National Rural Funders Collaborative
Alleviating Poverty, Creating Wealth, and Achieving Equity in Rural America
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Demonstration Grants
  The Tallulah Conversion Project
  The Market Umbrella Initiative

The Indian Land Tenure Foundation and the Native American Community Development Corporation
  Salinas and Pájaro Valleys Initiative
  Rai$ing Change
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Home: Alternative Economies: Demonstration Grants

Demonstration Grants

Five regional initiatives in the United States currently receive major funding from the National Rural Funders Collaborative (NRFC), to build or enhance their regional economies, foster long-term community change, and address the disparities of race, class and power that cause and reinforce persistent rural poverty. Each initiative funded will receive $150,000 to $300,000 annually for two years beginning in 2007, with the possibility of funding for an additional three years.

Current demonstrations include:

The Tallulah Conversion Project, led by the Northeast Louisiana Delta Community Development Corporation, is working to strengthen regional healthcare, education and economic opportunities through converting a former juvenile prison in Tallulah into a Success Center. The residential learning center will provide adult education and job training, and will serve as a one-stop regional hub for workforce development, small business development and entrepreneurial training. A prefabricated housing manufacturing plant will be developed to provide jobs to Success Center trainees as well as to help meet the need for affordable housing in the Delta and Southern Louisiana region. A community-based foundation also is planned to increase charitable giving to local nonprofits and social justice programs.

The Market Umbrella Initiative in New Orleans seeks to increase access to markets and opportunities for urban and rural farmers throughout the Gulf Coast and Mid South regions. Begun 12 years ago, the work of market umbrella inc. began as a single “grow what you sell” farmers market in New Orleans, the Crescent City Farmers Market (CCFM), which now is held weekly in two locations, with an annual economic impact of $6.8 million. Prior to Hurricane Katrina, the market operated in four locations, four days each week, with an annual impact of $12 million. It attracts increasing numbers of minority, limited-resource farmers and fishers, and draws vendors from Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. An important new part of the initiative is the establishment of crop circles, an alternative, sustainable model of grassroots philanthropy based on the tradition of giving circles. A percentage of each vendor's income from CCFM sales is pooled to help community members through small grants of up to $500. An innovative market money system, utilizing wooden tokens called cash crops, eliminates the need for vendors to accept credit cards and incur surcharges. A percentage of cash crop sales also contributes to funding the crop circles program.

The Indian Land Tenure Foundation and the Native American Community Development Corporation are working to move Native American reservations in Montana and Wyoming toward economic sovereignty and self-determination though facilitated community meetings and the creation and implementation of action plans to achieve community goals. This process includes education and mentoring around financial education, land acquisition, homeownership and small business development. Financial literacy and development training and mentoring will help tribal members to implement and build on their action-plan strategies, and sustain their efforts into the future. A goal of the initiative is to assist the tribes in creating alternative rural economies that are built on cultural and land assets, and then connect them to mainstream economies outside of the reservations. By regaining the control and productive use of land, financial and cultural assets, tribes can overcome their historic isolation from other non-Indian communities in their region, and begin to participate in, and benefit from, the larger economy.

The Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (ALBA) and the El Pajaro Community Development Corporation (El Pajaro CDC) are working in northern Monterey County and southern Santa Cruz County, California, to encourage and support small and micro-businesses as an alternative or adjunct to seasonal farm work. Agriculture is the dominant industry in the region, employing approximately 20 percent of the working-age population. The local farm worker population is largely Hispanic and poor, with a low level of education. ALBA is spurring the establishment of small farm enterprises and entrepreneur-based community development by providing business, marketing and agronomic education to local residents. El Pajaro CDC brings bilingual education to small and micro-businesses in the Hispanic communities of the Central Coast and supports the Plaza Vigil business incubator complex in downtown Watsonville. They also work with micro-entrepreneurs across the region. ALBA, El Pajaro CDC and the Salinas United Business Association (SUBA) are seeking to create a rural economy with opportunities for wealth creation through small business development, peer-based learning and broad civic participation.

Rai$ing Change, an initiative of the city of Greenfield and South Monterey County, CA, is focused on the greater Salinas Valley, including the four small cities of Gonzales, Soledad, Greenfield and King City, and smaller unincorporated communities throughout the region. It seeks to restructure the rural economy through employment and business ownership opportunities that provide a living wage and upward mobility, affordable housing and homeownership, youth education and job training, and community outreach. They are particularly emphasizing working with the indigenous, non-Spanish-speaking farm worker population who tend to be very poor and isolated from the larger community. Monthly community meetings, homebuyer and financial literacy education, credit counseling, GED and job training, affordable housing assistance, business assistance and micro-loans are all included in their strategies to build a strong and inclusive regional economy.

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