PITTSBURGH, PA — Chatham University has been awarded a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to execute its planned project, “Food Innovation Lab Grain Program: Promoting a Local Grains Economy in Western Pennsylvania.”
The program — which will be managed by Chatham University’s Center for Regional Agriculture, Food, and Transformation (CRAFT) — will help local grain producers and processors in the region combine best practices in agricultural and business development in order to develop new products that are both financially and ecologically sustainable. To execute the program plan, Chatham University was awarded a grant of $499,997 by the USDA’s Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP).
CRAFT has identified that over 80% of the more than 1,300 grain processors (bakers, distillers, wholesale processors, etc.) within a 200-mile radius of downtown Pittsburgh do not source their grains locally, due to a number of agricultural, business, and communication barriers. CRAFT’s Grain program will capitalize on this untapped market opportunity to grow and sell more local grains and grain products in the region by removing these barriers and helping processors more easily source and work with local grains. The program will also develop new business partnerships among regional farmers, millers, bakers, and other value-added processors, and increase consumer awareness and consumption of local grain products.
“The Grain Program’s objectives are to help regional grain processors clear the hurdles of learning how to work with the inconsistencies of local grains, and to support them in developing standardized recipes for new products that they can produce successfully at scale,” said (Alice Julier, Director of CRAFT) Chatham University. “In turn, this will support an increase in grain sales for local grain farmers as more products using their grains are produced, as well as increasing the availability of and demand for local grain products by end-consumers.”
To achieve its goals, CRAFT’s Grain Program will provide product development services for small to mid-sized grain processors on a sliding-scale fee schedule, which include recipe testing, taste testing, sourcing guidance, and business support. The program will also offer workshops and training opportunities in baking and food safety, networking events for stakeholders throughout the regional food system, and a community outreach campaign that includes annual local grain boxes for purchase that highlight local farms and products, as well as bread and grain workshops for consumers to increase public knowledge about and demand for local grain products.
The LFPP’s goal is to increase domestic consumption of—and access to—locally and regionally produced agricultural products, and the development of new market opportunities for farm and ranch operations serving local markets. This year, the LFPP awarded 42 grants totaling $11,749,400. These funds are administered through the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).