A New Future: Winning a USDA Value-Added Producer Grant

Reader Contribution by Julia Shewchuck

Value-Added Producer Grant

We Got The Grant – Wooooohooooo – Oh Boy – Now What? You may remember my blog from February 25th of this year. These were my closing sentences: “Looking back after a week, I have to admit, the experience was worth it. It made me assess and think through my project. The feeling of finally submitting this grant application was awesome. If, through some miracle, we receive it, it will be just absolutely fabulous. If we don’t, we haven’t lost anything, except for some sleep. My advice, if you are really, really, really serious about your chances, hire a grant writer, especially if it’s kidding season.”

So, around the end of May, our USDA area office told us that ours was one of two grants in Florida that was sent on to the national level. We were told: “That is really good news, but don’t get your hopes up, the national level is really competitive”. We were thrilled anyway.

Well, we got the news yesterday with a call from Florida’s Senator Nelson’s office: “We are calling to congratulate you on receiving the USDA Value-Added Producer Grant!”

“What, wait, no way, really?” Wowowowowowow. Happy Dance. Happy Dance. Happy Dance.

I looked it up on-line and sure enough, there it was in black and white: Serenity Acres! Only farm in Florida to receive one of the USDA Value Added Producer Grants. Wow again.

Marketing Homemade Soaps

So, where do we go from here? There is a serious, if exciting side to this. We received the grant to finance a rebranding and marketing campaign with Pulp & Wire, a PR company, for our farm and our goat’s milk soap, including our other body care products, so we can go national and strive for financial sustainability of the farm. This is a matching grant, so we do have to put in some money and not a tiny amount either. Of course, there is the commitment we need to make in time and effort to see this project through once we start down this path. The question we have mulled over and over, before and after submitting the grant is “Are we ready?” The answer, with butterflies in our stomachs, is a resounding “YES”. Too many things could have gone wrong, sideways or off-track, but they didn’t and a door to a new future has been opened. Has it? We will find out! We are marching through it, heart in our throats, because if we didn’t, we would always ask ourselves, what if?

We are passionate about our goats, about our farm, and about our soaps. We love the fact that the soaps are all-natural, good for your skin, and have a scent that stays around and around. It makes us happy when we have interns and friends, who have not been able to use soaps because of eczema and other allergies, tell us that our goat milk soap is the first soap they can use.

Goat’s Milk Soap Benefits to Skin

Here is the Why! Hand-crafted goat milk soap nourishes your skin instead of stripping the oils from it. It still contains the glycerin to soften your skin. Commercial soap typically has all its glycerin stripped out for use in cosmetics. Goat’s milk soap also contains caprylic acid, making the soap an alkaline product with a low pH that is close to that of human skin. This allows the moisture and nutrients to be delivered to the skin and prevents dryness and other allergic reactions. Goat’s milk soap also contains lactic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid which is commonly included in skin rejuvenation products. Alpha hydroxy acid helps to remove dead skin cells, leaving the skin surface smooth and clean. And of course, hand-made goat’s milk preservatives. If you don’t believe me, read the ingredient label of your commercial bar of soap. Chances are you won’t even be able to pronounce two-thirds of the ingredients.

Enough, I’m coming off my soap box, pun intended.

Stay with us and accompany us through this adventure. Take a look at our current websites,www.CloudNineNatural.comandwww.SerenityFarmFL.com. Take a look at our products, our packaging, and like our Facebook page “Serenity Acres Farm and Goat Dairy”. Walk with us through this change into a new future. Who knows, you might even be able to say, well, I knew them when….. LoL. Pictures, by the way, were taken by our friend Joe Sands.

So Long, till next time