Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Springtime on the Farm

Spring is here and the signs outside my window prove it. The sun is shining, the grass is greening, the daffodils are blooming, and on my family’s farm the baby lambs are running about baaahhhing. That’s right….baaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhing! You may be asking yourself why lambs are born in the spring and not year round. Well that is because sheep are seasonal breeders. Their fertility increases as the length of daylight decreases (photoperiod). They breed in the fall, carry the lambs for 5 months and then deliver them in the spring. I recall one spring morning, while I was still in high school, going out to the barn to do chores and finding 3 baby lambs with 5 different ewes (mom sheep) trying to claim them. At first this seemed a little chaotic but after looking things over I figured out one ewe had triplets and the other 4 ewes were just anxious to have lambs of their own.

I share a little bit about my farm with you for two reasons this week; firstly, to tell you some information about farm loans and secondly to let you know about the Indiana Farmers’ Feed US campaign.

I have a lot of people ask about the availability of grants to start a farm. Grants for this are pretty uncommon but, what I do like to suggest are some low interest loans through USDA. One in particular is the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Loan. This loan is available to individuals or entities who have not operated a farm for more than 10 years. For all the details you should visit your local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office, and you can use this link to find an office near you.

Now about Indiana Farmers’ Feed US. This is a program which allows consumers to learn more about where their food comes from and connect with the producers who actually raise their food. Farmers work hard to produce a quality product for you (the consumer) to enjoy. Just like the information I provided at the beginning of this blog about the animals on my farm when you visit you will be able to learn more from other farmers about what they do on their operations. Now I bet you’re thinking, what does this has to do with Grants??? Well….not much, but this blog is used as a funding resource, and if you go to the website you can sign up to win FREE GROCERIES for a YEAR!!!!! Just like grants, all it takes is your time to apply and you may be surprised with the outcome.

While March came in like a Lion this year in Indiana, it is going out with a bunch of baby lambs running around in a green pasture.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Chew on This! The new Blogger on the Block

There is a new blogger in the blogosphere who I wanted to highlight this week; Jerod Chew the Director of ISDA’s Division of Soil Conservation, and author of “Chew on Dirt.” Jerod will have weekly blog discussions about agricultural conservation programs. As I’m sure you will soon see Jerod is very passionate about the effects conservation can have not only on farmland but also on our towns and waterways.

From time to time I post grants and funding opportunities that relate to the conservation world and would be ideal for Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCD’s) as well as not-for-profit organizations such as Pheasants Forever and Ducks Unlimited groups to apply for.

For example the US Department of the Interior offers the Watershed Intern Program for nonprofits to apply for funds to hire interns to work on projects that clearly enhance the sustainability of the watershed’s organizations project to clean up the environments or contribute directly to the remediation of acid mine drainage. Eligible states considered for funding include Indiana as well as Alabama, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. The Department anticipates awarding 20 grants ranging from $1,250 to $2,500 each. Applications are due September 30th and more information can be found at:

A couple of years ago I was administering ISDA’s Clean Water Indiana Grants, and through my daily interactions with SWCD’s I became more familiar with some of the various conservation practices. So familiar in fact, that I found some of their conservation ideals wearing off on me. For example, this one day in early spring I was driving home from work and had just turned off the interstate and drove down some country roads to get to my house. I glanced to my left and saw a tractor out in a field. I didn’t think too much about it after all it was spring and plowing is what farmers do. For some reason I did a double take and saw that the farmer was using a mold board plow and completely turning the soil up and over on what had been a soybean field the season before. I was in shock. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Instantly I started questioning why the farmer didn’t realize how much he soil he would loose from the wind and the effects this would have on the soil’s nutrients, and then…. it hit me…. All those grants I had been auditing on cover crops and watershed restoration and stream bank stabilization projects had set in and made an impression on me. I was a conservation conscientious citizen and cared how that farmers management practices would affect the fields and waterways around him. I hope Jerod’s blog has the same effect on you and opens your eyes to the ideas he has to offer.

Friday, March 19, 2010

2 for 1 Deal on Farmers’ Markets

I don’t know about you, but I like to shop. I like looking around in a store and seeing everything it has to offer. I like the feeling of finding something you can’t live without, buying it and taking it home. But what I really love… is a good bargain. And have I got a deal for you this week?!?! Not one, but two (yes two) grants that are available for Farmers’ Markets.

The first grant is a federal grant through USDA called the Farmers’ Market Promotion Program. Farmers’ Markets can apply directly to USDA to receive this funding. While the second program is the ISDA Farmers’ Market Cost Share Program. Farmers’ Markets can apply to ISDA to receive a reimbursement for their advertising and promotional expenses. Both of these grants (one federal and one state) are great opportunities for Farmers’ Markets to take advantage of and possibly the only grant opportunities they may have this year.

