by Ron White, Demand Media
With U.S. consumers increasingly interested in organic farming, the small businesswoman today has many opportunities to capitalize. Organic farming provides a niche that most large farms cannot fill, and a wealth of help in the form of grants makes launching into an organic farming business relatively simple for any woman. Available grants run the gamut, but they fall into a few (4) main categories.
Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) provides grants designed to promote sustainable farming in the U.S. Some grants specifically target farm producers, and SARE considers start-up organic farms because they share the SARE mission, which is to advance innovation in agriculture. One focus area is education and research. SARE hopes the grants it gives to organic farmers helps other farmers run their own organic farming businesses.
CHICAGO (Reuters) - The U.S. Agriculture Department on Friday awarded $40.2 million in grants to farmers, ranchers and farmer-controlled rural business ventures aimed at spurring locally produced food supplies and renewable energy ventures.
USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan said 298 recipients in 44 states and Puerto Rico will receive business development assistance through the Value-Added Producer Grant program.
"These projects will provide financial returns and help create jobs for agricultural producers, businesses and families across the country," Merrigan said in a statement.
"This funding will promote small business expansion and entrepreneurship opportunities by providing local businesses with access capital, technical assistance and new markets for products and services."
Recipients included Living Water Farms, a 3-year old family company located in Strawn, Illinois, two hours south of Chicago, which produces hydroponic greens for restaurants and grocers; Agriberry, a family-owned berry and fresh fruit operation near Mechanicsville, Virginia; and Green Mountain Organic Creamery of North Ferrisburgh, Vt., which markets certified organic, bottled pasteurized milk, butter, ice cream and other dairy products.
Funds may be used for feasibility studies or business plans, working capital for marketing value-added farm products and for farm-based renewable energy projects, USDA said.
Eligible applicants included independent producers, farmer and rancher cooperatives, agricultural producer groups, and majority-controlled producer-based business ventures.
USDA said its Rural Development programs include a portfolio of more than $155 billion in loans and loan guarantees to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers.
Merrigan announced the grants at a conference on “local/regional food systems” at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) is offering up to $1.8 million in new grants for urban green infrastructure projects that both improve water quality and support community revitalization. Projects that support the restoration of canals, rivers, lakes, wetlands, aquifers, estuaries, bays and oceans qualify.
The E.P.A. argues that improving urban water quality is central to sustainable urban development. “Many urban waterways have been polluted for years by sewage, runoff from city streets and contamination from abandoned industrial facilities. Healthy and accessible urban waters can help grow local businesses and enhance educational, recreational, employment and social opportunities in nearby communities. By promoting public access to urban waterways, E.P.A. will help communities become active participants in restoration and protection.”
Projects, training, and research initiatives that advance the restoration of urban waters while improving water quality and community access have a good shot at winning some funds. The E.P.A. lists some example projects: