets and food hubs are receiving grant funding to help them adjust to COVID-19’s effects on the food supply chain.

The new Colorado Farm & Food Systems Respond & Rebuild Fund has already provided more than $140,000 to agricultural producers and intermediaries around the state this spring, and is accepting applications through June 18 for up to $200,000 more in total aid — up to $5,000 each for producers, and up to $15,000 each for farmer’s markets, food hubs and other intermediaries that support many producers. A third round of funding is likely later this year.

Since March, the dramatic down-shifting of restaurants, schools and others that buy directly from small- and mid-size producers has meant lost access to customers, storage, distribution, and ultimately, revenue. In many cases, valuable food grown with great care is going to waste while producers scramble to find — or create — new ways to get food to would-be buyers, and our tables. Producers need cash now to shift to online and direct-to-consumer sales, buy PPE, cover losses, and shift to new storage and distribution methods.

In response to these market disruptions, food- and ag-focused organizations in Colorado partnered to create a new Colorado Farm & Food Systems Response Team. The team is focused on addressing the needs and opportunities of small- and mid-size growers, beginning farmers and ranchers, veteran farmers, farmers of color, LGBTQ+ farmers, and female farmers — as those often underserved by government programs will bear the brunt of the crisis’s impact. The response team created the fund and is administering it.

Every producer story is different. Shanyn Cascia of Arapahoe County is one of 27 grant recipients so far. On her farm, Pronghorn Ridge, she pasture-raises chicken and turkey and sells directly to consumers. COVID-19’s effects on the food system resulted in a spike in demand for her product, at the same time that Shanyn herself became ill — and recovered — from what she presumes was COVID-19. During that three week period, the farm lost sales and was unable to build the infrastructure necessary to support increasing the size of its flock to meet demand.

“Our food- and ag-focused organizations came together because we care about our local producers and believe in supporting them in this crisis,” said Matt Barry, chief development officer for the National Western Center, one of 14 organizations that make up the response team. “Between funding, sharing best practices, and coming together on weekly calls to build a network, we’re doing what we can to support Colorado’s food system.”

The fund is made up of donations from Colorado-based foundations including the Colorado Health Foundation, Gates Family Foundation and others, as well as from individual donations. The fund is still accepting donations; the team will issue grants in successive rounds until all funding is gone.

“COVID-19 represents a real threat to smaller operations in our communities,” said Wendy Peters Moschetti, director of food systems at LiveWell Colorado, a response team organization. “We want to offer this small lifeline, so that they can continue to support their own organizations while moving high-quality food to the people of Colorado and beyond.”

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