Donn Cooper CEO, Cooper Agricultural Services, LLC will be speaking during the Mo Grants, Mo Money Saturday Session.
What role do you play in the local, organic food movement?
For lack of a better word I’m a consultant, which means I do a lot of things that are hard to encapsulate in an elevator pitch. While my heart is with agronomy and getting my hands dirty, I have a knack for project management and good paperwork. As a result, I’ve become a kind of connector between farmers and ag-based nonprofits, and USDA grant programs, leading folks through the arduous process to create a grant application and helping them think through costs, growth opportunities, and sustainable operational strategies along the way. I come from a family of farmers and educators, and I try to offer sensible services that advance farmers and supporting organizations toward their goals.
Why are you excited to present about your topic and what are some key takeaways attendees will get from your session?
By in large, the most successful agribusinesses in Georgia have actively pursued appropriate USDA grant programs, such as the Value-Added Producer Grant, to their benefit. These public funds are for everyone to use, but it requires a certain level of internal organization and planning to compete for them. I hope attendees will leave the session with a better understanding of the grant programs offered by the USDA, the USDA grant calendar, and what steps they should take to position themselves for future funding.
What is your vision for the future of organic farming in Georgia?
My overall vision is for Georgia across agricultural enterprises to move continuously toward organic production. Part of that is the adoption of organic practices and inputs by conventional farmers, such as with cover cropping and biologicals. The other part is a real substantial increase in the number of USDA Certified Organic farms, so that when people think of Georgia, they think of organic right alongside peanuts and pecans and chicken.
What about the Georgia Organics conference do you look forward to the most?
The people, of course. The conference has become an important event to mark the passing of another year, check up on friends, and reinvigorate. I’m also a farm nerd, so I like anything that’s in the weeds. I could listen to Dr. A talk about bugs for days.