Every grant has different requirements. Some grants specifically target women or minorities. Some are limited to a geographical location. And some organizations offer grants for projects that will further their own goals. It’s worth looking at all of the grants to see which might fit your needs and situation. Only some of the grants offered by the organizations below are for organic or sustainable farming systems.
Writing a Grant Proposal
Writing a grant proposal can be challenging, especially if you’ve never done it before. The Center for Participatory Change has written a step-by-step summary of how to write a grant. Start there and move on to the Foundation Center’s detailed short course on writing grant proposals.
The federal government is probably the largest source of grants for small farmers. The National Agricultural Library, part of the USDA, has put together a page of government organizations that offer grants to small farmers.
ATTRA, a project of the National Center for Appropriate Technology, has compiled a large number of grants and loans for small to medium-sized farms. The Fronterra Farmer Foundation offer grants up to $12,000 for farmers selling to customers in Chicago. SARE Youth Grants give kids 8-18 years old up to $400 for on-farm research and education projects. Ohio has a loan program for new and expanding programs in aquaculture, food processing, or biofuels that offers $10,000-100,000. There are a lot more programs to sort through.
Your local Cooperative Extension office might know of local organizations that want to help out small farmers. Find your local extension office and look around their web site, or give them a call.
Also, check your state departments of agriculture. Many will have grants for specific crops or farming methods they would like to promote.
Other Possible Grant Sources
Beyond these, consider who your customers are. Some farmers market associations offer small grants. Some restaurant groups might offer grants or help with loans in order to keep their fresh ingredients coming.
And finally, think of any growers associations you belong to (or are eligible to belong to). Many of them have projects they want to fund, which might be what you are wanting to do anyway.
Image by photofarmer, used with Creative Commons license.