Finding ways to fund projects on the farm can seem a daunting task, but grants are not just for those in higher education or high-tech.
Farming is a business, and there are grants out there for small businesses and even grants specifically targeted to small farms as well as new and minority farmers.
Farmers might be able to tap into some of that money to build that high tunnel or update poultry feeders.
Grant organizations might be able give the farmer the funds required, share the costs, or reimburse the costs once the project is completed.
Future Harvest CASA offered a webinar Feb. 25 on grant writing to encourage farmers to apply for grants that might match their needs.
Caroline Selle, the group’s central Chesapeake program manager, opened the webinar with a review of what grants are and the basics on how applicants should prepare and apply.
Unlike a loan, grants do not have to be paid back. Farmers usually must submit a report explaining how they used the funding, Selle said.
Grants are offered by a range of government agencies and nonprofits.
Grants from community organizations often have simple, unintimidating applications, but they also might not have much money to distribute.
Finding a list of local grants is often difficult, and people often find this funding by word of mouth, Selle said.
Finding the Right Grant for Your Project
Before tackling a grant application, farmers should consider whether the grant’s parameters fit their needs, their farm qualifies, and the farm’s goals mesh with the grant provider’s.
It’s also important to understand how competitive the grant is, which will affect the farm’s chances of getting money.
When writing a grant proposal, farms will probably need a federal employer identification number and recent tax documents.
Federal grant applications usually require a DUNS number, which is a nine-digit business ID provided by Dun & Bradstreet.
The proposal will also most likely require the deed or lease to the farm land involved. Lessees may need to provide a document from the landowner giving permission to carry out the project.
With all the needed information, it’s good to get started early enough to meet the submission deadline.
Some proposals require statistics from the farm’s records, while other proposals are basic forms with check boxes and short-answer questions.
To improve the chances of getting funded, farms should use the buzzwords and key phrases in the funder’s request for proposal, she said.
Applicants should follow all of the rules, including word counts and deadlines. Farmers should determine if there is a contact person or website who can answer questions about the application.
Farmers should find out the total amount of money available as well as the likely grant awards. An applicant might be able to push the envelope to get more money than is commonly allotted, Selle said.
Farmers who land grants should set up a detailed calendar to help them meet all the reporting deadlines. It’s important to know how to report, how often and when.
Maintaining a good relationship with the grant provider may increase a farm’s chances of getting other loans in the future, either from the same entity or another one, Selle said.