March 2015 Updates & Opportunities

Conferences and Events 

  • Call for Papers: 2015 Food Studies Conference. September 18-19. Blacksburg, VA. Proposals for paper presentations, workshops, posters, or colloquia are invited for the Fifth International Conference on Food Studies to be held 18-19 September 2015 at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, USA. We welcome proposals from a variety of disciplines and perspectives that will contribute to the conference discourse. In addition to the conference themes, the 2015 Food Studies Conference will address the special focus, “A Cross Roads in Food Studies: Alternative vs Traditional Food Systems and Movements”. The deadline for the current round of submissions to the conference Call for Papers (a title and short abstract) is 5 March 2015. For more information on submitting your proposal, parallel sessions, or registering for the conference, visit the conference website.


  • Organic Growers School Annual Spring Conference. March 7-8, 2015 (Pre-Conference Events on March 6, 2015) UNCA in Asheville, NC. The 22nd annual Spring Conference offers practical, regionally-appropriate workshops on organic growing, permaculture, homesteading, urban farming, and rural living plus a trade show, seed exchange, silent auction, children’s program, and pre-conference, on-farm events. More than 70 sessions per day are offered, in themed tracks including Gardening, Soils, Livestock, Primitive Skills, Permaculture, Herbs, Alternative Energy, Sustainable Forestry, Homesteading, Cooking, Poultry, Farmers I and Farmers II, Mushrooms, and Food Resilience. As the largest grassroots conferences of its kind in the region, The Organic Growers School has served to reinforce Western North Carolina’s role as a regional leader in sustainable food and farming. Click here to find more information and to register.


  • Virginia Agritourism Conference. March 10-11, 2015. Staunton, Virginia. “Agritourism in the Creative Economy” offers two days filled with fresh ideas on event planning, marketing, zoning and conservation, food safety, and experience-based tips and tricks to make your agritourism business a success in the evolving creative econ­omy. Click here to find out more.


  • Virginia Farm to School Conference: Cultivating Success. March 18-19. Charlottesville, VA. The conference educational programs will feature procurement training, supply chain distribution, food safety, school gardens, and community collaborations. Most importantly, this conference will provide a venue to showcase, network, and inspire. The conference seeks to provide a centralized voice in the Commonwealth that will create a more vibrant and sustainable farm to school program in Virginia. Click here to learn more and to register.


  • “Planting a Legacy, Growing a Future” 2015 Small Farms Week. March 22-28, 2015. Greensboro, North Carolina. The 29th annual observance of Small Farms Week, sponsored by The Cooperative Extension Program at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, features workshops, tours, demonstrations and the announcement of the 2015 Small Farmer of the Year. “Planting a Legacy, Growing a Future,” the theme of 2015 Small Farms Week, is emphasized in discussions about generational farming and community engagement in agricultural enterprise, among other activities. Tours of dynamic small farms and opportunities to question experts from agricultural agencies and organizations are also program highlights of this year. Click here to learn more.


  • Virginia Cooperative Extension Grant Writing Workshop. March 31. Abingdon, VA. Virginia Cooperative Extension, in partnership with USDA-AMS, Regional Rural Development Centers and Penn State University, is offering three upcoming grant writing workshops in eastern, central, and western Virginia. The workshop materials and resources have been developed  and focused to improve the funding success rate of applicants from Virginia and other states to USDA AMS grant programs, specifically the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) and the Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP). The workshops are free of charge and all are welcome to register and attend these workshops. Click here to register(Participants should register for only one of the workshops. The workshops will contain the same instruction and training materials).


  • WV Community Development Network Annual Meeting. April 30, 2015. By popular demand, the West Virginia Community Development Hub is bringing back this day-long gathering of people, organizations, agencies and businesses who care about West Virginia’s communities and are working to improve them. Location and agenda are still to be determined. Stay informed at


  • 2nd Appalachian Food Summit. September 26, 2015 in Abingdon, VA. Find details here. Tickets go on sale in March.



  • TEDx Manhattan: Changing the Way We Eat. March 7, 2015. Manhattan, New York and online. With an exciting roster of experts and innovators, TEDxManhattan raises public awareness about critical issues facing the food system while fostering collaboration within the food movement. This independently organized TEDx event will gather speakers and audience members from diverse backgrounds to create new synergies, connections, and collaborations across disciplines. TEDxManhattan also invites communities, organizations, and individuals to organize viewing parties worldwide for the live webcast of this one-day TEDx event. Click here to connect.


  • Sustainable Small Farm Online Summit. March 18-21, 2015. The free online Sustainable Small Farm Summit is an exciting gathering of 18 farmers and activists who are coming together to share valuable insights into the often-neglected business side of farming. The goal is to support new farmers and people transitioning into farming to become even more effective at creating financially viable plans. Click here for more information.


