PORTLAND, Ore. – Sept. 18, 2018 – Calling ranchers, farmers, and fishers! Ecotrust, the Portland-based nonprofit forging new ways of living and doing business, together with a network of supporting organizations across the region, today opens applications for the Ag of the Middle Accelerator (Accelerator). A two-year, capacity-building and business development program, the Accelerator is designed for food producers and value-added processors who want to grow to supply mainstream regional markets while maintaining their commitments to community and restorative production practices.
Interested small- to midsize-producers from Northern California, Oregon, Washington or Alaska who produce or harvest food items important to human nutrition are encouraged to apply. The program focuses on three key areas: business structure and taxation; credit and finance; and market development, that are intended to deliver the skills and support producers need to scale up and reach financial stability.
The 20-person Accelerator cohort will be selected by Oct. 23 and kicks-off Nov. 7–8 in Portland, Ore. In forming the group, preference may be given to:
- Producers and harvesters who have a demonstrated commitment to their community, building soil health, clean water, healthy ecosystems, sustainable harvesting practices, and other restorative production practices.
- For fishers, those working, landing, and processing in a remote/rural community with a population of less than 25,000.
- For farmers and ranchers, those working with priority products such as whole- and minimally-processed grains, legumes, and rotational crops, as well as grass-finished beef, pastured pork, and other differentiated proteins.
- Producers meeting the USDA definition of “socially disadvantaged.”
Accelerator participants will graduate from the two-year program with plans for how to structure their business, land, and other assets appropriately to limit liability; tools and network connections to put the right mechanisms in place to secure appropriate credit; and a customized strategy to develop or enhance key value propositions and branding to reach target markets. Instruction takes place via online group sessions, team-based offline work and two in-person meet-ups during winter months. Poppy Davis of C2C Consulting and other highly skilled trainers lead the sessions, with support provided by Ecotrust staff.
Applications for the Ag of the Middle Accelerator are due Oct. 5 and are accessible online, or by contacting Ecotrust’s Aaron Vargas at [email]firstname.lastname@example.org[/email], 503-467-0785. Once accepted, participants will need to pay a one-time $125 registration fee and are responsible for expenditures related to travel and lodging to attend two in-person gatherings in Portland, Ore. and Corvallis, Ore. There are no additional program costs and limited scholarships are available.
The 2018-2020 Ag of the Middle Accelerator cohort is the second cohort of the burgeoning program designed to cultivate a thriving mid-sized independent farms, ranches, and fishing operations in the region. In its inaugural year, the Accelerator delivered 225 hours of training to dynamic group of 14 producers including Nehalem River Ranch, Tre-Fin Foods, and Marion Acres. Training for the program’s first cohort continues this winter with a focus on creating deeper connections between participants and implementing the knowledge, skills, and resources participants gained last year, ultimately fostering growth that will allow participants to supply mainstream regional markets with products raised in ways which are good for land, soil, water, people, and animals.
Ecotrust is powered by the vision of a world where people and nature thrive together. Since 1991, we have partnered with local communities from California to Alaska to build new ways of living and doing business. From forestry to finance, food access to green building, we work to advance social equity, economic opportunity, and environmental well-being. Together, we are making this place we live a home that we love. Learn more at www.ecotrust.org