Support Available for Community Food Project Applicants and Grantees

Since 1996, the USDA’s Community Food Project Grant Program (CFP) has been supporting the alleviation of food insecurity in low-income communities through projects which:

  • Promote community self-reliance in meeting their own food needs;
  • Encourage comprehensive responses to local food, farm, and nutrition issues;
  • Meet food needs through food distribution, community outreach to assist in participation in Federally assisted nutrition programs, or improving access to food as part of a comprehensive service; and
  • Meet specific state, local or neighborhood food and agricultural needs including needs relating to equipment necessary for the efficient operation of a project, planning for long-term solutions, or the creation of innovative marketing activities that mutually benefit agricultural producers and low-income consumers.

Last week, the USDA’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) posted a Request for Applications (RFA) for the next round of CFP funding. $8.64 million dollars of funds are available. The turnaround time to submit an application is very tight, with applications due no later than 5:00 pm EST on November 30, 2016.

The application process often takes more than two weeks to complete, which is why we need your help spreading the word to organizations in your community with experience in:

Community food work, particularly concerning small and mid-sized farms, including the provision of food to low-income communities and the development of new markets in low income communities for agricultural producers;

Job training and business development for food related activities in low-income communities or;

Efforts to reduce food insecurity in the their community, including food distribution, improving access to services, or coordinating services and programs?

Please forward this post and make them aware of this great opportunity!

For this round of funding, three types of grants are available:

Community Food Projects, examples of which include community gardens with market stands, value chain projects, food hubs, farmers’ markets, farm-to-institutions projects, and marketing and consumer cooperatives. All projects must involve low-income participants. The maximum Community Food Project award in a single year is $125,000 and the maximum award over four years is $400,000.

Planning Projects, examples of which include community food assessments’ coordination of collaboration development, GIS analysis, food sovereignty study, and farm-to-institution exploration.  All projects must involve low-income participants. The maximum Planning Project award is $35,000 for the total project period.  The maximum grant period is three years.

Farm Aid is collaborating with New Entry Sustainable Farming Project and additional partners to provide free one-on-one technical assistance and resources to CFP Grant Program applicants and grantees. Support services include building capacity, developing resources, and providing support through our technical assistance referral network. Visit New Entry’s website to view resources or past webinars or submit a request for assistance form.

There is also an upcoming webinar to help prepare applicants:

Webinar – CFP Application Process  (Hosted by New Entry): Thursday, October 20 at 1pm EST 
Join us for a free webinar to learn about the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Community Food Projects (CFP) grant application process and submission. Register Here

Grant Opportunity for Farmers Focused on Animal Welfare

Photo © Patty O'Brien /

Photo © Patty O’Brien /

Livestock and Poultry Farmers: Apply for a Fund-a-Farmer grant today!

Are you a livestock or poultry farmer who wants to improve animal welfare on your operation? You may be eligible to receive a Fund-a-Farmer grant from the Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT), a nonprofit organization that promotes humane production of meat, milk and eggs

FACT will award grants of up to $2,500 for two types of projects: Animal Welfare Certification Projects and Pasture Improvement Projects. Check out the grant guidelines for the full details and apply online! Applications are due by November 21, so don’t delay. FACT is also offering a free online information session to help farmers with their applications. Register for the webinar and learn more about this unique funding opportunity.

5 Guides for Beginning Farmers

Photo © Patty O'Brien /

Photo © Patty O’Brien /

If you’re thinking about starting a farm, there are many groups who do work with beginning farmers. Some have published free guides that provide lots of information that will be useful as you get started. Here are a few of our favorites:

  1. The Greenhorns’ Guide for Beginning Farmers is designed to help young people develop careers in agriculture. It highlights helpful readings and resources about land access, financing farm businesses, and building technical skills.
  2. Penn State Extension’s Starting or Diversifying an Agricultural Business walks you through all the steps of starting a business, from analyzing business opportunities to getting off the ground.
  3. The Northeast Beginning Farmers Project at Cornell has a Getting Started guide that focuses on identifying your goals, skills, and resources to build an enterprise.
  4. New Entry Sustainable Farming Project’s guide on How to Begin Your Small Farm Dream is a plain language guide that provides a clear overview of the benefits and challenges of owning a farm, as well as the resources to realize those benefits.
  5. ATTRA’s Start a Farm in the City Guide walks you through starting an urban farm, touching on soil testing, finding markets, and resources specifically for urban farmers.

To find beginning farmer guides specific to your region, use our search tool to find an organization that provides the specific assistance and resources you need. Our online directory contains more than 750 organizations all over the United States that work directly with farmers on a variety of issues.

New Resource: A Young Farmers Guide to Election Season from National Young Farmers Coalition

Our friends at National Young Farmers Coalition recently wrote a guide for young farmers on engaging with political candidates this election season. They provide five specific ideas for how to engage, including:

  1. Attend a town hall or candidate forum.
  2. Ask a question at a local debate.
  3. Get a group of local farmers together to request an on-farm meeting with the candidate.
  4. Engage the candidates on social media.
  5. Bring your friends into the conversation.

