Free money--sounds good, doesn't it?
The subject of grants is both simple and complex.
Put simply, a grant is funding you do not have to repay, as long as you fulfill the award contract.
What about the 'complex'? If you've considered applying for a grant and then decided against it because the process of applying seemed too complicated, or you felt you just don't have the time to jump through the hoops in addition to everything else you have to do on the farm, (and in many cases, in addition to your 'day job'), that's understandable. But in reality, if you've served in the military, you're used to following directions, being accountable and process-oriented, and conforming to deadlines--all necessary skills to obtain a grant.
Are you seeking funding for an on-farm project or a service programs ?
If it's a value added initiative (you're a dairy farm and also keep bees but want to start making beeswax candles as well, for example), a high tunnel project, or maybe a storage facility or energy efficiency project on your farm, funding is pretty straightforward. Most of these grants are USDA funding--eligibility and fundable items are well defined.
If you're planning a therapeutic farm, or one that will train Veterans to become farmers, know that while these can be well-meant and beneficial projects, to obtain grant funding you must be able to demonstrate a NEED, and SUSTAINABILITY to keep the project going after the grant funding is expended. Government, foundation, and corporate grants hold applicants to high standards on both of these requirements. Further, this type of grant is rarely awarded to an individual.
Cost share programs aren't grants, but may provide partial funding for making positive changes--such as installing conservation best management practices--on your land. They're the government's way of encouraging farmers and rewarding you for taking steps to protect soil and water.
Here's the good news: Technical assistance is readily available for many grant programs. Staff can help you think through through the process of turning your 'big idea' into an achievable project.
Where to start? Take a look at our Grant Basics fact sheet and review guidelines. Then let us know what questions you have. We can assist in finding someone in your region of PA who has first-hand knowledge on the grant you're applying for. PA Veteran Farming Project staff and members of our network can also talk through your ideas with you before you invest the time needed to go through the application process as well.
Download our Grant Basics Factsheet here.