Wondering about where to find money for your small farm startup or expansion? Perhaps you need farm equipment but don't know how to pay for it. Well, there are plenty of resources for small farm grant money and assistance for small-scale farming. You just have to know where to look online.
Here's a summary of small farm grants and other financial assistance resources:
- Grants.gov: This is a great place to start your search. 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.
- 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.
- 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 has a great page with 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 thorough links to additional resources.
- The Small Farms Program is offered through Cornell University in Ithaca, NY and is funded by the USDA's Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program. They offer online courses, a website full of resources, including a guide to farming in NY and farming videos, and host events. Although based in NY, they are 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.
You'll Need a Business Plan
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.