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According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the number of women-owned farms in America has steadily increased since 1978. The federal government and local communities have a stake in seeing farms succeed, and women-owned farms are an important aspect of preserving the United States’ agricultural strength.
Maintaining the agricultural stability of the United States through education, technology and assistance to American farmers was first recognized as an important priority during Abraham Lincoln’s presidency. President Lincoln established the USDA in 1862. Today, the USDA is one of the leading supporters of women in agriculture.
Farm grants are not solely financial in nature, they also come in the form of education, technology, equipment, livestock, labor, seeds and land. They cover all areas and types of farming; from dairy farming to hydroponic vegetable farms. Since women are termed as a minority class, there are agricultural grants established specifically for women farmers, but, women are not prevented from applying for grants that do not have a gender distinction.
The specific qualifications for a grant are dependent upon the issuing entity. Beyond being a woman-owned farm there are other qualifications you may have to meet. In some cases you may have to show need, in others, a willingness to implement new technologies and, in still others, you may be required to play a role in the research of new seeds, fertilizers or feeds. Every grant has its own rules, restrictions and deadlines.
Grants are issued from two primary sources: the government--federal or state--and private enterprises. Federal and state resources would include the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA Department of Rural Development, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture and the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program. A comprehensive listing of available federal grants can be found through the "Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance." Private sources would include groups such as American Agi-Women and Heifer International.
Applying for a grant is not something you should do when you are desperate for money because the process can take weeks or even months. You also need to keep in mind that writing an effective and successful grant proposal--especially one for the federal government--usually requires technical skills that most people have not acquired. Network with other women in agriculture to help you find sources to assist you with the grant applications.
Lisa Wilson has a diverse background that includes starting and running a construction company, working as a business consultant, and three years as the development director for a Catholic high school. She has freelanced for 10 years and has been published in "Irish America," "Woodcraft" and various trade journals and newspapers.