Local Foods Initiative

As part of its mission of promoting economic development in rural, tobacco dependent, and economically distressed areas of North Carolina, the Golden LEAF Foundation has funded projects designed to help farmers access new and expanding markets, including the market for local foods.

Recently, public interest in local foods has grown, creating new economic opportunities for North Carolina farmers and businesses. In response, the Golden LEAF Foundation Board of Directors has developed a strategic initiative to expand local food opportunities for North Carolina farmers and businesses.

Primary Goal of Initiative

The initiative’s primary goal is to improve and expand farmers’ access to commercial, institutional, and retail markets that are increasing their use of local foods, especially those markets willing to pay a premium for local products.

Issues/ Priorities

The Foundation hopes to accomplish this goal by identifying projects that address some or all of the following issues: 1) the need for farmers to meet the food safety and certification standards and related expectations of the marketplace; 2) the coordination of production and distribution necessary to satisfy business and consumer demand; 3) the availability of infrastructure for aggregation, rough preparation, and intermediate processing; and 4) the marketing required to create and sustain demand for local foods.

Characteristics of Competitive Proposals

The most competitive applications will demonstrate a likelihood of providing a significant economic benefit to North Carolina farmers and businesses engaged in local foods efforts. Competitive proposals are also expected to have some or all of the following characteristics:

  • A regional or multi-county approach.
  • Creative strategies.
  • Focus on benefiting farmers and businesses in rural, economically distressed areas of North Carolina.
  • Applicant organization and collaborators with established track records working in this field.
  • Existing collaboration among farmers, businesses (distributors, packers, retailers, etc.), nonprofits, and/or governmental entities. Projects should not displace existing businesses or foreclose opportunities for business creation.
  • Address more than one of the four areas listed above (safety and certification standards, satisfaction of demand, processing infrastructure, and marketing).
  • Ability to serve a variety of farms and production practices.
  • Existing business plan or feasibility study.
  • A strong model for sustainability after the grant is completed.
  • Funds used for infrastructure, equipment, or similar expenses. Discrete project-related expenses are also permitted. Projects should not seek large amounts of general operating support.
  • Leveraged funds from state or federal government (including stimulus funds) or from other grant makers.
  • Significant economic impact expected within 12-18 months of funding.
  • An evaluation model that will assess the economic effect of the work accomplished with Golden LEAF funds.

Projects may request support for feasibility analysis or business planning necessary to refine project strategies. Projects should be sufficiently developed at the time of application that significant information about the opportunity being pursued is known, with planning funds used to define the project approach more precisely. Applications should include a request for all funds necessary for the project, including planning and implementation.

It is expected that the Foundation will award a total of approximately $2.5 million for this initiative to several projects.

Low Priority Proposals

Golden LEAF does not expect to fund the following types of projects in this initiative:

  • Farmers’ markets or similar projects not directly connected to efforts to access retail, institutional, or commercial markets.
  • Community gardens.
  • Community or shared use kitchen facilities not designed to meet demands of retail, institutional, and commercial markets.
  • Projects with outcomes that are primarily health or education related.
  • Capital campaigns.
  • Research.


WE ARE NO LONGER ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS FOR THIS INITIATIVE.  The deadline for applications for the local foods initiative was November 2, 2009.

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