Potential Funding Sources for Transitioning Farmers

Below is a thorough but not exhaustive list of potential sources of funding. These may be accessed by you or your family.

Federal Funding Opportunities

The National Council of State Agricultural Finance Programs promotes financing of agricultural development and has compiled an overview of state-level funding opportunities for farmers.

Regional or National Opportunities

Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Grants:

A program of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, SARE aims to advance innovations that improve profitability, stewardship, and quality of life by investing in groundbreaking research and education.

  • Funding is available through SARE’s regional network:
    • North Central SARE: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, and South Dakota
    • Northeast SARE: Connecticut; Delaware; Maine; Maryland; Massachusetts; New Jersey; New York; Pennsylvania; Rhode Island; Vermont; Washington, DC; and West Virginia
    • Southern SARE: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia
    • Western SARE: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, American Samoa, and Guam
  • SARE provides grants annually to farmers, researchers, educators, nonprofits, and community-based agriculture organizations and activists. Grants are awarded to applicants who offer interesting, potentially workable ideas.
    • Although SARE grants are to fund research and education, farmers and ranchers are among those encouraged to apply. Research or education projects could be conducted in the course of running a farm.

Mad Markets:

Mad Markets provides innovative trade solutions that support farmers while advancing regenerative agriculture. By focusing on relationships, Mad Markets develops sourcing and trade programs for brands and supply chain partners. Because our work connects brands directly to farms, Mad Markets can deliver primary research based on soil health, biodiversity, nutrient density, and other regenerative practices, and produce on-farm storytelling that engages customers in the regenerative movement.

  • Services:
    • Market Development for Specialty Ingredients: The supply chain is opaque, by design. We create transparency and connect domestic regenerative organic specialty crop growers to values-aligned buyers
    • Trading & Brokerage: Organic farmers and ingredient processors don’t have the same local market opportunities as their conventional counterparts. We find buyers, identify growers, source bushels/acres, and create new market channels.
    • Supply Chain Development: We develop bespoke supply chains by identifying growers, contracting raw ingredients, and aligning processing partners.
    • Brand Sustainability Partnerships: We facilitate relationships between brands and farms to foster more brand participation in farm regeneration and provide opportunities for consumer storytelling and education.

The FruitGuys Community Fund:

Devoted to introducing sustainable practices to small independent farms across the country, this organization seeks to support small farms in their efforts for greater environmental and economic health, community engagement, and sustainable agriculture. They award grants ranging from $2,000 to $5,000 and outline preferences for projects they would fund, including to increase food access for low-income consumers.

National Young Farmers Coalition:

The National Young Farmers Coalition is launching a new grant program to help young and beginning farmers and ranchers start and grow their businesses. The coalition provides 50 farmers and ranchers $5,000 grants. Recipients also receive a one-year membership to the coalition.

Farmer Veteran Fellowship Fund:

The Farmer Veteran Fellowship Fund is a small grant program that provides direct assistance to veterans in their beginning years of farming or ranching. The fund does not give money directly to the veteran but to third-party vendors for items the veteran has identified will make a crucial difference in the launch of their farm business. Awards range from $1,000 to $5,000, and more than $1.9 million has been awarded to veterans since 2011.

The Conservation Fund:

The organization is starting the Working Farms Fund, which will provide resources for farmers to adopt sustainable farming practices to supply food for local communities.

A Well-Fed World:

This organization offers a $500–$1,000 grant for a plant-based food project.

Organic Certification Cost Share Program:

OCCSP provides partial government funding for certificate renewal under the National Organic Program.

Conservation Reserve Program:

The program provides government funding for farmers to remove environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production and plant species that will improve environmental health and quality. The USDA conservation web page offers information on conservation in agriculture.

Organic Transition Grant:

Organic Transition supports farmers shifting to organic farming with a monetary grant, technical support, and mentorship.

Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundation:

The foundation offers funding for “environment and health” programs, which include initiatives for sustainability in agriculture and food systems.

The Ida and Robert Gordon Family Foundation:

The foundation offers funding for sustainable agriculture, improving food systems, and mitigating climate change. Contact the foundation for grant information.

Conservation Innovation Grants:

These government grants support the development of new tools, approaches, practices, and technologies to further natural-resource conservation on private lands.

Farmers Market Promotion Program:

The program funds projects that increase domestic consumption of and access to locally and regionally produced agricultural products and develop new market opportunities for farm and ranch operations serving local markets.

The Awesome Foundation:

The foundation offers grants of $1,000 for a vegan project.

Center for Nutrition Studies:

The center provides grants of $500–$5,000 for projects in community education and food literacy, increasing access to healthy food, fostering sustainable and equitable food systems, and promoting a plant-based lifestyle. Recipients must be partnered with a nonprofit organization. Grants can be applied to farm transitions.

Partner Community Capital:

The organization offers multiple grant, cost-share, and loan programs to help farmers, food processors, and food businesses. Funding targets North Carolina and West Virginia.

Brighter Future Fund

American Farmland Trust aims to support historically marginalized farmers, including beginning, women, and veteran farmers. AFT offers up to $10,000 per project to help improve farm viability, protect farmland, or foster regenerative farming practices and increase resilience to climate change.

New England Farmer Microgrants Program

This grant program focuses on providing financial support to farmers across New England. By offering up to $5,000 per project, it seeks to address key barriers in this region: access to farmland, farm succession or transfer planning, and transitioning to regenerative farming practices.

The sustainable agriculture program ATTRA provides a list of state-specific funding. You can also contact ATTRA with any questions you have about their program and opportunities.

Funding Sources for Farmers of Color

Tips on Applying for Grants and Loans

Karen Klonsky, extension specialist at the University of California, Davis, has written a short informative guide on financing a small farm operation.

The Center for Rural Affairs offers advice for farmers on how to apply for funding programs.

For farmers in the upper Midwest, the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute offers free advising on choosing grants to finance your farm investment.