Photo: Loy Elliot
Conservation Districts and the Natural Resources Conservation Service offer cost share programs that may help you pay for fencing, integrated pest management, and other conservation efforts.
Find your local conservation office by visiting the Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts or contacting them at 717-238-7223. For the National Resource Conservation service visit their directory of regional conservationists. They can give you the most up-to-date information on cost shares and conservation opportunities available in your county.
For example: The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers in order to address natural resource concerns and deliver environmental benefits such as improved water and air quality, conserved ground and surface water, reduced soil erosion and sedimentation or improved or created wildlife habitat.
The Farm Service Agency (FSA)
FSA operates several farm loan programs.
Operating loans may be used to purchase items such as:
- Livestock and feed
- Farm equipment
- Fuel, farm chemicals, insurance and other operating costs, including family living expenses
- Minor improvements or repairs to buildings
- Refinance certain farm-related debts, excluding real estate
Microloans are direct farm operating loans with a shortened application process and reduced paperwork designed to meet the needs of smaller, non-traditional, and niche type operations. These micro loans may also be used for land purchases.
Apprentice and mentorship programs, non-farm business experience, and farm labor experience are acceptable alternative solutions for helping to meet farm experience and managerial requirements.
FSA's Direct Farm Ownership loans provide farmers and ranchers the opportunity to:
- Purchase farmland
- Construct and repair buildings
- Make farm improvements
A specific portion of their funding is designated for women, African-Americans, Alaskan Natives, American Indians, Hispanics, Asians, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders.
Contact your local financial institutions about mortgages and commercial loans. In our area a few that work more often with farmers are:
Keep in mind that you may find grants listed however; they may not always be funded. Check with the granting agency before completing the application to see if the grant has funding associated with the grant.
The Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture lists grant and loan opportunities you may wish to consider.
The Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program offers grants for farmers interested in testing new ideas and farm techniques.
Alternative Farming Systems Information Center (AFSIC) has an index of federal grant and loan programs for agriculture and rural development. It is titled "Building Better Rural Places".
The National Congress for Community Economic Development can help you locate community based organizations such as Community Development Corporations in the area you plan to farm. These local organizations often have financing programs for small businesses.
Case studies can be a great way to see how other farmers found innovative ways to acquire the start-up costs for their farms.