Kentucky Proud

Kentucky Ag News

KCARD answers agritourism management questions

 

By JIM TRAMMEL, Agritourism Monthly

ELIZABETHTOWN, Ky. - KCARD wants to help if your winery or farmers’ market …

 

  • is ready to incorporate and you want to do so legally and correctly;
  • is ready to launch except that you lack stated goals, or you don’t have a written business plan;
  • is growing and needs to accommodate the rising challenges;
  • is facing problems or dissent that call for experienced expert mediation;
  • is seeking available grant funding (even if you don’t know precisely what you’re seeking or what you may qualify for); or
  • is ready to expand and needs funds for promotion.


The Kentucky Center for Agriculture and Rural Development (KCARD) assists agricultural producers, agribusinesses, non-profit organizations, and local governments with business planning, market development, and technical assistance.


KCARD is able to provide most of its services free of charge due to the financial support of the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board and the United States Department of Agriculture, said Aleta Botts, KCARD executive director.


It is equipped to provide any business services a business needs, including making a business plan, assessing and beginning marketing efforts, setting up record-keeping, or discussing the feasibility of a project or business idea.


Specifically in the agritourism area, KCARD reported that during its April 2015 meeting it provided business planning support to a winery, a value-added vegetable producer, and farmers’ markets seeking to incorporate.


Incorporation is a frequent issue KCARD addresses with farmers’ markets, said Kati Miller, KCARD business planning associate.


Get them involved early


Miller said the ideal moment to contact KCARD happens when a group of individuals first gets the idea to launch a farmers’ market. KCARD can help with the sometimes-thorny issues of incorporation, membership requirements, and market rules.


KCARD brings to the table much experience in assisting farmers’ markets, enough to realize that “Every farmers’ market is different – there is no cookie-cutter way to go about it,” Miller said. Even so, there are some standard hoops such as articles of incorporation that must be filed with the Kentucky Secretary of State.


KCARD also offers mediation services when differences of opinion become disagreements.


Funding from the Local Food and Farmers’ Market Promotion Program is available to help beginning and growing farmers’ markets reach out to local producers to get their products to the farmers’ market.


To be eligible for this local-producer funding, an applicant’s idea must benefit more than just one producer, Miller said. The program seeks to bring local foods into areas that may not have them by helping farmers’ markets play their key intermediary role between producer and buyer. Myrisa Christy is coordinator for this Agribusiness Grant Facilitation Program (AGFP), which helps producers “get across the finish line,” in Miller’s phrase, by helping farmers’ markets connect with producers of local foods.


For future years, wineries might be especially interested in Value Added Producer Grants (VAPG), open to those who want to add value to Kentucky agricultural products (as a winery would add value to grapes). This year’s deadline for the annual grants is right upon us — July 7 for projects to be accomplished during 2016.


KCARD does not give out grants itself, Botts emphasized, although KCARD can give knowledgeable advice on which grants its clients should seek.


Grants generally spring from the idea of a project, rather than tailoring the idea to the available grants, Miller said. KCARD wants to know what the client wants to get from the grant. From there, KCARD helps the applicant work through goals and budget for the project, as well as crafting the work plan.


As with almost every grant system, the awarding committees favor projects that begin to generate their own income after the grant year, Miller said. A sustainable project that will thrive and grow will be more favored if it will sustain its initial growth in year two and beyond.


“We go through a series of initial questions to understand your business better,” Miller said of the business consulting process. One of seven analysts is chosen for each applicant’s case, depending on who has the most relevant areas of expertise for the client’s needs. “We sit down one-on-one, at or close to your business, to understand you as a person and what your business was, is, and wants to be,” Miller said.


KCARD assigns its client “homeworks,” which could include pulling together financial information, working with employees on figuring out proper procedures, or even coming up with goals, Miller said. In this process, KCARD discovers the answers to questions that can’t be asked on paper.


The process moves at the client’s needed speed, usually taking two to four months to finalize a business plan, Miller said. From there, it’s a quicker step to compiling grant applications, she said, because the two documents rely on much of the same information. “Many business plan characteristics feed into the grant application as well,” Miller said.


Annual agritourism workshops


For the agritourism industry in Kentucky, KCARD holds a series of grant workshops and informational meetings. KCARD’s agritourism workshop last December was well received, Miller said. KCARD anticipates holding another one in the off-season this year, Botts said.


KCARD also works with Community Farm Alliance to present regular Farmers’ Market Support Program workshops, training sessions for farmers’ market board members.


Asked for her most important piece of advice, Miller said, “Start early.”


If you want expert help formulating a business or marketing plan for your agritourism idea that could lead to a grant application and financial support, Miller said, “There’s no time to get started like now.”

 

 

This article first appeared in the July 2015 issue of Agritourism Monthly, a Kentucky Department of Agriculture newsletter dedicated to Kentucky's agritourism industry. Jim Trammel is managing editor of Agritourism Monthly.