verb | ac·cel·er·ate
- To progress more rapidly than usual
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the application deadline?
Feb. 14, 2020. Apply Here.
What is the Georgia Organics Farmer Fund Accelerator program?
The Accelerator program combines tailored on-farm investments with a customized coaching program to help selected farmers grow into a more financially sustainable operation more quickly than usual.
The Accelerator will provide selected farmers with business & financial consultants, marketing & sales experts, loan and leasing coaches, and production consultants, combined with up to $10,000 in support per farm in the form of paid apprentices, marketing materials, infrastructure and equipment investments, and health insurance premium cost-shares.
How many farmers will get accepted each year?
How long will the program last?
Accepted farmers will get 12 months of support and they will be eligible to re-apply for another 12 months. Twenty-four months of support is the absolute maximum. Georgia Organics plans to run the Accelerator program for at least five years.
How will farmers be chosen?
We will be prioritizing farmers who are already certified organic and need support, farmers that are committed to achieving organic certification and need support, and historically disenfranchised farmers.
For the sake of transparency, the farmers who are selected will be publicized on our website and in member emails.
At least fifty percent of the accepted farmers will be from communities considered to be historically disenfranchised, which includes farmers of color, women farmers, and LGBTQ+ farmers.
Farmers will have to members of Georgia Organics before they are accepted into the Accelerator program, and will be required to have liability insurance.
Who will be on the farmer selection committee?
We are still pulling the selection team together and are recruiting Georgia-based people from farmer service organizations. We are also asking farmers who serve on the Georgia Organics board of directors to join the review team.
Farmer Selection Committee members include:
- Rodney Brooks, USDA Farm Services Agency
- Billy Mitchell, National Farmers Union
- Bilal Sarwari, National Young Farmers Coalition
- Relinda Walker, formerly Walker Organic Farms and Georgia Organics board member
- George Frangos, Farm Burger and Georgia Organics board member
How will coaches and resources be selected for accepted farmers?
After being accepted into the program, farmers will be asked to complete a farm and ranch health assessment. Georgia Organics farmer services staff will use The Farm and Ranch Health Assessment and conversations and farm visits with the farmer to write a customized Accelerator plan for each farm. The Accelerator plan will list the coaches and resources chosen specifically for each farm.
What will Georgia Organics provide?
Accelerator coaching available – 8 to 20 hours per farm.
- Business, accounting, taxes, and financial
- Public relations, branding, and marketing
- Loans and leases
- Organic certification – Please note that Georgia Organics provides cost shares for achieving organic certification.
- Food safety
- Organic Production
Accelerator investments available – $500 to up to $9,650. (Accepted farmers are eligible for some or all of the following support.)
- Apprentices or on-farm labor – $6,400 per farm ($10/Hour x 40 Hours/Week x 16 Weeks)
- Marketing materials – $1,000 per farm
- Health insurance cost-shares ($1,000/Year per farm, or $83.33/Month)
- On-farm infrastructure and equipment – up to $1,000
- Georgia Organics conference scholarships – $250
What are farmers expected to provide?
Georgia Organic asks that:
- Farmers complete the application and answer any subsequent follow-up questions for admission.
- Farmers complete the Farm and Ranch Business Health Assessment, with Georgia Organics staff support, prior to joining the program.
- Farmers complete a Perceived Stress Scale survey, before and after the program.
- Farmers provide some financial data, that will remain private, at the beginning and end of this program.
- Farmers commit to spending the infrastructure funds only as outlined the Accelerator plan created with Georgia Organics staff.
- Farmers who utilize Apprentices follow a provided basic curriculum that ensures an employee’s progressive education in sustainable agriculture.
- Farmers complete three surveys on their experiences during and after the Accelerator program.
- Farmers sign a Memorandum of Understanding committing to the above requirements.
Can farmers be members of the Farm to Restaurant cohort and the Accelerator program?
No, we are going to keep them separate for at least the first year. In the future, these programs may merge.
Who are the coaches?
The team we’ve assembled so far includes:
- Debbie Dangerfield, Dangerfield Consulting
- Ellen Polishuk, Plant to Profit
- Julia Shanks, The Farmer’s Office
- Cory Mosser, Natural Born Tillers
- Melissa Libby and Associates
- Michelle Namer, The Law Farm
What can the on-farm infrastructure investments be used for?
The general categories for these funs are apprentices, marketing materials, health insurance cost-shares, and on-farm infrastructure and equipment. So, would a new website be considered doable under the marketing material category? You bet. Say, you needed a walk-in cooler to really reach the next level. Well, $1,000 isn’t enough for a walk-in cooler, but it could be used to help pay for a walk-in cooler, under the “on-farm infrastructure and equipment” category. And, before we’d commit to using that money on a walk-in cooler, we’d take a look at the Health Assessment to really flesh out if that’s what a farm needed to be more financially sustainable. All expenditures will be agreed on beforehand and included in the Accelerator plan.
What’s an apprentice?
Farmers do not have to use this pool of funding for apprentices. It can also be used for existing employees or new employees. But farmers who opt to run an apprenticeship program will need to commit to providing farm production training to the apprentices. There are multiple trainings to choose from and Georgia Organics can provide that. You can learn more about apprenticeships here. Funds for on-farm labor and apprentices will go directly to the employer farmer.
What’s the timeline for this program?
After the application deadline closes on Feb 14, we expect to have finalists identified by the third week of February. We expect the successful applications will be notified in March, and that some farmers will begin accessing coaches and on-farm investments in March and definitely by the end of April.
Can members of Georgia Organics’ board of directors be accepted into the Accelerator program?
Yes, with a significant caveat. On Jan. 30, 2020, the Georgia Organics board of directors voted to allow a maximum of one board member per year to be accepted into the Accelerator program. That person may only enter into the program after going through the normal review process and being selected by the Farmer Selection Committee, and also approved by a vote of the Georgia Organics board of directors. The Jan. 30 vote also requires that the board member who is up for approval into the Accelerator program recuse themselves of any Accelerator-related votes. Another requirement directs staff to publicly list all farmers who are accepted into the program and note those with affiliations with the board of directors.
Please note: Board members’ applications will not receive any bonus points or higher scores for their service on the board.
How will progress be measured for this program?
Each farm will have a different starting place, and a different ending place, making the progression of each farm unique. The goal of this project will be to close some of the knowledge gaps, and their on-farm infrastructure components, identified in the application process and in the Farm and Ranch Business Health Assessment. Through conversations with the accepted farmers and Georgia Organics staff, we will determine which of the gaps are most important for each farmer to progress further toward financial stability. Those gaps will be the ones prioritized for that farm. In addition, we will get a baseline of perceived stress levels using the one-page Perceived Stress Scale survey, which is the most widely used psychological instrument for measuring the perception of stress. We will require that accepted farmers perform this self-assessment before, directly after, and several years after entering the Accelerator program.