Last post we talked about creating multiple income streams. That is the “bread and butter” of a financial strategy for making ends meet. It’s where we recommend that anyone start when creating a plan for longterm sustainability. But there are additional ways to ease the strain on the family piggy bank.
Financial Aid and Making Ends Meet on the Farm
Among them is the concept of financial aid: getting by with a little help from some “friends.” No, we’re not talking about asking your buddy or neighbor or grandma for handouts (though that’s certainly a possibility for some). We’re talking financial aid that’s available from outside sources to help you fund projects and business startups.
A note about financial aid
Not all types of assistance are created equally. They all have different criteria, strategies, and followup requirements. Some require partial or matching investments on the farmer’s part. Some are outright gifts with no strings attached and some are loans with repayment plans.
We encourage you to very carefully evaluate each possibility and see which ones are comfortable for you, your family, and your general financial profile. This is especially important in the case of loans which must be repaid and increase your debt burden. While we suggest that you investigate some of the following programs, we are by no means recommending that anyone go into debt or sign a contract that is unrealistic or uncomfortable.
Note that any of these programs may come and go depending on funding. Annual programs have a calendar cycle with application deadlines. Many of them have mailing list options for notification of future funding periods. Do your homework before signing on any dotted line.
General info on funding
A great place to start for Financial Aid: Small Farm Funding Resources USDA financial assistance program directory
Grants are funds available to qualifying farmers and agricultural projects; no payback required. These are competitive, with limited funds available each period. It pays to be diligent about applications and to study grant writing before applying. Some are matching grants, meaning a recipient must provide funds to match the award amount. Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Grant 5 Steps to Writing a Farm Grant – Hobby Farms
Costshare programs for Financial Aid
These funds are available to assist with the implementation of specific practices; no payback required. They are similar to grants, with some requiring matching or partial funding from the recipient. Once funding is awarded, program completion periods may extend for several years. Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS: numerous programs involving conservation practices) 2013 NRCS Conservation Innovation Grants (applications due March 22, 2013) More programs listed here
These campaigns solicit contributions from the public; no payback required. Donations are made by people who enjoy supporting entrepreneurs, usually in exchange for an incentive gift. Farm projects funded have included facilities, equipment, renovations, and livestock ventures.
To see examples, type “farm” or a keyword for your business idea into the site’s search box. Consider crowdfunding for your non-agricultural business ideas as well. Kickstarter Indiegogo Your own crowdfunding campaign using Paypal or Stripe to process funds (See this example from our own family.) Being a Kickstarter by Julie McKay Covert
Loans as a part of Financial Aid
This is money lent for a specific purpose or general use; payback required at some point. These may be from banks, corporations, or private lenders. Most require current employment, security, or collateral guarantees. USDA Farm Service Agency loan directory USDA Microloans for Small Farms and Beginning and Disadvantaged Farmers
Note: In the world of agricultural financial assistance, the term “socially disadvantaged farmer” is sometimes used to describe anyone other than the typical male farmer of history. If you are a female, disabled, or a member of a minority group, you may qualify for specific programs or get extra application points for a general program. While we don’t necessarily support the segregation of one farmer from another, the fact is that the practice exists and is in place in a number of situations. You may or may not decide to accept that advantage. If you choose not to, you can still apply for some without taking the extra points.
The bottom line
Finding sources of income takes some time and research. But a combination of creativity and resourcefulness can definitely help you weave together a system to make ends meet on your farm.
Supporting a Sustainable Lifestyle Through Couponing
Making Ends Meet on the Farm: The New Normal
Making Ends Meet on the Farm: Normal Redefined
Making Ends Meet on the Farm: Multiple Income Streams
Making Ends Meet on the Farm: Financial Assistance
Making Ends Meet on the Farm: Reduce Your Burn Rate
Making Ends Meet on the Farm: RLT Readers’ Roundup
Working Remotely Doesn’t Have to Mean Working from Home