Hard work, sweat and roll the dice; that’s what it feels like as you dive into spring planting or run your livestock operation in uncertain markets. There is no doubt that you have to be passionate about the work you are doing to keep moving forward.
When neighbors start talking about grant writing and government programs, it’s easy to have your guard up. We’ve been told countless times by our elders “nothing good comes for free” “Never trust the government” and a handful of other sayings that we live by to keep our operations from going under. As farmers, we are conservative because we face serious risks and hardships daily. Why roll the dice more than we have to?
Grant Writing or Gambling?
I hear farmers voicing concerns about how grant writing is like gambling. It would be completely ridiculous to claim that a profitable farm is profitable because they were “lucky”. They may have had a few good seasons and found some prime land to operate on, but at the end of the day, they have hit their snags and they will face challenges just like any farmer. In fact, the most profitable farms I have seen and been a part of have had major failures. Experienced farmers are the most successful farmers in the industry because they have seen failure and have learned the ropes. They lean into what they know works. Compare that to the laissez-faire, biblical farmer, throwing seed by the wayside just hoping it will grow. Now that is gambling!
3 Critical Aspects of a Successful Operation:
- Planning and vision–The best farmers and ranchers in the industry spend countless hours planning and they plan far into the future. They have a vision that goes well into the future and sometimes includes them planning right down to the future ownership of the farm when it’s being passed down in the family
- Right place, right time–I see farmers who often use their intuition and go with their guts when they are deciding on the timing of planting or the type of crops to grow. While planning is key, there are just times you have to trust your feelings and have them land you in the right place at the right time. Experience shows here as farmers plant late or early or decide to let a field go fallow.
- Organization– While there may be a few pieces of equipment that are jimmy-rigged on the farm, you will find that a profitable operation is well organized. Everything has its place and is accounted for. These farmers know exactly what is going on in their pastures or fields which keeps things running smooth.
Same Rules Different World
By implementing these same aspects into the process, you set yourself up for the win!
- Planning and vision–Before we even start, it is important to know what our vision is. What do we need to fund? Where do we want to grow? What are the impacts we want to have on the environment, our community, and our operation? Sometimes we go far into the future. After asking these questions, you are ready to start your funding strategy, where you find the top 10-20 grants that are best fits and that you have a high chance of winning.
- Right place, right time–The funding strategy puts you in the right place at the right time by listing off the grants that fit your organization’s vision. As we take into account the deadlines and give ourselves ample time to build out the grant, we are on our way to winning the funding.
- Organization–By organizing all of the content properly, you can track it. A solid grant team will break things up in a systematic way that enables you to quickly pull everything together when it comes time for submission. This kind of organization makes it so you are ready to apply for additional grants that pop up at the drop of a hat! You know right where everything is and how to properly tailor it to your donor’s needs.
So there you have it! The two worlds are quite similar. The question is, why do I keep running into proposals thrown together all higgledy-piggledy with even the best farmers I work with?
I believe the answer is simple. Most of us don’t take it seriously because we feel like there is a snowball’s chance in hell that we will win. Imagine doing your best work every season if you knew there wouldn’t be a harvest at the end of it all.
It takes time and commitment to find success. If farmers and ranchers went belly up after their first failure, there wouldn’t be any successful agricultural operations out there. When farmers knuckle down and push on, season after season and flex their hope muscles, they find success.
There is no doubt that It takes hardcore optimism and grit to be a farmer. Few professions throw more curveballs at you and require you to get up day in and day out to put in so much hard work.
If you are out there wondering if farming is still a good idea, or if it will get easier, you are not alone! But you didn’t decide to do it because it was easy at the end of the day, did you?
Grant writing can be tedious, and hard work as well. It requires the same level of tenacity and determination as your farm does. I can promise you that when you take it on with the same level of grit, you will find that you start landing one funding opportunity after another and you can create the lasting impact you want to make for communities, the environment, and your operation as a whole.
It all starts with that funding strategy If you are looking for the right help to get your agricultural operation grant-ready and funded, start here. I’ll walk you through step by step from a farmer’s point of view.
One thing is for sure, nothing will grow if seeds aren’t planted and the chance o,f winning a grant is only a guaranteed “no” if it isn’t applied for. So what’s stopping you?