Throughout history women have worked on farms even if their husbands got the credit for it. But today women are an acknowledged force in the farming industry, making up 30 percent of all the country’s farm operators.
In an industry that serves as the backbone of the country, encouraging young entrepreneurs to go into farming is vital. One way the government does this is to help beginning farmers with the biggest obstacle to starting a business – lack of funding. This is especially true of female farmers, who are still the minority.
If you’re looking for support for your farming operation, the first place to look is the United States Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency. The FSA doesn’t specifically offer women or minority farm grants. However, it does have micro-loan programs in place with partners that may help you get the funds you need to kick off your farming business. The FSA sets aside a portion of its loans for underserved populations, which includes females and minorities.
For women interested in going into the field of agriculture through formal study, there are educational grants that can help pay for schooling. Future Farmers of America offers scholarships, and Mahindra tractor company has partnered with Women in Ag to offer four scholarships of $2,500 each to the chosen applicants.
The American Agri-Women Helen Whitmore Memorial Convention Scholarship awards members of the national organization the money necessary to attend AAW’s annual conference. This can be a great networking opportunity and source of information to help you build and grow a successful farming operation.
Women farmers are eligible for the same grant opportunities as other farm owners. One such program is the USDA’s Farm to School Grant Program. It awards millions of dollars in grants to farmers to provide healthy meals to schoolchildren in their areas.
You can also look into the USDA’s Value Added Producer Grants. They award funds to farmers engaged in value-added activities related to the processing and/or marketing of new products. For example, they might award a working capital grant to a dairy farmer who wants to market her own dairy products. Beginning farmers may be given priority in this program.
There are opportunities for farmers interested in energy conservation. The Rural Energy for America Program offers grants and loans to farmers interested in investing in renewable energy systems.
You may also get help from the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, which helps farmers with the cost of growing biomass crops. Biomass crops are crops or crop residues that can be substituted for fossil fuels. Examples include sugar cane, corn, sugar beets and orchard prunings.