Grant programs and financial options for farmers and food entrepreneurs

Wisconsin State Farmer

Do you have a new production idea you want to test out on your farm?  Are you looking for ways to develop your innovative agricultural business?

Do you have a new production idea you want to test out on your farm? A fall workshop may help farmers identify whether grants or other financial options might be right for them.

Many Wisconsin farmers and food entrepreneurs have used grants to evaluate new crops or farming practices or to launch value-added businesses. Join us this fall for a workshop to help you identify whether grants or other financial options might be right for you.

What kinds of things are farmers doing with grants?

Jeff Endres of Endres Berryridge Farms, LLC in Brooklyn, Wis.,has a USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) grant to work with a group of farmers on “Expanding the Understanding and Adoption of Composting Bedded Pack Manure to Reduce Manure Applications on Frozen and Snow Covered Fields around the Yahara Watershed.”  

Sheri Howard of Frozen in Thyme in Green Bay, Wis., received a SARE grant for the project to test the “Viability of Using Freeze Dried Herbs to Improve the Quality and Performance of Value-Added Herbal Products.”

Uplands Watershed Group received three DATCP Producer-Led Watershed Protection Grants to reduce nutrient and sediment loss in the Trout Creek-Mill Creek watershed. They collaborate with the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute and provide incentives for trying no-till, cover crop planting, pasture renovation and other conservation practices.

The group has installed 2,000 feet of stream fencing, added two stream crossings, installed 1,500 feet of stream buffers, held a 2-day event for Uplands farmers and Gulf of Mexico fishermen, formed partnerships with 14 organizations and increased no-till acres in the watershed.

 These are a few examples of the grants that Wisconsin farmers received in 2018.

Wisconsin farmers have used grants to develop value-added enterprises, try out innovative production and marketing techniques, and educate other farmers and the public about sustainable agriculture.  But figuring out whether a grant program is right for you and working through the application can be intimidating.

“Grants have helped a lot of great farming ideas and businesses get off the ground,” comments Margaret Krome, author of a book about funding opportunities for rural businesses and a presenter at the workshops. “But people have to know how grant programs and other sources of financial assistance work so that they don’t waste time applying for something they are not eligible for, and so they don’t make other basic mistakes.“  This workshop will discuss when grants make sense and cover ways to plan your project and strengthen your application. 

Specific grant programs to be covered include:

  • USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) grant program, which funds research, and education projects that advance sustainable agriculture
  • USDA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant (SCBG) program, which funds endeavors that enhance the competitiveness of Wisconsin Specialty Crops
  • Wisconsin’s Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin (BLBW) grant program, which funds projects that increase the demand for and supply of locally produced foods in Wisconsin.
  • Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection Farmer-led Watershed Grants Program

In addition, the workshop will briefly cover USDA financial assistance and loan programs for farmers.  

Dates and Locations

Western Wisconsin, Friday, Sept. 21, La Crosse: To register contact: or 608-785-9593 by Sept. 14th.

Southern Wisconsin, Saturday, Sept. 22, Dodgeville: To register contact: Barry Hottmann or Gene Schriefer at or or 608-930-9850 by Sept. 14th.     

Eastern Wisconsin, Friday, Sept. 28, Green Bay: To register contact: Liz Binversie at or 920-391-4612 by Sept. 20th.

Northcentral Wisconsin, Thursday, Oct. 11, Medford: To register contact Cathy Mauer at or 715-748-3327 ext. 3 by Oct. 4th. 

The registration fee of $15 will cover the cost of lunch and materials. The workshops are sponsored by UW-Extension, USDA, DATCP, and Michael Fields Agricultural Institute.