MFU Foundation Announces $21k in Grants
GREAT FALLS – Montana Farmers Union Foundation and partners are excited to fund three rural community projects receiving a total of $21,000.
Power Public Schools received $10,000 toward purchasing a new freezer and enlarging their dry goods storage. The freezer will expand their Farm-to-School program. Hobson School Agriculture Department received $5,000 for a new CNC Plasma System. Divide School received $6,000 to build a greenhouse to provide students with fresh produce.
Farmers Union Industries and the Teton County Farmers Union Local partnered with the MFU Foundation and contributed $5,000 and $1,000 respectively in addition to the Foundation’s $15,000.
“By using FUI and Local money, we’re able to stretch it and do three projects instead of two,” said Erik Somerfeld, an MFU board member who sits on the Foundation Selection Committee.
The three projects are the second round of grants awarded by the Foundation this year.
In June, the Foundation awarded: $1,500 to Choteau Schools to expand their garden area that contributes to their food service program with the purchase of supplies and signage; $2,000 to Belt School for the purchase of new shop equipment to provide students with hands-on learning experiences relevant to agriculture; and $6,500 to North Star Schools for a four-season greenhouse to use for hands-on experiences for elementary and high school students and for use in the food service program.
The most recent round of applicants were even stronger than the first round, Somerfeld said, adding that they align well with the Foundation’s work to create new opportunities and contribute to the growth and enhancement of Montana agriculture and rural communities.
Power’s project also is connected to another project MFU has supported. MFU donated a refrigerated van to School House Meats in Missoula to deliver Montana raised and processed meat to Montana schools, including Power.
“Everybody saw good synergy between the two projects,” Somerfeld said.
Ingrid Hill is a community partner in Power’s Farm to School coalition. She works to sell her family’s ranch meat direct to consumer, but many ranchers don’t have freezer space to store large quantities of meat until the school has freezer space for more.
Quadrupling the school’s freezer capacity expands not only their ability to purchase more and from more producers, but also to freeze local produce to use throughout the year, and Hill said the community is grateful to Foundation funding for making the storage expansion possible.
“We can support one of our farmers and ranchers and hopefully one of our families,” Hill said.
Students’ palates will be broadened, but so will their understanding of their local food supply and the people who produce it.
“It fosters their sense of exploration, their creativity, their sense of adventure and just their willingness to engage in different environments,” Hill added.
While the grants are a one-time infusion of cash, the projects will have long-term impacts.
For example, the greenhouse will teach students skills to grow their own food and lifelong lessons about nutrition, while the plasma system will provide state-of-the-art training for students to use throughout their lives.
“It’s just a good hands-on training situation that these kids can take and use to hopefully further on in their own farm careers or maybe they enter the machining world and become a machinist,” Somerfeld said about the plasma system.
Another funding round will open next spring, Somerfeld said, encouraging people to apply.
If people are interested in applying, he said, “sharpen your pencils and come up with a good project that has an educational component to it.”
For more information about the MFU Foundation, visit montanafarmersunion.com/mfu-foundation/.