There are nearly 2 million small farms and ranches inside the United States. Getting started as a beginning farmer can be a difficult task, but there is some support for those looking to do so. The overall best place to turn for help is your state’s Department of Agriculture, as most support for beginning farmers is available locally. There are a few federal programs that might benefit new farmers and some additional resources available to those incorporating innovative techniques in their new agriculture businesses.
State Departments of Agriculture
Your state’s Department of Agriculture is absolutely the first place you should turn to when starting a new farming effort. Each state offers numerous programs and services to support its local farmers. These state agencies address the specific needs of types of farms located in their area. Many provide a small farms program or support beginning farmers with other services. Getting your crops to market and benefiting from all opportunities offered by your state might just be the key to success in getting your new farm off the ground. Look into state supported farmers market, farm to school and state grown certification programs.
Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program
This program provided $75 million in funding for beginning farmers and ranchers between 2009 and 2012. Unfortunately, the opportunity is currently closed and all funding has been distributed at this time. But in April of 2013, a similar bill called the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2013 was introduced in congress. If passed, it will result in a grant program targeted to support new farms. The USDA generally administers these programs so keep that agency in mind when looking for federal grants in the future.
Small Business Innovation Research Grants
The active USDA program that could assist beginning farmers is its SBIR Program. While the grant offers support to many different types of innovative businesses, most people don’t realize that one of its 10 areas of focus is small and mid-sized family farms. If your new agriculture business will employ innovative techniques to increase sustainability and profitability, you could receive up between $70,000 to $100,000 through this grant to start your business.
SARE Sustainable Agriculture Grants
SARE stands for Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education. It was created and received its first congressional funding in 1988. It’s overall mission is to increase profitability and sustainability in American agriculture. It offers both educational programs and grant support. It’s grant program focuses on use of innovation to improve opportunity in farming. Many of its grants are available to students and researchers, but it supports farmers and ranchers as well. SARE operates across four regional areas. Select your region to see what is provided in yours. On-Farm Research Grants and Producer Grants are two of the grants SARE currently offers that can benefit your start-up farming effort.