USDA-Farmers’ Market Promotion Program
Farmers’ Markets are eligible to apply for funding to promote the domestic consumption of agricultural commodities by expanding direct producer-to-consumer marketing opportunities. Direct producer-to-consumer marketing proposals that may be funded include projects addressing issues related to farmers markets, roadside stands, community supported agriculture programs, agritourism activities, and other direct producer-to-consumer marketing channels. The minimum award per grant is $2,500 and the maximum is $100,000. Applications are due April 15th, 2010 and more information can be found at

ISDA-Farmers’ Market Cost Share Program
ISDA has $10,000 available through a previous Specialty Crop Block grant to reimburse Farmers’ Markets in the state of Indiana for advertising. This program will reimburse 50 percent of the cost of advertising, displays and promotional materials farmers’ markets pay for these items up to $500. Markets can receive reimbursement for expenditures made 11/1/09-8/31/10 as long as they have receipts available. Applications are due before August 31, 2010 (please note funds are awarded on a first come first serve basis). More information can be found on ISDA’s website at

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Modern Day Cinderella-Running Late and in a Hurry

Earlier this week I was in a hurry to get somewhere and the escalator I was riding wasn’t moving fast enough. So, I decided to go ahead and climb the steps instead of waiting for it to move me to the top. After just a couple of steps I realized I had just stepped out of my shoe (you know the black and gray snake skin heels that I really only wear with my black and gray hounds tooth checked teacup jacket….sorry sidetrack…anyway) but I only had two more steps to the top so I kept going. Once I reached the top I turned around and watched my high heeled shoe finish riding the escalator to the top. As I swooped down to pick it up and slip it back on my foot, (so much for saving some time and climbing the escalator) I thought to myself, this must be how a modern day Cinderella would feel: still in a hurry, still loosing her slipper, but now with technology instead of a prince.

I tell you that story, to remind you when you are preparing grant applications to not wait until the last minute to send in your application. Don’t be in a rush and overlook or leave out a piece of the application. Some applications require more than just the proposal, in some case there are separate budget forms that will need filled out. Federal grant applications may also require additional forms such as lobbying, non-construction, or budget justification forms. If any of the required forms are not included in your application package the grantor will throw it out and not review it.

Also, grantors are very strict on deadlines and due dates. Some grants may call for a “Letter of Interest” prior to the full application being due. These simply give the funder an idea of how many applications they will be receiving so they can plan and prepare accordingly. But you should also note that receiving that letter by the due date could be critical to them accepting your full proposal by the application due date.

Another tip is that if you use to submit applications, please be aware that on busier days the system can get bogged down and run slower. It may take too long for your application to upload and if you miss the cut off (time wise) you will be out of luck and they will not accept your application. It is wise to submit your application a couple of days early just in case something goes wrong. I usually suggest trying to get online and send it early in the morning or later in the evening as there are fewer users on and the system runs quicker. It will save you time and frustration to plan ahead, and not to wait till the last minute.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Now You are Speaking My Language-Part 2

Being a newlywed I received wedding gifts like a pressure cooker, food mill and food processor that I wanted to get out of the box and put to good use. So one day last fall I went to a local apple orchard and bought 2 Pecks of apples to use for canning apple butter, apple sauce and apple pie filling. Now, you might be thinking, what’s a peck? Well it’s a unit of measurement equivalent to ¼ a bushel. So…. what’s a bushel, is now the question you have.

Webster’s defines bushel as;
“the volume of a cylinder 18.5 in (47 cm) in diameter and 8 in (20 cm) high.”

Regardless what you call it I came home with a couple bags of apple and started peeling, slicing and dicing and getting my apples all prepped to be canned. When I was finished I ended up with 10 pints of applesauce, 6 quarts of apple pie filling and about a dozen little jelly jars of apple butter.

Now, don’t get me started on the difference between a pint and quart.

I use this story to point out that when writing up your grant proposal you need to be sure and label each section of your write up the same as is listed in the Request for Proposals (RFQ). If, in the first section they want you to write about is called an Abstract, make sure you title the heading as Abstract. Do not call it Overview, Background, Justification, Goals, or anything else. This is the same with every other topic area they want you to write on. If they ask for the sections in an certain order: Abstract, Outcomes, Timelines, Budget, and Conclusion; then make sure your proposal is set in the same manner, same flow, same heading, same verbiage.

Why is this important? Chances are the person reviewing your grant has a score sheet and there is a certain number of points set aside for each section. Chances are they are going to read your abstract and score your abstract before moving on to the next section. Chances are they are reading a lot of applications and are in a repetitive flow of reading and scoring and moving on. If they can’t find the next section to score, or are confused as to what exact section your write up relates to, they may score you low or not score you at all. Don’t take that chance. The grantor takes the time to write up the RFQ, you as an applicant should take the time to follow the outline they put in place. Use the same titles, same order and give your application every chance it has to be successful.

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