The newly formed distribution co-op in Montezuma County received a $48,500 grant last week to help with setting up infrastructure and other start-up costs.
The grant was the largest one of its kind awarded in the state, said Dan Hobbs with Rocky Mountain Farmers Union.
Southwest Farm Fresh was formed by 18 independent area farmers and ranchers, and they held their first official meeting in March after about three years of preliminary work by interested producers, the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union and LiveWell Montezuma.
"There has been enough going with local food and agriculture, the time had just come," said Hobbs.
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, said JoDee Powers the LiveWell Montezuma Coordinator.
Rocky Mountain Farmers Union applied for the grant and it will help producers be more efficient, said Hobbs.
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.