AmericanFarm.com

PFB members hear tips to obtain grants at convention

By DOROTHY NOBLE
AFP Correspondent

HERSHEY, Pa. (Nov. 29, 2016) — G. Keith Gray of Gray Matter Consulting LLC, shared his knowledge on how to seek grants at the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau’s annual meeting in mid-November.
Gray’s presentation focused on the agricultural programs within USDA. He pointed out that grant availability is typically linked to serving a broad public purpose.
To illustrate the scope of grants and loans, Gray showed programs that offered funding such as community food projects and farmers market promotion grants and categorized various types of recipients such as non-profit organizations and farmers.
Gray warned his audience that grant eligibility guidelines can be quite specific, and counseled potential applicants to confirm their eligibility before applying.
However, he noted that sometimes an ineligible person or organization can partner with an eligible entity and subsequently benefit from programs in which they may not otherwise have access.
In pursuing grants, Gray advised applicants to clearly demonstrate that their outputs meet the needs of the target population in which the benefits are designed to help.
A concise and compelling narrative of the problem to be alleviated by the grant and an analysis of how the results will be measured should be included, plus a realistic budget that sets forth allowable costs and the project timeframe are imperative.
Using ‘SMART’ as a guideline for the applicant, he emphasized being specific, clear and focused; and being certain that the project is measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.
For example, for a Rural Energy for America Program grant, Gray said the application should demonstrate measurable reduction of energy through audits and through technology. The applicant must show how the project impacts his operation. It can be cost savings or other improvements.
Be certain to identify the person in charge of monitoring and overseeing the project. Also, of course, state how the results will be calculated and demonstrated. REAP grants can address biomass, solar, wind, geothermal projects. Gray added that the technology must be recognized—research and development is not acceptable.
Gray indicated that the grants for farmers markets programs are promising. “Consumers want to know where their food comes from,” Gray said.
The farmers market promotion programs, Gray explained, are designed to expand local foods. These can include outreach training and technical assistance with market establishment and design, plus specific product marketing. Agritourism, community supported agriculture efforts, roadside stands and other direct-to-consumer producers are included.
For the farmers market grants, demonstrating a plan and justifying the need for the market or increasing the number of local producers can be significant.  The website, www.ams.usda.gov/grants provides information on the farmers market promotion, the local foods promotion and the organic cost share programs.
Rural development funding data can be researched at www.rd.usda.gov.
Another source of grants from the Food and Nutrition Services agency of USDA is the Farm to School program. It can be accessed at www.fns.usda.gov/farmtoschool/farm-school-grant-program.
In addition, the website, grants.gov, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, includes numerous links to many sources of information useful to applicants as well as sources of grants.
However, regarding announcements of grants, Gray advised against waiting for that information. “You have about a 10 percent chance of being awarded those.” Rather, he advised seeking out grants as soon as information about new programs becomes available.