SOUTHWICK — On Jan. 30, Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture will host a grant writing workshop for farmers at the Southwick Public Library at 6:30 p.m.

Farmers will learn about grants available for them and how to write a strong proposal. CISA Special Projects Director Margaret Christie said, “We are always interested in helping farmers access grant funding and have the best shot of getting that funding. My goal is that attendees will leave the workshop better prepared to submit a successful grant application.”

Based in South Deerfield, CISA works with farms and local food businesses throughout the Connecticut River Valley in Western Massachusetts. It offers a wide range of assistance to farmers and other “Local Hero” members, workshops, one-on-one consulting, online resources and more.

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, there have been additional sources of grant funding available for farmers. CISA hopes to help farmers figure out which grants applications are the best matches for them.

“Farmers’ approach to grants really varies,” Christie said. “Some have lots of experience and are ready to apply, and others haven’t done it before or find some of the requirements challenging. These challenges could include a lack of comfort with describing a project in writing, or lack of experience or the technology needed to submit a grant online, or difficulty reading the grant materials if they are only available in English and that’s not the farmer’s first language.”

During the pandemic, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs launched the Food Security Infrastructure Grant program. It’s a significant new source of grant funding for farmers. It focuses on equitable access to Massachusetts-grown food, and on building infrastructure for a resilient local food economy. It has funded new infrastructure for farmers such as delivery trucks, refrigeration, and washing and packing equipment, and programs that make food available to low-income residents, including programs operated by farms themselves and those run by agencies such as schools, food pantries and faith communities. In the last round, the state awarded more than $26 million through this program.

Both the federal and state governments have grants available for farmers. There are also some private foundations and nonprofits that offer grants. There are grants ranging from a few hundred or a couple thousand dollars up to much larger sums.

Christie said grant requirements really vary. Applying to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for support can be daunting for some farmers, she said, and the USDA has many different programs with different procedures and requirements.

“There are some steps that you have to take first to be eligible for support from USDA, so you have to navigate the bureaucracy a little bit,” Christie explained. “USDA is prioritizing efforts to make their programs more accessible. You really have to understand what this particular grant program is looking for and do your needs match what the grant program wants to fund.”

In the Jan. 30 workshop, Christie will talk about some of those different sources of grants and how farmers find out more about them, as well as how to write a clear and compelling application.

Christie said, “People will go away with a sense of what the possibilities are, an understanding about how to learn more and an understanding of the kind of work it takes to write a grant application that might get accepted and result in some money coming to your farm.”

Advance registration is requested at bit.ly/rp25ua. Christie said those who aren’t able attend the Jan. 30 event should see if there is another upcoming workshop they may wish to attend at the “Events” page at buylocalfood.org. CISA has grant information for farmers at www.buylocalfood.org/resources-for-farmers/grants-and-financing.

CISA can also help farmers in its service region — Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin counties — consider potential grant projects and identify grant sources that could be a fit, and can often review a draft grant application before the deadline. Farmers can reach out to CISA at sonia@buylocalfood.org if they want that kind of help.

Miasha Lee
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