Forty-one New England farmers were recently awarded grants through American Farmland Trust’s (AFT) New England Farmer Microgrants Program. The funding could not have come at a more critical time for farmers as they struggle with a changing marketplace, labor issues and supply chain challenges in light of the COVID-19 crisis.
Grants of between $500 and $5,000 were awarded to help farmers facing financial challenges associated with funding infrastructure or equipment, cover closing costs on the purchase of a farm property, getting professional help with succession planning or paying for other services related to helping them expand their operations.
This grant program is providing direct support to farmers to address the very gaps we have long identified as barriers to success,” said Jamie Pottern, AFT’s New England program manager. “We’re excited to demonstrate how these relatively small amounts of funding can make all the difference for farmers in getting them over that next hurdle towards greater land security and productivity on their farm.”
Farmers were asked to connect with service providers in advance of applying to seek support and resources. Several farmers reached out to Land For Good. Our staff wrote great letters of support for farmers exploring how to secure access to land, farm leasing, and farm transfer and succession planning. Seven of our farmer advisees were awarded grants! One farm family in particular is now planning to pass the farm onto to their daughter and figuring out how to keep the farm financially viable for her. (See complete list of recipients.)
The range of farmer applicants and awardees was diverse, from larger, multi-generational farms planning for farm succession, to start-up farms run by those just graduating from incubator farm programs and needing critical equipment to launch their businesses. The program has funded flower farmers, vegetable community-supported agriculture, or CSA, programs, pasture-based meat and dairy operations, orchards and fruit farms, and small-scale urban micro-farms,” reports AFT.
New England Farmer Microgrants Program was founded with the support of two long time AFT members: 27-year member Susanna Colloredo-Mansfeld of Hamilton, Massachusetts, and 22-year member William W. Farkas of Yardley, Pennsylvania. Both believing investment catalyzes change and looking to lift up the New England food system immediately and long-term, they generously seeded this effort.
New England is blessed to have a wealth of organizations and agencies that support farmers with planning for the success and future of their farms including local land trusts, state agencies, and non-profit organizations like Land for Good.
With fundraising ongoing and commitments from donors already in hand, AFT expects to launch year two of the program in January 2021.