Farmer Resources for Fall of 2015: Grants, Programs, Workshops, Events

toolboxThere’s a lot going on this fall and we wanted to make it easy for you to stay up to date on the latest grants, programs, workshops, and events. These resources are a great way to gain knowledge, sharpen skills, acquire funding, and make your farm successful. While the resources are mainly targeted at farmers, they are also for anyone who is interested in becoming a farmer and those who work with farmers. The resources are listed in no particular order, so be sure to scroll through it all. There’s some great stuff in here!

Prairie Earth Farm Field Day: Sept. 8th

Join Farmer Dave Bishop, Illinois Stewardship Alliance, and The Land Connection for a memorable morning out on Prairie Earth Farm. Topics will include Cover Crops and Soil Health, Value Adding and Diversity, A Lender’s Perspective, and a Tour of the University of Illinois Research Plot. A locally-sourced lunch will be provided. All you have to do is RSVP! For questions email Dave at and to RSVP, call the Alliance at 217-528-1563. Learn more about the speakers and presentations.

Farm Progress Show: Sept. 1st-3rd

The 2015 Farm Progress Show is promising to be exciting for show-goers when they visit the Partners in Conservation exhibits. Our theme this year is “Conservation Around the World – How are YOU Making a Difference?” The Illinois Stewardship Alliance is one of 23 exhibitors who will host hands-on activities and demonstrations.

During the three day event, we will hold two farmer panel discussions each day. The 10:00 am panels each day will cover conservation cropping systems. The other panels will be at 1:00 pm with Women in Agriculture on Tuesday, Beginning Farmers on Wednesday, and Wildlife in AG- A Win, Win on Thursday. There will be drawing for a Tablet after each panel discussion. Come register and learn from real farmers making a real difference in conservation as well as enjoy the many other activities and demonstrations on hand.  Read More

Cut Flowers Workshop: Sept. 13th

Fresh, local, flowers are in high demand, as they pop up at weddings, at farmers’ markets, and in CSAs. Learn the basics of production, processing, and marketing from three local experts: Joan Jach of Old Town Flowers, Maggie Taylor of Delight Flower CSA, and Kent Miles of Illinois Willows. Learn More

Farmer Grant Writing Workshop – Sept. 28th

Existing and prospective farmers are invited to participate in a grant writing workshop on Monday, September 28 from 6:00-9:00 pm(registration starting at 5:30 pm) at the University of Illinois Extension Office, 700 S. Airport Drive in Springfield. Information will be presented on the basics of grant writing as well as specifics on grants available through the North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NCR SARE) Farmer Rancher Grant Program. A light meal will be provided. Be sure to bring your grant writing ideas too! There is a $5 charge to attend and registration is required. Click here to register.

Season Extension Workshop: Oct. 12th-14th

Join the Land Connection for one, two or three days of a season extension workshop to be held at Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery in Champaign on October 12-14, 2015. Season extension is much more than just putting up a greenhouse. Value addition, unique marketing strategies, efficient management of heat and wind, and many other factors all play a role. You will leave the class armed with resources and prepared to implement these diverse season extension practices on your farm. The first day will be spent learning the essentials of season extension from farmers and other professionals in a classroom setting. The second day will be spent visiting farms in Central Illinois that have made season extension a vital component of their success. The third day will be spent in a hands-on demonstration in high tunnels at a nearby farm. Learn More

Two Farm Beginnings Class Now Accepting Applications

Farm Beginnings is a farmer-led training and support program designed to help people plan and launch sustainable farm businesses. The year-long farmer training program kicks off in October and includes over 70 hours of farmer-led classroom instruction, access to field days and workshops, and mentorship with successful regional growers. Applications are now being accepted for 2015-2016 Farm Beginnings Programs, and early bird discounts end September 1.

Stateline Farm Beginnings is held in Boone County
Central Illinois Farm Beginnings is held in Champaign County

Farm Storage Facility Loan Expanded

Just weeks after expanding financing options for produce growers, USDA’s Farm Service Agency recently expanded the Farm Storage Facility Loan (FSFL) program to provide very low-interest financing to farmers to build or upgrade storage for meat, dairy, and eggs. The,FSA notice to its field offices also covers flowers, hops, and rye. The Farm Storage Facility Loan program was expanded to serve produce farmers and finance cold storage facilities for the first time in the 2008 Farm Bill. Changes introduced by FSA in 2014 extended the program to also finance many aspects of fruit and vegetable packing sheds. The new announcement makes the following commodities eligible for facility loans: unprocessed meat and poultry, eggs, milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, floriculture (flowers), hops, rye, and aquaculture. Learn More

