Jordan Classen and her husband, Travis, are both native Nebraskans with a passion for farming. They recently started their own farming operation, with Travis raising their cattle and Jordan managing their marketing and sales. Starting a small business like theirs and keeping it running can be difficult, especially in the beginning.
The Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development (RD) agency was able to help Jordan in a time of transition and allowed her to continue to focus on her operation.
“I'm super grateful we got the grant and I really feel like it's helping me,” Jordan said. “It can be scary to be a small business owner sometimes, and having that reassurance is helping me believe in myself a little bit more too.”
The grant program is designed to support agricultural producers who are creating value-added products. These include products that are processed, packaged, dried or otherwise changed from their raw version for sale. Through VAPG, qualifying producers, like Jordan, can get funding for business development, marketing expenses, processing costs, and salaries.
Jordan and Travis branched out from Travis’ family operation in 2016 when they started raising cattle in Fullerton, Nebraska. After getting their feet under them, Jordan began focusing on processing, marketing, and selling their beef. In 2022, she established Classen Land & Cattle, LLC and got to work. She began small but used her talent for marketing and business to create a strategy and development plan. Soon after, she followed the recommendations of fellow farmers and applied for VAPG.
The grant was especially helpful for her business this year, as she had to move locations unexpectedly and rent a new space. This was an additional cost that even Jordan’s careful planning could not have anticipated.
“I would say what VAPG has helped me with the most was giving me stability when I needed it,” she said.
Even with the hurdles she has faced this year, she has been able to substantially increase her beef processing, from five head her first year to more than 20 this year. She will also be using the funds to increase her marketing and further improve her website, allowing customers to make custom orders online and expand her market.
VAPG was the first grant Jordan ever applied for. While it was a new experience for her, she is glad she did it. She said the staff at her local RD office helped her prepare for the deadline and meet the submission requirements.
“Small businesses are what truly make America,” Jordan said. “The more we can support small businesses, the more we’re supporting our country and supporting people trying new things…VAPG is definitely something that I advocate for and I really believe in. I think it's wonderful and I wish there could be an unlimited amount of grant dollars for people to do it.”
Producers interested in the VAPG program are encouraged to contact their RD office for more information. Office locations can be found here. In 2022 alone, the program supported more than 180 producers nationwide.