Read details on how to engage in those actions here:

Beekman 1802 Mercantile is awarding $20,000 to one small American farm

Beekman 1802 Mercantile, a lifestyle company based in Sharon Springs, NY, is now accepting applications from farmers nationwide for its “Mortgage Lifter” contest.

The “Mortgage Lifter” is an annual contest that awards one small American farm $20,000 to further its business goals, be it paying the mortgage or otherwise. The contest name comes from an heirloom tomato first bred in the 1930’s — a tomato so juicy and delicious that farmers sold them quickly to “lift” their “mortgages” during the Great Depression. Beekman 1802 Mercantile continues to honor the intent and name of this unique tomato through its Mortgage Lifter line of pantry products.

More information about the Mortgage Lifter contest is online here. Act fast! Applications are due July 18, 2016.

Eligibility, contest rules, and FAQs are online here.

New resources for farmers transitioning to organic production

Transition to Organic Network (TON) listserv
TON is an online community of farmers, processors, handlers, buyers, agricultural service providers, and other food system stakeholders that share a common interest in transitional and organic agriculture. TON members connect with each other via the listserv to:

  • Exchange questions and resources related to transitional and organic agriculture and certification,

  • Stay informed about educational opportunities and programs for transitioning and organic producers and buyers, and

  • Network and develop relationships with other actors in the transitional and organic community.

Click Here to Subscribe to the Transition to Organic Network Listerv.

Making the Transition to Organic: Ten Farm Profiles

This publication features livestock, field crop, and vegetable producers who, during 2012-2015, were in the process of transitioning or who had been recently certified organic. Each profile addresses organic transition strategies (full transition, gradual transition, immediate transition, and split transition), challenges encountered, and outcomes deemed “most satisfying.” Click here to download a PDF version of this report.


Organic Transition: A Business Planner for Farmers, Ranchers and Food Entrepreneurs 
This publication is a decision-making tool designed to assist with the development of actionable production, marketing, human resource and finance strategies when considering the switch to organic. The Organic Transition Planner includes worksheets as well as three business plans developed by transitioning dairy, row crop, and vegetable farmers. Click here to download a PDF version of this report.

Greener Fields Together

Greener Fields Together is a local and sustainable produce program which helps farmers make capital investments and infrastructure improvements through Cultivating Change, a local farm grant program. Greener Fields Together donated $60,000 to farmers throughout the country in 2016 so that farmers can focus on farming and, for a fleeting moment, not be burdened by the weight of the food system.

Congratulations to farmers that received grants! Learn more about some of the winning projects here:

New publication: Short Duration Cover Crops for Vegetable Production Systems

Short Duration Cover Crops _New ISU GuideIowa State University just published an eight-page guide to working with “short duration” cover crops — those that are managed for just a brief period of time, usually between 45 to 60 days.

According to University researchers, “Planting short duration cover crops can provide multiple benefits to growers who employ them in their fields. Cover crops can improve soil and water conservation efforts, organic matter input, nitrogen fixation, weed suppression and bio-fumigation, providing not only better yields but a healthier environment.” We agree!

The University’s new guide addresses how short term cover crops fit into overall crop rotation, lists example cover crops to plant, and describes various aspects to consider when planting them.

Click here to download the guide (It’s free!) and learn more about the benefits of short duration cover crops.


Jan. 19 webinar: Building a Legally Sound Intern and Volunteer Program for Farm Work

We all know that farming is hard work. Do you ever wish you had a little extra help?

Farm Commons is hosting a free webinar on Tuesday, January 19th at 3:00 p.m. Eastern about how to legally offer farm work to interns and volunteers. There are many people passionate about good, local food who would probably love to lend a hand and learn more about what it takes to produce the foods they love — but it’s important to make sure that you follow all labor laws when engaging them.

Now could be a great time to explore whether or not intern or volunteer help is right for your farm! Click here to learn more about the webinar and to register for it.

December 22: Free webinar on farm insurance options

Farmers! Insurance for your farming operation is important, but navigating the options can be overwhelming and confusing at times.

If you have lingering questions about insurance and risk management, then Farm Commons has answers! Join them online on Tuesday, December 22, 2015 at 3:00 p.m. Eastern for a free webinar — Insurance for the Farm: Policies and Principles to Efficiently Manage Risk — to address common questions, such as:

  • What’s a farm liability policy and is it the same as a property/casualty policy?
  • How does it work with a homeowner’s policy?
  • Is workers’ compensation required and how does it work?
  • When do you need to look into getting a commercial policy?
  • What are affordable crop insurance options for the sustainable farm?

Advance registration is required. Click here to register and to learn more about it.