Many farmers want to take advantage of farm grants. That said, accessing this funding can be challenging. Farmers have to know what grants they’re eligible for at the national, state, and local level. They also have to stay on top of deadlines, scoring systems, and paperwork. Managing these different moving parts is overwhelming for many producers, so we’ve made a checklist that every farmer can use to never miss out on a grant.
Your Farm Grants Checklist ✅
- Step 1: build or update a farm business plan. This is the first step in your farm funding journey. Develop a vision for your operation and make a list of the on-farm projects that need farm grant funding. Once you have your list, rank your projects by importance so you have a clear idea of your farm funding priorities. Keep in mind that if you’re a totally beginning farmer (without land that you manage or own and zero operating experience), it may be harder to get farm funding than if you have a farming track record and land.
- Step 2: determine your eligibility. You should call the organizations that offer farm grants. Ask what programs you’re eligible for that align with your business plan. Do this at least once every 3 months, because programs and deadlines can change! You can start with your local Farm Service Agency and National Resource Conservation Services Office (and if you don’t already have an FSA number, now would be a good time to get that on file). Next, call your state Department of Agriculture and your local Soil and Water Conservation District to ask about grants. Finally, search around the internet for additional private or philanthropic funding opportunities that may fit your operational needs and give them a ring.
- Step 3: make a checklist with calendar deadlines. Once you know what farm grant programs to target, make a master list of all the materials you need, along with key deadlines. If you need to hire a grant writer, find that person months in advance of the deadline. Plug these deadlines into a calendar so that you get reminded to finish your paperwork.
- Step 4: know how your app is ranked. Farm grants like the Value Added Producer Grant have a scoring system that will be used to evaluate your application. Cost-share programs like EQIP and CSP have local resource priority concerns that can boost your odds of success if you address them. Consider what you’ll be measured on as you get ready to apply.
- Step 5: apply! Finish the paperwork. If there’s confusing language in a form, give the grant funding organization a call to ask for help. Stay on top of your schedule, and don’t give up!
- Step 6: double check your work. You may be worn out by the application, but be sure to carefully proof the forms and written answers. When farmers submit applications before they’re proofed and ready, this can hurt their odds of success.
- Step 7: stay on top of farm grant program changes. Make a list of all the national and local farm grants that interest you, and set up a Google Alert for each of these to check in on each day.
Feel free to email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions about farm funding. Good luck to all you producers accessing farm grants in 2021!