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Nonprofit Kickstarter Campaign Highlights 17 Years of Farmer-Driven Innovation

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If successful with its first Kickstarter campaign, the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) will be able to achieve a long-held dream. With community support, RAFI hopes to create an online library of innovative farm projects and publish a book of sustainable models for family farmers.

The campaign’s online video celebrates a 17-year history of farmer innovation, describing RAFI’s goal to raise funds in order to publicly document hundreds of farm projects. View online: http://rafiusa.org/programs/tobacco-communities-reinvestment-fund/

Since the inception of its Tobacco Communities Reinvestment Fund (TCRF) in 1997, RAFI has funded more than 500 farmer-led projects across North Carolina. Citing the end of the USDA’s Tobacco Transition Payment Program, the “tobacco buyout,” RAFI affirms that these projects are especially relevant now. (The program started in 2004 and pays tobacco producers and quota holders through 2014 to transition to new agricultural production or out of the tobacco industry.)

RAFI’s TCRF supports farmers and rural communities in developing new and innovative sources of agricultural income through the provision of cost-share grants. More than 80% of the projects have been successful in helping farmers reinvigorate their farms.

“Each year, RAFI’s Tobacco Communities Reinvestment Fund seeks out the most innovative and creative farmers from around the state. We look to these folks to demonstrate profitable ways to make a living in small and mid-scale agriculture, and to share their lessons with their neighbors and community members,” said RAFI Farm Sustainability Director Joe Schroeder, who has worked with the fund for more than 5 years.

The dual nature of the program entails both the funding of projects and facilitating peer-to-peer learning opportunities for farmers. In addition, the TCRF seeks to fund projects that are replicable, in order to ensure the potential of wider adoption and to have a greater impact on rural economies.

Through an intensive documentation process and site visits with farmers, RAFI has amassed an archive of farm projects that they plan to make available through a new online library. Additionally, the staff plans to produce a book of exemplary farm projects that will highlight sustainable models for family farmers.

“Through this project, we’re upholding the TCRF as a program that is unique to North Carolina, but that has the ability to be a model to the rest of the country,” said Jean Willoughby, RAFI Project Coordinator.

RAFI is a 501c3 organization based in Pittsboro, NC. RAFI’s mission is to cultivate markets, policies and communities that support thriving, socially just, and environmentally sound family farms.

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