I'm a volunteer at a nonprofit and we want to grow and distribute our crops to the needy as well as to sell a portion of them commercially with the proceeds being used to fund the expansion of our food donations. What would be the requirements for accomplishing these two goals? I presume we're going to need some kind of agriculture license for growing crops at the very least correct? Would we need an additional license to sell these crops and to distribute them freely to the needy? Any help answering these questions would be greatly appreciated. If it's of any relevance the nonprofit is located in Texas and we plant on using aeroponics to cultivate the crops. Thank you!
How can you get started growing crops? Do you need any licenses for that?
A good starting point will be to contact your county Agricultural Extension office. They should be able to answer your questions about licensing, and point you in the direction of other resources you'll find helpful.
Aeroponics is done "indoors" but that can mean inside a temporary structure like a hoophouse, or it can mean inside a permanent building. If you plan to renovate an existing building, you may need permits for that. If you plan to build a new building, you'll definitely need permits for that. Contact your local (city/town) government for building permits. You'll also need to figure out what your water supply will be. Will you use municipal drinking water? A nearby stream, river or reservoir? Each source probably has its own permitting requirements.
How can you distribute your crops to the needy? What licenses will you need for that?
There are lots of ways to distribute food to people who need it. First look around for organizations in your area that are giving away food, like food pantries, churches and other organizations that provide free meals, meals on wheels, etc. Contact them and ask if they will take your produce. They should be able to tell you what their requirements are, eg whether they need you to have some kind of certification or license.
How can you sell your crops to raise funds to grow and distribute more crops?
You may be able to sell produce to your local school. Check out Texas' Farm to School program for more info.
You can sell produce directly to consumers at farmers markets. The organizer of your local farmers market should be able to advise you on what kind of licensing you'll need for that. Some farmers markets have a system that allows recipients of SNAP and WIC to use those programs to buy produce. If you can sell at one of those markets, you'll hit both your goals of distributing produce to people in need and raising funds to support your organization.
When you're starting a program from scratch like this, the amount of things that you don't know can seem overwhelming. Even more, there are things that you don't yet know that you need to know. Here's some general advice.
Make a list of "things you don't know" that you need to know. Add to the list as you go along.
Find other organizations that have done something similar to what you're trying to do. Contact them and ask how they got started.
Whenever you can, talk to an actual person on the phone rather than online or by email. If the only contact info available is email, send a concise email with your main goal/question, but mention that you would love to talk to someone on the phone; provide your phone number.
Ask for advice, and if they say "I don't know," ask, "do you know anyone who might know? How can I contact that person?" Then contact that next person and get their advice.
There are lots of federally-funded grant programs for the type of work you're trying to do. You may be able to get some grant funding to buy equipment or pay for your time while you work on getting this off the ground. Federal funding is often distributed by state government agencies, so you may find additional funding opportunities at state agency websites.