Grants can be a great way to help farmers fund special projects or expand their agricultural businesses. However, sometimes it can be a challenge to find grants for farming.
This post will give you guidance on how to find funds for your farm, whether you’re in the start up phase or been in business for a while.
Table of contents
- What grants are available for farms?
- List of grant opportunities for farmers
- Finding grants for your farm FAQs
- Tips for applying for farm grants
- Related blog posts
What grants are available for farms?
Here are some tips on how to find grants and funding to your farm. Taking this approach can help you find opportunities that are relevant to your type of farm, farming practices, size and even geographical location. Finding these niche opportunities can often increase your chances of being awarded these funds since your farm is likely a closer match to the goals of the grant.
How to find farm grants
Finding grant opportunities is a little bit of a hide and seek type activity. You’ll need to spend some time researching organizations: looking over websites, old newsletters or news pages, signing up for email lists, and talking with people.
I’d recommend making a list with pen and paper or Excel/Google Sheets with organization names, grants, grant focus, and deadlines. As you come across opportunities you can keep adding to the list. Many grants are offered annually, so you can go back and apply when a grant is a good fit for your farm or a business project you’re working on.
Here are some ideas of places to start googling, following on social media, and signing up for their email lists:
- Look at membership organizations, such as farmer or commodity organizations at the state or national level, local or regional Chamber of Commerces or business associations
- Contact your county or regional agricultural extension agent. Get on their email list and also ask if they know of any local or regional opportunities.
- Seek out organizations in your niche, such as type of agriculture, farming or conservation practices, demographics (such as female farmer, first generation farm, beginning farmer, etc.)
- Look for regional opportunities
- Niche funding: type of agriculture, your region, practices, demographics
- Contact your local Small Business Development Center to learn about opportunities
- Talk with other farmers in your area or specialty area of agriculture, and staff at related organizations about grant opportunities
Email lists to sign up for with grant listings
- ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture
- Michael Fields Agricultural Institute
- Small Business Development Center in your region
List of grant opportunities for farmers
- Food grocery store co-ops often have grant programs for the regional areas where most of their farmers reside.
- Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT)
- SARE Farmer Rancher Research Grants
- American Farmland Trust – Brighter Future Fund
- Conservation focused projects for your farm with conservation focused organizations such as Pheasants Forever, The Nature Conservancy, The Audubon Society, Sand County Foundation – grants, awards, or cost-share funded projects are often managed by state organizations or local chapters
Government farm grants and funding opportunities
- USDA Value Added Producer Grants – contact your Rural Development Office staff specialist for more details
- Other USDA grant programs, Rural Development Office, FSA
- State Department of Agriculture – at the state level, there are often many grant programs focused on local food, specialty crops, and other areas of agriculture
- USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) – Conservation Program Cost Share opportunities: EQIP, CSP and other programs. Contact your county NRCS conservationist for more information. Often there are special dollars set aside for beginning and POC farmers.
- County land and conservation departments or districts – conservation programs for farmers and land owners right in your local area. Contact the local staff who work in this department to learn about opportunities.
- State and regional economic development corporations, example: Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. These programs may have grants or low interest loans often with incentives to develop and support small businesses or even Main Street revitalization.
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – This department often partners with farmers and ranchers on wildlife management practices. Often there may be technical or project fund assistance. Contact your the closest location to your farm for more information.
Other ways to find funding for your farm
- Farm Credit – lending institution for farmers and ranchers. Different farm credit institutions serve specific geographic areas. For example, Compeer Financial is the lender that serves our region or Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois. They offer traditional home and ag lending opportunities, as well as special lending programs partnered with USDA Farm Service Agency for farms based on certain qualifications. Sometimes institutions will offer grants and other services to its beginning farmer clients. Working with a loan officer is also a good starting point to learn about lending opportunities and also how you might qualify for certain FSA loans, with reduced or no down payments and lower rates.
- USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) – federal lending program for farmers often at lower rates, low to no down payments. There has been opportunities for female farmers, beginning farmers, and other underserved populations, including native American minority farmers and ranchers. The FSA also manages a number of other cost-share funding programs focused on conservation, relief and other farm support areas. Contact your county office to talk with a loan officer to learn more about opportunities that fit with your farm’s goals.
- Steward – Crowd sourced lending organization focused on regenerative agriculture. I know several farmers and ranchers who have received funding from this organization.
Finding grants for your farm FAQs
To be brutally honest there are very few grants that will help fund the start up of a farm or buying land. Most grant funders want to know you’re in it for the long haul and want to see that you’ve made an investment yourself, financially and sweat equity. However, once you’re established for a few years and can show you’ve made growth in the progression of your farm’s operation, business goals and growth, you’re in a good place to start applying for grants.
The best funding option for starting a farm is actually looking at agricultural lending opportunities, specifically through a Farm Credit institution or even with the USDA Farm Service Agency. These lenders are experienced working with farmers and ranchers, unlike other banks or lenders, and they will often have unique programs that will be a better fit for your farm and goals. This might include land loans, short term loans for larger purchases like equipment or livestock, or even operating loans to help cover costs throughout the year with seasonal nature of producing sellable products and commodities from your farm.
Yes, there are a lot of grants available for female farmers. Additionally, women farmers may also qualify for additional benefits for other grants, loans or cost-share funding programs. For example, with the USDA FSA loan program women applicants can receive extra ranking points, compete for better rates, and downpayment (or none) requirements. Typically with the USDA and other federal programs these opportunities are available since women were a historically underserved population with these types of services.
Other nonprofit and organizational programs targeted to female farmers often have been established to encourage women to become farmers or expand their work as farmers since they make up a small percentage of our nation’s population of farmers.
Generally speaking, no you cannot get a grant to buy a farm. Most funders want to put money into farms that have some track record of success or making progress toward their goals. This doesn’t mean you need to be a generational farmer to receive a grant, but just having a few years under your belt will start making your farm more qualified for grant opportunities. Additionally, most grants do not help support the purchase of land or equipment.
Your best option is to look at agricultural lending opportunities with Farm Credit institutions or even USDA FSA. They often have better rates and downpayment options for farmers, including beginning farmers and rural land owners, and they understand farming and ranching.
Just like other grant programs outside of agriculture, your farm business will need to find opportunities and apply for them. Typically they include a written application, outlining your farm, business plans, how the grant funds will help your farm, and how you’ll measure the results of the grant contribution to your farm. These grants are managed through nonprofits and organizations interested in farming, ranching and rural America.
State or federal government grants (or cost-share or loan programs) are usually administered through your county or state offices. To apply for these types of farm grants and funding opportunities, it’s best to schedule an appointment to meet with a staff person or phone call. They’ll walk you through the process and help you figure out what types of programs fit your farm and goals. Depending on the program, the staff may work with you on your application or give you guidance on how to apply.
Tips for applying for farm grants
Once you have a list of grant opportunities, you’ll then want to make sure you spend time applying for the grants. To submit a quality grant application you’ll need to focus on putting together a strong case for why your farm and project is qualified to receive the grant. You can’t pull this together the night before like you might have done with a high school or college term paper. Learn more on it’s how to apply for farm grants in this blog post here.