Farm co-op receives $48,500

The newly formed distribution co-op in Montezuma County received a $48,500 grant last week to help with setting up essential infrastructure and other start-up costs.

Southwest Farm Fresh was formed by about 18 independent area farmers and ranchers, and they held their first official meeting in March.

The group plans to start wholesale distribution to restaurants, hospitals and schools this summer and reduce distribution costs of individual farm operations.

In addition to infrastructure, the grant will help with marketing and training costs.

The cooperative received the grant through the federal Rural Business Enterprise Grant Program, which finances and facilitates the development of rural businesses and funds distance learning networks and adult employment education programs.

Sen. Michael Bennet’s office announced the grant.

“Developing a distribution cooperative opens new markets for local producers and provides better access to healthy and fresh food,” Bennet said. “This grant will help the Southwest Farm Fresh cooperative open their doors, and it’s another great example of the important role rural development funds play in supporting communities.”

At the first co-op meeting the board member’s only expressed concern that local producers may not be able to keep up with local demand.