Micro Mama’s, located in Weare, NH, is a successful producer of lacto-fermented vegetables. They are passionate about paving the way for the future of agriculture. On Dec. 19, Stephanie Zydenbos, owner of Micro Mama’s, hosted a special event featuring Xochitl Torres Small, the Deputy Secretary of USDA.

Torres Small used her time at the event to hear attendees speak, posing the questions “How do we use [money from the USDA] to support small farms? How do we use that money to support resiliency?”

Overall, a main concern brought up was that some programs are hard for farmers to access, especially if they don’t have their own grant writer. Additionally, a lot of programs aren’t made for specialty crops or small farmers, leaving those farmers to fend for themselves.

The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) was instituted specifically for small local farmers. Torres Small reflected how “President Biden was very clear that we had to use [REAP] to drive down energy costs to support small, local farmers and to make sure that we are also fighting climate change.”

Deputy USDA Secretary Xochitl Torres Small (left) met with Stephanie Zydenbos and others in New England agriculture in New Hampshire. Photo by Kelsi Devolve

At the end of the day, small farms are not going to out-compete large producers through efficiency or produce the cheapest products in the industry. Bruce Wooster, from Piccadilly Farm, mentioned how it’s difficult for local producers to compete with larger farms and how “it’s much more possible to get a head of lettuce from Arizona than it is from Winchester [New Hampshire] if you are buying in Concord [New Hampshire].”

However, “what [small farms] may do is be able to show the value that you are putting into the land and the soil, showing the investment you’re making when it comes to organic and climate-smart processes that a customer is looking for,” Torres Small noted.

Food Solutions New England has a goal to produce 50% of all food for New Englanders by 2060. In order to reach this ambitious goal, farmers have to spread the word about the value of their products.

“Our farmers are not only growing our food, they are stewarding and preserving our lands, and we should be investing in them as a community,” commented an attendee of the event.

Overall, REAP will help small farms in New Hampshire, and the rest of the U.S., keep up with the growing population, compete with the larger producers in their own way and help get New England to the goal of producing 50% of its own food intake.

For more information on what REAP has to offer, visit rd.usda.gov/programs-services/energy-programs/rural-energy-america-program-renewable-energy-systems-energy-efficiency-improvement-guaranteed-loans.

by Kelsi Devolve