The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association and the Kennebec Valley Council of Governments are among four groups in the state to get a share of 385 grants awarded nationally by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help support the start up or expansion of rural small businesses.

The two organizations’ share has the potential to create up to 71 jobs, according to a Wednesday news release from the USDA.

The overall total of the grants, which is through the USDA’s Rural Business Development Grant program, is $20 million. Maine’s share is $275,000. Other recipients in the state are the Aroostook Aspiration Initiative and the Northern Maine Development Commission.

MOFGA, based in Unity, is getting $98,950 to “assist with organic grower business consultation services, organic farming workshops and professional training, and third-party loans for non-production purposes from an organic farmers’ revolving loan fund.” The project has the potential to create 50 jobs, the USDA said.

KVCOG, based in Fairfield, is getting $89,000 to expand the Maine Grains oat project, including adding equipment, testing, package design and marketing. The grant has the potential to create as many as 21 jobs.

“These grants will strengthen the economic fabric of our rural small towns and communities by providing capital to small and emerging businesses,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in the news release.

USDA Rural Development Maine Director Virginia Manuel said in the release that the projects will “have a significant impact on an estimated 184 jobs in Maine in the local foods and other sectors.”

“In addition, the grant funds USDA Rural Development is investing will have a positive long-term effect on the production of local foods throughout the state in Maine’s rural communities.”

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