Friday, February 26, 2010

Now You are Speaking my Language

Growing up in rural Indiana I noticed people talked about the weather a lot. Did it rain, or not, and how much. One farmer might have gotten half an inch while another got seven tenths. And, depending on how dry it had been; lead to how much boasting the farmer who got a little bit more rain would become. And, obviously when your crops are dependent on the weather to grow and you are dependent on your crops for an income, then yes; the weather is an important aspect of daily conversation.

So one time this past summer my husband came inside from checking the rain gauge and seemed a bit puzzled because although he knew it had rained, there wasn’t any water in his gauge. My response back to him was, “Well it rained enough to lay the dust.” Disappointedly he said, “yes, but no one knows how much that is.” I smiled thinking of the many farmers back home who would have gladly accepted this answer and said, “The people who need to know…..would know.”

I tell you this quaint story of assumptions so that when you sit down to write a grant application you will do the exact opposite. I am sure that there are acronyms, slang and jargon that you use to call the processes or tools you work with daily. And while you and others in your industry or area of expertise may know exactly what you are referring to, a person reviewing your grant may not. Not always are grant review panels experts in the subject matter they review. Therefore, you need to make certain when putting together your grant narratives/summaries that you call items by the proper name and in some cases explain or go into more detail. This will ensure that the grant reviewer will understand what you are talking about and can fairly score your application.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Mixed Bag of Goodies

For some reason the past week or two I have been using the phrase; “a mixed bag of goods” a lot. Whether that’s the randomness of projects I’ve been working on, or the lack of consistency between what I expect and what I get; regardless, that phrase seems to express where I’m at. Now I’ll be the first to admit I enjoying flowering my speech with quaint phrases (I like to call “Hoosierisms”) such as; “Between you, me and fence post” this weeks blog post is “a mixed bag of goods”.

To start off with there are two foundation opportunities that would be ideal for those groups looking to do small projects around their community. The first is a Constellation Energy’s EcoStar Grant due March 16th to non-profits looking to do projects that focus on Recycling projects, tree plantings, educational type of events for environmental stewardship, projects that support energy conservation measures, wetland restoration, community gardens and urban forests. Awarded funds are up to $5,000 and applications can be found at
The second is the Heineman Foundation which provides seed money to start projects for environmental research that will help prevent, reduce and/or eliminate water degradation. Projects can last for 3-5 years and average awards are $20,000-50,000. More information can be found at:

Next, I wanted to pass along a scholarship opportunity for members of Farm Credit Services serving Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana and Tennessee. Thirty-six scholarships ranging from $1,000-1,500 will be awarded to college students enrolled in agriculture programs. Applications can be found at under the link Community Support.

Lastly, I wanted to “put a bug in your ear” about USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Grant. Applications may be submitted by a collaborative state, tribal, local, or regionally-based network or partnership of public or private entities. These collaborations may include the following entities: State cooperative extension services; Federal, State, or tribal agencies; community based organizations and nongovernmental organizations; junior and four-year colleges or universities or foundations maintained by a college or university; private for-profit organizations; and other appropriate partners. This is a competitive grants program for the purpose of providing education, outreach, training and technical assistance to benefit beginning farmers and ranchers in the United States. Applications are due April 6, 2010 and there is a 25% matching requirement. More information can be found at

Now, “don’t be slower than molasses in January.” Check out these opportunities and plan to turn in your application soon.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Additional Thoughts & Ideas for a Specialty Crop Block Grant Application

Last week I announced the opening of the Specialty Crop Block Grant (SCBG) but this week I again wanted to spend some time talking about various projects and ideas that could be applicable for funding. Since one of the biggest criteria for the grant is the Specialty Crop itself those crops that qualify are: Algae, Chickpeas, Christmas trees, Cocoa, Coffee, Cut flowers, Dry edible beans, Dry peas, Foliage, Fruit grapes for wine, Garlic, Ginger root, Ginseng, Herbs, Honey, Hops, Kava, Lavender, Lentils, Maple syrup, Mushrooms, Organic fruits and vegetables, Peppermint, Potatoes, Seaweed, Spearmint, Sweet Corn, Vanilla, Vegetable seeds, Commonly recognized fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, and nursery crops (including floriculture).

If you grow any of these crops perhaps you could consider partnering with others who do the same and develop some ways to work together to market, advertise and promote your crop. Perhaps you could work together to find more efficient ways to distribute your crop. Perhaps, you could partner with a university and offer to let them do research on your crop or production practices or even some sort of nutritional study. Perhaps there is some new technology or equipment that would enhance food safety or disease control or longevity of the product.

Also, consider the trends of more people wanting to buy fresh, locally grown produce or organic produce and determine if there is a way to draw more consumer awareness to your product. Also, think of Agri-tourism and the interest of consumers to stop and cut a Christmas tree, pick apples, sample wine or attend an event.

Grants can range from $2,000-$30,000 so you can think big or think small. The application is somewhat simple to fill out and just asks for a narrative about your goals, expected outcomes and be able to justify your expenses. I would strongly encourage you to take advantage of this unique funding opportunity. Look for other organizations, producers or academia to partner with. You have a good 4 months until the application is due so that leaves plenty of time for brainstorming. Remember to check out ISDA’s website for the SCBG program guidance, application and score sheet. And as always if you have any questions feel free to leave a comment as your thoughts may spur others on as well.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Big One! Specialty Crop Block Grant

After months of anticipation and planning the big day has finally arrived!!! That’s right. USDA has announced and opened the application period for the next round of the Specialty Crop Block Grant (SCBG) Program. Each State Department of Agriculture is eligible to receive an allocation of the $55 million set aside under Section 10109 of the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008. Allocations are determined by the amount of Specialty Crop Production that occurs in the state. Departments of Agriculture are the only applicants but they are strongly encouraged to involve industry groups, academia, and community-based organizations in the development of applications that “solely” enhance the Specialty Crop Industry.

The State of Indiana will have $397,831.21 available for projects enhancing the competitiveness of specialty crops through the following issues affecting the specialty crop industry: increasing child and adult nutrition knowledge and consumption of specialty crops; improving efficiency and reducing costs of distribution systems; assisting all entities in the specialty crop distribution chain in developing “Good Agricultural Practices:, “Good Handling Practices”, “Good Manufacturing Practices”, investing in specialty crop research, including organic research to focus on conservation and environmental outcomes; enhancing food safety; developing new and improved seed varieties and specialty crops; pest and disease control; and sustainability. Other options are market promotion; for domestic or international promotion of qualified Indiana food and agricultural products, or distribution to mitigate trade barriers that prevent or slow entry of qualified Indiana food and agricultural products into foreign markets.

ISDA would like to encourage all Specialty Crop organizations and partners to consider applying for funding this year. The applications are due June 25th, 2010 and are considered relatively easy to fill out. Check out ISDA’s website for the SCBG program guidance, application and score sheet.

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