Funding Opportunities

  • Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. Applications are due March 13, 2015. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is accepting applications for more than $18 million in funding to help educate, mentor and enhance the sustainability of the next generation of farmers. This support is available through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), administered by USDA’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA). The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program awards grants to organizations implementing programs to train beginning farmers and ranchers, including workshops, educational teams, training, and technical assistance throughout the United States. Eligible applicants are collaborative, state, tribal, local, or regionally-based network or partnership of public or private entities, including state cooperative extension service; community-based and nongovernmental organization; colleges or universities (including institutions awarding associate degrees); or any other appropriate organization providing services to beginning farmers and ranchers. Click here to learn more.


  • Community Food Projects Competitive Grants Program. Applications are due by March 17, 2015. USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture will award two types of Community Food Projects grants in FY 2015: Community Food Projects (CFP) and Planning Projects (PP). CFP grants will support the development of Community Food Projects with a one-time infusion of federal dollars to make such projects self-sustaining. Planning Project grants are designed to assess food security needs and plan long-term solutions to help ensure food security in communities. The amount available for support of this program in FY 2015 is approximately $9 million. Public food program service providers, tribal organizations, or private nonprofit entities are eligible to apply. Click here to find out more.


  • Agriculture and Food Research Initiative: Food Security Challenge Area. A letter of intent to apply is due by April 2, 2015. The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture has issued a request for applications for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Food Security Challenge Area. AFRI is a competitive grant program to provide funding for fundamental and applied research, education, and extension projects in food and agricultural sciences. The goal of this program is to invest in agricultural production research, education, and extension programs for more sustainable, productive and economically viable plant and animal production systems. The amount anticipated to be available for support of this program in FY 2015 is approximately $16.8 million. Eligible applicants for research grants include institutions of higher education, private organizations or corporations, and individuals. Click here for more information.


  • Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program. Proposals must be received by April 13, 2015. This program, known as the “2501 Program,” assists socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers in owning and operating farms and ranches while increasing their participation in agricultural programs and services provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Specifically, this program assists eligible community-based and non-profit organizations, higher education institutions, and tribal entities in providing outreach and technical assistance to socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers. The total funding potentially available for this competitive opportunity is $9.1 million, with a maximum grant of $400,000. Click here to learn more.


  • Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Graduate Student Grant. The Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program has released its 2015 Call for Proposals for Graduate Student Grants. Research projects that address issues of sustainable agriculture of current and potential importance to the Southern region are eligible for submission. The maximum grant is $11,000 for up to three years work on the student’s project. The Southern SARE program will only consider proposals submitted, and to be conducted, by graduate students (Master’s and PhD) enrolled at an accredited college or university in the Southern region, including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Click here to find out more.


  • Agriculture and Food Research Initiative: Foundational Program. Application deadlines vary by program area from March 31 through June 24; some program areas require submission of a letter of intent to apply. USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture is requesting applications for six AFRI priority areas through the Foundational Program for FY 2015. These priority areas are plant health and production and plant products; animal health and production and animal products; food safety, nutrition, and health; renewable energy, natural resources, and environment; agriculture systems and technology; and agriculture economics and rural communities. The amount available for support of new projects in FY 2015 is approximately $116 million. Click here for more information.


  • Ben & Jerry’s Foundation Grassroots Organizing for Social Change. Organizing for Social Change Program offers general or project support to non-profit organizations throughout the United States and is BJF’s most competitive grant program. BJF makes one-year grants for up to $20,000, to organizations with budgets under $500,000. Only organizations with 501(c)3 status, or who have a fiscal agent with this status are eligible to apply. Click here for more information.


  • Golden LEAF Foundation Open Grants Program. The Golden LEAF Foundation is committed to using the funds entrusted to it for projects that show the most potential for strengthening North Carolina’s long-term economy, especially in tobacco-dependent, economically distressed, and/or rural communities. In the Open Grants Program, Golden LEAF’s grantmaking is focused in the areas of Agriculture, Job Creation, and Retention and Workforce Preparedness. In agriculture, Golden LEAF sees particular promise in the areas of value-added processing, market expansion, and projects targeting alternative crops, livestock, and aquaculture. Eligible applicants are governmental entities and 501 (c)(3) non-profit organizations. First, applicants complete a letter of inquiry. Applications are reviewed on a bi-monthly basis. Click here for more information.


  • Cedar Tree Foundation. Letters of inquiry are accepted at any time. The Cedar Tree Foundation is a small family fund whose grant making focuses on sustainable agriculture, environmental education, and environmental health. The Foundation does not accept unsolicited proposals, but welcomes letters of inquiry for U.S.-based work from non-profit organizations working within its program areas. Click here to learn more.


  • The Harry Chapin Foundation. The Foundation Board meets three times a year on an as-needed basis. The Harry Chapin Foundation funds 501(c)(3) not-for-profit programs that operate in the United States that fall within the areas of Community Education Programs, Arts-In-Education Programs, and Agricultural and Environmental Programs. Grant sizes range from a few hundred dollars to a maximum of $10,000. Find out more about applying here.