Applying for Grants
An increasing number of grant programs are available to farmers from federal or state sources each with specific objectives. Grants fall into the three general types: 1) grants for business planning, adding value and increasing farm viability; 2) grants for on-farm research and demonstration projects that are mostly production oriented though some include marketing demonstration projects; and 3) grants for farm energy conservation, alternative energy, environmental protection and conservation, waste management, and community building.
Grants, however, are not a reliable strategy for growing your business. Grants may enable you to expand a particular aspect of your business to make your operation more viable or provide funding to try a new practice on your farm.
Grants are highly competitive so apply only if the project you are proposing clearly meets the grantor’s objectives. Always find out what kinds of projects were funded in the past to determine if your project is in line with what has been funded.
It takes significant time and effort to write a wining grant proposal. Instructions must be followed precisely. Grants often require a cash or in-kind match that must be documented in the budget you propose. Grants will not be considered if they arrive late after the deadline for application. Deadlines for application submission and instructions are generally announced once a year. Most grants are not available on an ongoing basis.
Once you submit a grant, it may take 3 to 6 months to find out if your application was selected for funding. If funded, it also takes time to finalize the contract. Generally you will not be reimbursed for money spent prior to receiving the signed contract. Grant contracts require that you write a report of the results and provide an accounting of how the money was spent; therefore, you must keep accurate records. Grants are also considered income for tax purposes.
The following grant opportunities pertain especially to farmers in urban centers. More general grant opportunities for farmers are also provided.
Grant Opportunities for Urban Farmers
USDA-SARE Sustainable Community Grants
- Purpose: For community organizations to make direct connections between community revitalization and farming.
- Eligibility: Must be affiliated with Cooperative Extension, a municipality, a state department of agriculture, a college or university, a community organization, or other institutional entity. All applications must come from an individual within an organization. Unaffiliated individuals may not apply, and there is a limit of one proposal per applicant per year.
- Deadline: Submit applications on line in November for awards in the spring.
- Information: Visit http://www.nesare.org/Grants/ for more information and for information about how to write a Sustainable Community Grant.
Wallace Center Healthy Urban Food Enterprise Development (HUFED) Grants
- Purpose: To make more healthy and affordable food available in low-income areas, increase market access for small- and medium-sized agricultural producers, and promote positive economic activities generated by attracting healthy food enterprises into underserved communities.
- Information: Offer small enterprise, large enterprise, and feasibility study grants, each with different purposes and awards. Visit http://www.wallacecenter.org/hufed/ or contact or (703) 531-8810 for more information.
US EPA Brownfields Program Grants
- Purpose: Provide direct funding for brownfields assessment, cleanup, revolving loans, and environmental job training.
- Information: Provide assessment, cleanup, training, research, technical assistance, and other grants. Information for each grant type is available at http://epa.gov/brownfields/grant_info/index.htm.
United Way of New York City Seed Grants
United Way of New York City has created an Urban Farms initiative and provides seed grants for Urban Farming through the Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program (HPNAP).
- Purpose: Support the creation or enhancement of services in community-based organizations.
- Eligibility: Must be a community-based organization with 501 c. 3 status. More eligibility requirements are listed on the website provided below.
- Information: The grant implementation timeline is January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2015. For eligibility requirements, selection criteria, and application procedures, visit http://action.unitedwaynyc.org/pages/urbanfarmseedgrants.
Other Grant Opportunities for Farmers
NYS Funding for Organic Certification
- Purpose: Reimburse producers for a portion of their annual organic certification renewal costs; can apply annually (75% reimbursement up to a maximum of $750).
- Information: More information is available from the USDA National Organic Program website (ams.usda.gov/nop) and forms can be downloaded from http://www.agriculture.ny.gov/AP/Organic/.
NYS Specialty Crops Block Grants Program
- Purpose: Increase the competitiveness of specialty crops, encourage efficiency, partnerships, innovation, and new markets. The RFP includes many areas of focus including: packaging/labeling, environmental quality, distribution, education and outreach, food safety, food security, marketing and promotion, product development, plant health and international trade. 2009 awards were solely focused on plant health.
- Eligibility: Funding available to non-profits, for profits, individuals, educational institutions, and government; however, individuals and businesses must partner with others.
- Information: Contact Jonathan Thomson at or (518) 485-8902.
New York State Energy Research and Development Authority Programs
- Purpose: Several programs, incentives and loans for farm waste management (biogas); improved energy efficiency; solar and wind generation; and innovative business practices for energy conservation, alternative energy, and energy use. Energy audits available.
- Information: For more information, visit http://www.nyserda.ny.gov/ (for all programs and services, visit http://www.nyserda.ny.gov/All-Programs) or call (518) 862-1090.
USDA-SARE Farmer Grant
- Purpose: Support on-farm research demonstrations, marketing innovations, value adding activities and other projects (capped at $15,000; capital improvements limited to $500 of total project cost; no match required).
- Information: For more information, visit nesare.org, email or call (802) 656-0471.
Resources for Grant Writing
The Foundation Center offers a comprehensive proposal writing online short course for purchase at http://foundationcenter.org/ (see Get Started).
Non-Profit Guides are free online grant-writing tools for non-profit organizations, charitable, educational, public organizations, and other community-minded groups, available at http://www.npguides.org/.