Grants and Low-Interest Loans for Agricultural Enterprises

Grants Vs. Loans

Q – “I hear grants are free money! So, how can I get a grant?” A – Grants are not exactly easy, but with a little innovation and work writing proposals – you can have some success!

  1. Start with a great idea.  Actually, make a list of all of your ideas for the future of your farm.
  2. Do some research. Decide what would work best for you and what has the best chance of getting attention.
    1. Review sites like those listed below to see what kinds of projects have been funded in the past.
    2. ‘Google’ your ideas to see what similar things exist.  Unique ideas have a better chance for money.
  3. Write at least a basic business plan for the new endeavor.  Do not get caught up in the pages and pages of documentation, simply make an appointment with the local Small Business Development Center or get budgets and detailed information through university Extension programs. You can also find fill-in business plans online.
  4. Follow the rules.  Many times, getting a grant involves being the best not only at writing, but at following the guidelines set forth by the funding agency.

Q – “I don’t want a loan…but I don’t have a choice. Where do I start?” A – Try a low-interest loan program.

  1. Low-interest loan programs do one of two things:
    1. Lower your interest rate
    2. Increases your loan package above the bank offer in order to finance the project.
  2. Most loan programs require the cooperation of a local bank and you still need to qualify for the loan.
  3. Be sure to have your finances in line and have a reasonable plan outlined before going to get the loan.

Where do I start?

This may not be a comprehensive list, but is a start to finding assistance with agricultural operations.  For other opportunities, please search the web and other agricultural resources in the area.

  1. The Ohio Department of Agriculture can assist with loans. CONTACT: 800-282-1955
  2. The Farm Loan Program with Farm Service Agency helps with grain storage and now hay storage buildings and many other projects.  It is a lower-interest loan program. This program is helpful to beginning farmers and ranchers who cannot receive loans in other ways. CONTACT: 614/255-2547
  3. The AgriLink Deposit Program is available to farms headquartered in Ohio which maintain 51% of all land and/or in Ohio may apply for low interest loans through a State Depository Bank. Approved bank loans are submitted to the Treasury which purchases a reduced interest CD with the lender. CONTACT: Ohio Treasurer’s office: 800-228-1102  search ‘Agrilink’
  4. The Progress Fund is a non-profit organization that lends money to unconventional ideas for people with good character.  If you have a new idea for the farm, but can’t get lending from the bank – they can help. CONTACT: Mark Nicholson 814-215-9176
  5. SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education) Grants are available through USDA for farmers/ranchers who submit proposals that test, evaluate, and adapt sustainable agriculture practices for their operations and related activities, including marketing. These grants are for sustainable agriculture research and education projects, NOT for everyday farming expenses.  Grants are for up to $7,500 per farm, $15,000 for a group of two farmers, and $22,500 for a group of three or more farmers. The deadline for application is typically early December.
  6. USDA Rural Development – “To increase economic opportunity and improve the quality of life for all rural Americans.”  Higher monetary values for business ventures are available through the Value Added Producer Grant program (VAPG)
  7. Farm Aid  Yes, this is Willie Nelson’s baby organization.  They offer competitive grants to farmers in three areas: Growing the Good Food Movement; Helping Farmers Thrive; and Taking Action to Change the System.
  8. AgMRC – The marketing website for value added agriculture has lots of info on writing and apply for grants:

By Eric Barrett, OSU Extension Educator, OSU Direct Food & Ag Marketing Team . Review by Mike Hogan

10 thoughts on “Grants and Low-Interest Loans for Agricultural Enterprises

  1. We are looking for some helpgetting a loan or grant to help grow our deer farm business. We just purchased it jan of 2015 on land contract. We are trying to buy new or newer farm equipment as well as put up some additional breeding pens and buildings as well as housing for our future employees. We do not know where to go or start We are trying our best but it seems like we are not going in the right direction or getting the proper informantion. If you can help me or get me in touch with someone who could help I would be very grateful. Thank You Ann Melville 734-444-9114. I look forward in hearing from you.

    • Hi Ann –

      Thanks for reading the post on our OSU Extension Blog. This is a response to your comment as posted. I sent a detailed email as well in response to your question you posted as a comment.

      I have located your Michigan State University Extension office there in your county and I have copied them to this message. They can either assist or direct you to the Michigan State person who can assist you with grants and loans. In general, most grants will not assist with the requests you have written in your comment. Most grants relate to business planning and marketing as listed on the page. Low interest loans would be the better option, based on a detailed business plan. Most of the low-interest loans (with the exception of the USDA-FSA one listed on the post), are state level organizations. Your local connections will be able to assist with these.

