I agree with Tracie. My experience with NRCS has been related to cover cropping, mulching and tunnels. They have been extremely helpful in person with my questions, with alerting me to other funding opportunities and helping with any associated paperwork. They don’t simply dole out funds however. They are there to prevent or reduce environmental impact, for us, of agricultural development. That includes lots of areas significant to farmers – irrigation, energy, cover cropping, tillage, water and land conservation, mulches, agroforestry efforts and many other areas. Some grants are competitive, a large number are not competitive though.
I have been involved in writing successful large and small grants. Whether the grant is through the feds or a private foundation, grant writing is a craft. There is a lot of competition for an ever decreasing pool of funding. It is foolish to think that one can simply sit down and jot a proposal together for a massive amount of money and successfully submit it to a grantor. Like everything else, grant writing takes time, experience and expertise.
It seems there are two discussions going on here. On involves interaction with NRCS and the other is grant writing. With NRCS projects that Tracie and I have been involved in you need to apply for funds which have been awarded to state and regional NRCS offices, not write a grant. To get USDA to award you money, you need to write a grant for Rural Development, Value Added, Energy, Farmers Market Promotion and so on. There are a couple of ways to approach that. One is to apply directly and openly compete for funds; that is to write a grant and suffer through the federal grant process. I agree that it is not as easy as it should be. Usually, the process is rather onerous. The exception, if the feds have a pet project they are promoting, like EBT for instance, they will readily fund just about any project. The second, and easier, method is to apply to a state dept of agriculture. The states receive a block grant(s) of sorts; the state then controls the distribution of funds through a much more relaxed and less intense grant process. The benefits are that you can meet face to face with grantors and actually get questions answered and you probably personally know all the players. The downside is that the awards are smaller and there is a lot more competition for that smaller pool of dollars. A potential third method is to approach the NHDAMF with an idea and see if they will included it in a grant they are writing or if they are willing to help you through the process.
Another option is SARE. SARE funding largely goes untapped in NH. UNHCE would love to see some basic research grant funding directed into NH.
Warner River Organics
I've been meaning to join in on this NRCS discussion for awhile. It gets busy and hard to take the time but I think it's important. I've been involved with a few projects with the NRCS including drainage, cover cropping and high tunnels and have had a good experience overall. The drainage would not have been possible without their help and I felt like they really do work with you as a farmer and understand your needs while keeping the environment a priority as well.
Although it can be bureaucratic and heavy on the paperwork, which I think is even hard for them, it's what's recquired and is out of their control. That's a problem higher up where policies are made.
Anyway I certainly agree with Sherry and don't want other farmers to be afraid to work with them. We're fortunate to have the services.
Tracie's Community Farm, LLC
72 Jaffrey Rd,
Fitzwilliam, NH 03447
Date: Fri, 18 May 2012 08:17:18 -0400
From: [log in to unmask]
To: [log in to unmask]
CC: [log in to unmask]; [log in to unmask]; [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [farmers] NRCS
All I can tell you is I witnessed a steady stream of farmers coming in and out of FSA and NRCS offices in the four years I worked for the conservation district. They were applying for--and getting--help. Perhaps you need to understand how the system works in order to tap into it. Or... it may not apply to your needs. One size does not fit all.
Your farm may not fit into the larger environmental picture. Or you may not want to borrow money from FSA, which does indeed exist to help individual farmers. If you think most farmers have the skills, time, equipment and/or motivation to solve environmental problems and do it with each doing their own thing and no overall comprehensive planning, you are very naive.
The paperwork is onerous and no one likes Federal jargon, including many of the people who work for the government. But the fact remains that many farmers in NH have benefited and will continue to benefit, so I wouldn't be so quick to write the whole agency off.
NRCS does, indeed, exist to protect the environment, some of which is on farmland. You may be competing for a higher spot in the ranking (because there is a limit to the money they have to disperse) with a farm with worse environmental issues to solve. FSA is more geared to individual farms. Rural Development is community based. The Value-Added Program works with individual ag producers who make products from local ag products.
Again, I will tell you I have witnessed farmers benefiting from these programs. Each farmer needs to check them out to see if it's a good fit for them. I'd hate to see people discouraged from even trying.
SherryOn Fri, May 18, 2012 at 7:18 AM, Dina Farrell <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
Farmers,This is in response to a thread a little while ago about NRCS.I have come to realize that NRCS is not there to benefit small farms. Their purpose is to protect the environment. Natural Resources Conservation Services, OK, that makes sense. The impression I got from them was that farmers ruin the enviroment and once that is done, then they will help out. Especially if you put your land into a conservation easement and give up some rights to it. Sounds too much like Agenda 21 to me. Look that up!Maybe it would make sense to divert all of that money to helping small farms so that they can improve the environment through good farm practices (which takes some money) and maybe even help them out with taxes and acquiring land to farm. Instead of all that state owned land wouldn't it be nice to see farms again. It seems to be all backwards.Is there actually a source of funding that will help small farms? If anyone knows, please let me know. Maybe I am looking for something for nothing, but I think farming NH is a good thing that helps the local economy and community. It is a shame that there are so many people who have a passion to farm and can't because it is so cost prohibitive.Dina FarrellThe Olde Ways at Mustard Seed Farm288 Haines Hill RdWolfeboro, NH 03894http://www.microfarmersofnh.com (this one we are still working on)