Starting or expanding a farm, even a small one, is not a cheap feat. Whether you need a swine farming grant or money to expand a fruit orchard, small-scale farmers can apply for grants and financial assistance to take their career to the next level. You just need to know where to look to find the right grants and start the application process.
Regardless of what programs you decide to take advantage of, a small farm business plan is a requirement for nearly all of them. So while you wait for additional information from the government or other lenders or programs, make sure you've developed a comprehensive and thorough business plan to submit with your application.
Small Farm Grants and Other Financial Assistance Resources
- First, check with your Cooperative Extension Office for the most local and individual assistance for your particular situation. Your Cooperative Extension Office can be a helpful source of information and save you a lot of time spent hunting through grant listings that make no sense for your needs or location.
- Next, head to Grants.gov. There, you can search by keyword, browse categories, or browse agencies to find small farm grants that may meet your needs.
- The USDA Alternative Farming Systems Information Center lists resources and opportunities for grants and loans for small farmers and other agricultural producers. There's also a video tutorial on funding sources as well as a Small Farms Funding Resources publication that will help you write a business plan, develop a grant proposal, and find assistance programs that you may be eligible for.
- The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education organization lists grants available to farmers. Some of these involve partnerships with the community or an educational institution.
- Beginningfarmers.org features a comprehensive set of links about financial help to start a small farm business. You'll find everything from the USDA's Farm Service Agency to individual states' programs for beginning farmers to the Farm Credit Cooperative system and links to private lenders who loan to beginnings farmers.
More Resources for Small Farmers
The resources below aren't grants, per se, but they're great powerhouses of information and education that will help you on your way as you learn the ropes of small farming. They also include extensive and through links to additional resources.
- The Small Farms Program is offered through Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and is funded by the USDA's Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program. It offers online courses, a website full of resources, including a guide to farming in New York, farming videos, and host events. Although based in New York, it is reaching out to form collaborations with other organizations in the Northeast.
- The New England Small Farm Institute offers a course called Exploring the Small Farm Dream, geared toward getting new farmers off on the right foot with their business. Even if you're not in New England, you can work through the book in a self-study format for free.
- The USDA website has many resources for new farmers including financing information and a comprehensive farming tutorial for those who are brand new to small-scale farming.