News Release
Release No.STELPRD4014949
ContactJoan Messina217-403-6248
VAPG Grant Award Announcment
Chicago, Feb 03, 2012 --

@@Contact: Joan Messina (217) 871-3702

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Merrigan Announces Funding To Create Jobs and Strengthen the Economic Foundation of Rural America

Illinois Funded Projects to Expand Markets for Locally Produced Foods

CHICAGO, February 3, 2012 - Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan today announced that USDA has selected 298 recipients in 44 states and Puerto Rico to receive business development assistance through the Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program. Merrigan made the announcement in Chicago after keynoting local/regional food system conference hosted at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

“In his State of the Union address last week President Obama was clear that we need to do more to create jobs and promote economic growth. These projects will provide financial returns and help create jobs for agricultural producers, businesses and families across the country,” Merrigan said.  “This funding will promote small business expansion and entrepreneurship opportunities by providing local businesses with access to capital, technical assistance and new markets for products and services."

“Four agricultural producers in Illinois were selected to receive value-added grants this year,” said USDA Rural Development State Director Colleen Callahan. “This funding will help these producers’ bolster their bottom line by adding value to what they produce, and it will help make fresh locally and regionally grown foods more readily available in our grocery stores and restaurants.”

Living Water Farms, Inc. in Fairbury, Ill., is a three-year-old family company that focuses on the production of hydroponic greens for specialty markets in the Midwest. Located in Strawn, two hours south of Chicago’s Loop, three generations of the Kilgus family are part of a group called Stewards of the Land which was organized to market produce from small farms. The hydroponic complex was developed to supply fresh produce year-round. The current market includes Illinois supermarkets, restaurants in Chicago and St. Louis and a Midwest college food service program. The grant will help them evaluate their brand and expand distribution to other restaurants, specialty retail and institutional outlets.

A VAPG grant was awarded to Justin Kilgus who, along with his brother Trent, started raising meat goats as a 4-H project in 2006 on their parents’ farm. Their hobby attracted a number of upscale restaurants in Chicago and Central Illinois, and by 2010 their sales showed significant promise. They sell their goat meat under the name of Pleasant Meadows from their farm in Fairbury, Ill. The grant will help the brothers investigate how to formalize the business structure, create a 10-year plan of action, and identify additional local markets for fully dressed, fresh goat meat cuts. They currently sell their products to a number of up-scale and ethnic restaurants.

Marcoot Jersey Farm, Inc. in Greenville, Ill., was selected for a VAPG for working capital to expand sales and markets for their artisan cheeses they produce on-farm from their all Jersey cattle herd. The seven-generation dairy farm built a creamery on their farm in 2006 and produces 12 varieties of cheeses. The new creamery features a cheese-make room, a second processing room, an aging cellar and an on-farm retail store. The dairy currently sells their cheeses t in their own store, select farmers’ markets, specialty retail stores and upsacale restaurants. They also work through distribution channels in both the Chicago and St. Louis areas.

Lime Rock Brown Swiss Cheese, LLC in Davis, Ill. uses its Grade A Brown Swiss milk to make a variety of high quality cheeses for local market sale. Milk from Brown Swiss cows produces cheese that has a silky, smooth texture and rich flavor. Lime Rock will use the grant for working capital to expand its markets and customer base. The farm’s milk produced at Lime Rock Farm is transported less than a mile to the historic Springbrook Cheese Co. for processing. Springbrook custom makes Swiss, Baby Swiss, Muenster, Brick, Havarti and smoked versions of the five cheeses from the Lime Rock Farm milk. Other contractors provide custom cutting and smoking services. Lime Rock currently markets its cheeses at farmers’ markets in Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin.

The Value-Added Producer Grants announced today total more than $40.2 million. Funds may be used for feasibility studies or business plans, working capital for marketing value-added agricultural products and for farm-based renewable energy projects. Eligible applicants include independent producers, farmer and rancher cooperatives, agricultural producer groups, and majority-controlled producer-based business ventures. Value-added products are created when a producer increases the consumer value of an agricultural commodity in the production or processing stage.

USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an active portfolio of more than $155 billion in affordable loans and loan guarantees. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America. Further information on rural programs is available at a local USDA Rural Development office or by visiting USDA Rural Development’s web site at


USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272 (voice), or (202) 720-6382 (TDD).