- Education and Training: technical assistance, workshop
- Farm Business Management: grant making
Recent events like wildfire, flood, and COVID-19 put farmers in vulnerable situations, particularly for small, socially disadvantaged, and underserved farmers in rural communities. Farm operators often struggle to identify and secure resources to survive or strive for success. Learning to write successful grant applications takes significant time and effort. Many farmers give up on grant applications because of the intimidating process and confusing paperwork. Furthermore, it is difficult to find someone with experiences in grant-writing to provide effective strategies to build confidence in grant application, because many service providers have never written or submitted grant applications, or some may have experienced unsuccessful outcomes and feeling discouraged. This proposed project focuses on training the people who work with farmers (e.g., extension agents, government agents, nonprofit organizations) to enhance their knowledge, skills, and competency by working with experienced grant applicants (e.g., mentor farmers) and grantors (e.g., USDA program leaders, foundations, companies sponsors interested to support farmers) across several disciplines, with particular guidance for interdisciplinary collaboration to achieve economic viability and sustainable practices. Hands-on training will be delivered in person or via web-based format. Video clips will be produced and recorded to showcase best practices and lessons learned targeting on grant programs of building sustainable field practices, new market opportunities, and interdisciplinary collaboration. Racial equity training will be offered to bridge the gaps of understanding the culture, history, and communication to improve support and assistance while working with underserved farmers between grantors and service providers.
Project objectives from proposal:
The target audiences of this proposed project include extension agents, government technical support staff, NGOs, and staff from companies and foundations who want to sponsor and support farmers. Our goal is to create effective grant writers to help farmers to apply for grants or other types of financial support focusing on building sustainable field practices and creating new market opportunities. The contents of grant-writing training will include understanding various types of projects, the nature of the grant programs, purposes of collaboration, team building, expected contributions, anticipated benefits, and valuation of collaborative efforts before embarking on new opportunities. For farmers, leading and participating in a grant-writing process also requires mentorship, patience, professionalism, and excellent communication beyond the day-to-day farming activities. For grantors and sponsors, it is important to understand issues, challenges, and diverse audiences working in agriculture. There are two objectives in this proposed project:
Objective 1. To fulfill collaborative efficacy and to equip extension agents, other service providers, and potential grantors/sponsors with knowledge and training materials of the historical context of race and equity in agriculture and in access to land and funding for agriculture.
Objective 2. To fulfill technical competency and to equip extension agents and other service providers with the knowledge and training materials to help farmers to write effective grants.
To achieve Objective 1, annual racial equity training will be offered to grantors, funders, extension agents, and community-based organizations to develop a shared appreciation of the roles of history and culture playing in resource access and disparities. Professional facilitators will lead this training and the process analysis with project participants to help farmers access land and resources (e.g., how be inclusive in identifying partners for Farmers Market Development grant proposals, how to communicate effectively with diverse audiences, etc.)
Behavior Change under Objective 1: The expected learning outcomes would lead to: (1) increased understanding of our role in the historical construction of the racial hierarchy through higher education, agricultural and food systems; (2) increased understanding and acknowledgement our role in being an ally to communities most impacted by food systems disparity; and (3) increased willingness to apply guided tool to examine policies, practices and procedures to alleviate barriers.
To achieve Objective 2, we will work with professional grant-writing trainers to offer monthly in-person or online hands-on training for 30 extension agents and community-based organizations in Year 1. This cohort will lead the training for other extension agents and service providers in Year 2. Grantors/sponsors and mentor farmers with successful grant-writing experiences will also teach project participants where to find proper grants for farmers, how to write narratives, how to fill out required forms, how to put a budget together, key factors for success, and how reviewers evaluate grant applications. A professional photographer will be contracted to create short videos of interviews from people who have been successful or not successful in grant applications – storytelling from the applicants and farmers.
Behavior Change under Objective 2: The expected learning outcomes would lead to: (1) increased knowledge of how to design sound projects, including creating partnerships, timelines, and evaluation plans; (2) increased knowledge on finding funding opportunities, including where to find grant requests for proposals and how to navigate which are appropriate to the proposal; (3) increased ability of writing effective grant proposals, including how to organize the proposal contents, follow requirements, be realistic in budgets and results, and understand the review process; and (4) increased knowledge of how to design and create a draft proposal that meets the needs of the farmers or community-based programs to enhance productivity, profitability, and sustainability.
We are confident to achieve the objectives given our long-term relationships and connectivity with socially disadvantaged farmers and underserved communities. We have access to and will attend the following events to promote and recruit participants: State-wide Cooperative Extension networks, Small Farm Week workshops, Center for Environmental Farming Systems networks, NC Food Resiliency Project, Farm Shows, NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services networks, Farm Bureau, Farm Credit, Chamber of Commerce, etc.