A summary overview of various programs, this is an incomplete list.
- Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) by USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service. ACEP provides financial and technical assistance to help conserve agricultural lands and wetlands and their related benefits. Landowners and entities interested in using conservation easements to address natural resource concerns can submit applications at any time to a USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service office.
- Conservation Innovation Grants by USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service. CIG is a voluntary program intended to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies while leveraging Federal investment in environmental enhancement and protection, in conjunction with agricultural production.
Five Steps to meet Conservation Compliance. Available annually.
- Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) by USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service. Learn more about CSP on this fact sheet. Continuous sign up; NRCS applies a cut-off date for each fiscal year.
- Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) by USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service provides financial and technical assistance to install conservation practices that address natural resource concerns.
- Farmer Veteran Fellowship Fund by Farmer Veteran Coalition provides direct assistance to veterans who are in their beginning years of farming or ranching, grants range from $1,000 to $5,000.
- Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT) awards competitive grants to working, independent family farmers located in the continental U.S. who raise beef cattle, broiler chickens, dairy cows, goats, laying hens, pigs, sheep and/or turkeys.
- Fruit Guys Community Fund grants range from $2,000 to $5,000 projects that help small farms and/or orchards operate more , both environmentally and economically, as well as strengthen community outreach.
- GRANTS.GOV searchable database of federal grants.
- Local Food Promotion Program by USDA Ag Marketing Program to support the development and expansion of local and regional food business enterprises.
- Organic Certification Cost Share by USDA Farm Service Agency to help with the cost of becoming certified organic. This program is not always available. Apply through organic certifier and/or local FSA office.
- Renewable Energy for America Program by USDA Rural Development. REAP provides financial assistance to agricultural producers and rural small businesses in rural America to purchase, install, and construct renewable energy systems; make energy efficiency improvements to non-residential buildings and facilities; use renewable technologies that reduce energy consumption; and participate in energy audits, renewable energy development assistance, and feasibility studies. Available annually.
- Rural Business Development Grants (RBDG) by USDA Rural Development. The RBEG provide technical assistance and training for small rural businesses. Small means that the business has fewer than 50 new workers and less than $1 million in gross revenue. The funds can be used in a variety of ways, see site for list.
- Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) offers farmer/rancher grants. Their mission is to advance—to the whole of American agriculture—innovations that improve profitability, stewardship and quality of life by investing in groundbreaking research and education.
- Small Socially-Disadvantaged Producer Grant by USDA Rural Development. SSDPG funding is to be used for technical assistance* by small, socially-disadvantaged agricultural producers through eligible cooperatives and cooperative development centers. Grants are awarded on a competitive basis. Available annually.
*Technical Assistance is defined as: market research; product and/or service improvement; legal advice and assistance; Feasibility Study, business plan, and marketing plan development; and training.
- Specialty Block Grant Program by California Department of Food and Agriculture. Funds for projects that solely enhance the competitiveness of California Specialty Crops. Specialty crops are defined as fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops (including floriculture). Available annually.
- Value Added Producer Grant by USDA Rural Development. The primary objective of the VAPG program is to help agricultural producers enter into value-added activities related to the processing and/or marketing of bio-based value-added products. Generating new products, creating and expanding marketing opportunities, and increasing producer income are the end goals of this program. See Sustainable Agriculture's Farmers' Guide to Applying for VAPG Funding.
List of possible funding sources including Financing, Conservation Easements, Crowd Funding and Other Programs.
NOTE: These resources are not affiliated with or recommended by UCCE.
- Bay Area Small Business Finance- Alternative SBA lender for local entrepreneurs created to provide access to capital until the business matures to a stage where it qualifies for conventional banking credit.
- California FarmLink offers land purchase, operating and equipment loans.
- Cutting Edge Capital was selected by the American Farmland Trust and the Greenbelt Alliance to develop a scalable model for sustainable financing of agricultural businesses in the Bay Area. This important project will include a risk analysis and assessment of requirements for success across the entire sustainable agriculture value chain and will culminate with the identification and funding feasibility for several shovel-ready projects in the region.
- MoneyGeek.com offers small business owners a look at 17 different types of business loan options, a short quiz to help them decide which is best for their business, and a step-by-step guide to creating a business plan.
- Natural Investments is a portfolio management firm with offices in Sonoma County specializing in socially responsible investing locally and internationally.
- CalRecycle grant, payment and loan programs for safe and effective management of wast streams.
- Slow Money Nor Cal putting money to work in local food enterprises "to enhance food security, food safety and food access; improve nutrition and health; promote cultural, ecological and economic diversity."
- Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Napa-Sonoma provides one-on-one advising, trainings & workshops and funding assistance.
- Working Solutions is a nonprofit organization partnering with EDB that supports entrepreneurs to start or grow successful Bay Area businesses. They provide microloans/small business loans and long term business advising.
Conservation Easements/Land Trusts
A conservation easement (also known as a conservation restriction or conservation agreement) is a voluntary, legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. It allows landowners to continue to own and use their land, and they can also sell it or pass it on to heirs. The limits of the conservation easement ‘runs with the land,’ meaning that even if the land is inherited or sold the restrictions stay in place.
- Ag + Open Space
- California Land Trusts – click on your county.
- Sonoma Land Trust
- Sustainable Ag Lands Conservation by State of California
Read Crowdfunding to Fund the Farm before considering this option.
- AgFunder requires a thorough business plan as they have a rigorous evaluation project. Projects look to be technological advances for ag.
- Barnraiser aims to help agriculture projects get off the ground through crowdfunding. Whether the goal is to build a new hoop house or upgrade old farm equipment, Barnraiser provides the platform and support to raise funds, share stories and grow communities.
- GoFundMe – they allow all types of crowd funding with seemingly no filter process.
- Indiegogo raise funds for anything, from products to projects.
- KickStarter – Here are their rules. Here are local Kickstarter projects.
- KivaZip crowd funding micro loans. Contact KivaZip and contact FarmsReach to obtain a questionnaire and their endorsement.KivaZip and contact FarmsReach to obtain a questionnaire and their endorsement.
Other Programs & Resources
- Partial Sales & Use Tax Exemption on farm equipment, machinery and parts. This link to the California Farm Bureau Federation provides information and links to help you participate in this program.
- California FarmLink is a non-profit organization that provides farmers with the tools they need to lease and purchase land, access capital, and improve business planning.
- Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT), a national organization, has some great resources.
- Elizabeth Ü local author of Raising Dough: The Complete Guild to Financing a Socially Responsible Food Business and consultant for businesses, organizations and individuals.
- Grassroots Guide to Federal Farm & Food Programs guide by National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.
Additional USDA Resources
- Grants & Loans for Farmers by USDA National Agriculture Library to help you get your research started.
- Grants & Opportunities by USDA Ag Marketing Service.
- USDA Building Sustainable Farms, Ranches & Communities (pdf) a guide to federal programs.
- USDA Farm Service Agency of USDA offers a Microloan program for up to $50,000 as well as other programs. See complete list of current FSA Funding Programs.
- USDA Rural Development California Local office: 777 Sonoma Ave, E St Annex, Santa Rosa (707) 526-6797 x103
- USDA "About USDA - A Quick Reference Guide" provides a summary of most of the USDA agencies and includes links.