      Here is the link to what I think is your local MSU Extension office there in Michigan:

      Eric Barrett
      Extension Educator & Assistant Professor
      Mahoning County, OSU Direct Food & Ag Marketing Team
      Crossroads Extension Education & Research Area
      490 S. Broad Street, Canfield, OH 44406
      330-533-5538, f-2424
      Find our info anywhere by using ‘Ohio State Extension’ as part of your search

      • Thank you very much for responding back to me so quickly, I’m sorry that it has taken so long to respond back to you. I seemed to forget that our purchase of our Whitetail Hunting and Breeding Facility is located in southeastern Ohio. In fact our address is 69253 Prattsville Rd. McArthur, Ohio 45651. We were looking for a low interest loan of some sort somewhere in the 500,000.00 range and that would be for helping to pay on the land contract, buy new farm equipment, money for payroll so we can hire some people to help us and to build a fawning facility also help us with monthly bills right now. I will be watching for an email from you. Thank you for your time.

        Have a wonderful day,

        Ann and Joseph Melville
        734-560-6196- Joe cell
        734-444-9114- mine phone

  2. I want to start a Farm or buy a Farm, with the hopes of raising organic beef cattle. My thoughts are to make the farm as self sufficient as possible. Are there grants for starting such an endeavor? My original thoughts were to have just a small enough farm to be self sufficient, but my fiancé has thought one step further as turning it into a profitable career once he returns from the military. Any direction you can point me would be very appreciated. I am in the Richland/Ashland Ohio area.

    • Hi Abbie –

      Unfortunately, the county you are in does not support an Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator. So, I’ll try to give you some basics.

      Self sufficient does not really tell me anything. There are no grants that give money simply to start a farm. I would expect you will be more eligible for low-interest loans with a business plan in place. For grants, please return to the text of the blog post. Go to the site links for grants that most interest you. For example, the UDDA – SARE farmer/rancher grant program is accepting proposals right now. See if there are any research ideas you are interested in based on projects funded in the past. Then, you can work with your local county on assistance with the application.

      Also, you can work with your local Small Business Development Center right there in Ashland. Their website is:

      Planning must happen before grants and loans are considered. A basic business plan should be written before moving on to funding decisions. OSU Extension partners with the Ohio Small Business Development Centers to provide technical assistance for small businesses in the state. They provide a Small Business Toolbox on their website at which helps farm entrepreneurs write business plans, understand finances and to prepare to start new businesses.

      When it comes to raising cattle for organic production, you’ll need to clarify with more information. Are you planning to do a cow/calf operation, meaning you will buy cows, breed them and raise the calves from birth to market weight? Or, are you planning to purchase organic feeder cattle and feed them up to the desired weight? There is a great starter page through our colleagues at Iowa State that explains organic production and can get you on your way to a plan and budget at:

      Thanks for your comment and question!

  3. We currently have a goat farm, on 42 acres. What kind of grant would be best to apply for, for updates to what we have and possibly helping with purchases for new equipment, and fencing. Thank you God bless

    • Hi Tiffany –

      As noted in the blog, there are no grants to pay for purchases of this kind. All of the possible farm grants are on the blog post. If you can think of an innovative idea, the USDA Sustainable Agriculture grants are a great opportunity for your operation. You can read the previous grant winners’ applications and project descriptions on the website at:
      The deadline this year is December 7.

      In general, you are more likely to get a low interest loan to help get your farm business on the right track. The details for this are on the blog post as well. The Ohio Treasure’s Office has a great program that most likely has a partnering bank in your area.

      To help you in preparing for this, you can check out our Ohio State University Extension meat goat budget at:

      If you have dairy goats, there is a great budget planning tool at:

  4. My family is hoping to start a small choose-and-cut Christmas tree farm in Oregon, OH (Lucas County) on 10 acres. Are there any grants that would help us purchase land, seedlings, and/or equipment? Or, would this be something a low-interest loan would cover? I know the blog post suggests there are no grants to start a farm, but since the post is a few years old, I thought I’d ask just in case there is something new that has come about.

    Also, any tips/direction on starting this type of business would be much appreciated!

  5. Hi there,

    Firstly, a bunch of thanks for sharing such valuable information with us.
    Actually, I was doing some research about Ohio Department of Agriculture & latest development for agricultural sector. And
    I get landed over your article & it was too informative.

    Thank you


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