Windy City Harvest: Industry-Specific 14-Week Courses

The Windy City Harvest Apprenticeship program offers 14-week industry-specific certificates. These certificates have been designed for individuals who already have a firm foundation in sustainable urban growing techniques and are looking to expand their knowledge in specific areas. Each course combines hands-on training with classroom education and will be offered as either an evening or weekend course. Industry-specific certificate courses are open to the public, not just Windy City Harvest alumni. We currently offer the following certificate courses:

For more information or to submit an application please contact Kate Gannon at

Good Food Business Accelerator Now Accepting Applications

GFBA is the nation’s first business accelerator focused on building supply chains of Good Food, which FamilyFarmed defines as local, sustainable, humane, and fair. Businesses eligible to compete for the Accelerator program fellowships include food artisans, consumer packaged goods companies, farmers, technology firms, food hubs, restaurants, retailers, and foodservice providers. Businesses, to apply, must be located in and serve the Chicago foodshed, which extends through much of Illinois and parts of Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

FamilyFarmed‘s Good Food Business Accelerator (GFBA) is now accepting applications from food and farm entrepreneurs who want to participate in the program’s second year. Information about the program and application, including eligibility criteria, can be accessed by clicking here. The application period runs until Sept. 18, with the program beginning late fall.

NCR- SARE Grants

Below are the North Central Region (NCR) Sustainable Agriculture Research Education (SARE) grants that have open calls for proposals. The focus of the NCR-SARE grant programs is on research and education, and these grants are all highly competitive. Funding considerations are made based on the relevance and potential of the project to increase the sustainability of agriculture in the region, as well as how well the applicant articulates the research and education components of their sustainable agriculture grant proposals. Check out the SARE database for previously funded projects closely related to what you have in mind

If you have a project that you believe qualifies, reply to this email with your contact information and a short description of your project.

PARTNERSHIP GRANT: deadline October 29th

YOUTH EDUCATOR GRANT: deadline November 12th
FARMER RANCHER GRANT: deadline December 3rd

New “Cultivating Change” grant program for local farmers – due October 31

The national produce distributor, Pro*Act, recently launched a new grant program (“Cultivating Change”) for local farmers through its Greener Fields Together initiative. Farmers may apply for Cultivating Change grants ranging from $3,000 to $10,000. Grants may be used to cover farmers’ expenses in four key areas:

  • Obtaining Certifications: Organic, Non-GMO, Biodynamic, Fair Trade, Food Safety
  • Strengthening Infrastructure: Reusable Plastic Containers(RPCs), Delivery Vans, Refrigerated Trucks, Equipment
  • Building Capacity: Food Safety/GAP Improvements, Continuing Education
  • Marketing / Communications: Upgrade Labels/Cartons, Marketing Materials, Website/Social Media Support

Applications will be accepted from September 1 through October 31, 2015. Visit Cultivating Change’s webpage for more information on eligibility requirements and how to apply.

Scaling Up for Regional Markets

Scaling up for regional markets often refers to an increase in the amount of land in production, herd size, enterprises, or markets. Scaling up can also refer to improving current production systems in order to increase sales. In either case, there are many risks and challenges associated in scaling up, especially as a farmer prepares to gain access in to the wholesale market. This tutorial provides lessons and information for farmers who have success in smaller and more direct marketing channels and who are interested in expanding their operations to meet a growing demand for local food.

There are 9 lessons in this series on scaling up production.

Lesson 1:  Are You Ready?
Lesson 2: Planning for Profit
Lesson 3: Marketing
Lesson 4: Land Access
Lesson 5: Labor
Lesson 6: Equipment and Infrastructure
Lesson 7: Wholesale Readiness
Lesson 8: Wholesale and Direct Marketing
Lesson 9: Case Studies

Check out these lessons here.

GAPs Webinar Series  October 7, 14, 21, and 28 from 6 – 8pm.

The webinar is designed to provide information to growers on how to keep produce safe from production to the market. The past few years we’ve all seen and heard about examples of where food has been contaminated and the result has been catastrophic. Infection with E coli and other organisms has made headlines with cantaloupe, lettuce, beef and other foods. GAP’s training discusses methodologies to reduce potential contamination. Topics of this webinar will include: What is GAP’s; Water quality and testing; Soil management; Record keeping; Traceback, etc. The webinar series will be held Wednesdays, October 7, 14, 21 and 28 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. You may attend the webinars from your home. The registration fee is $20 per participant. Pre-registration along with pre-payment is required by October 2, 2015. For more information contact University of Illinois Extension, Kankakee County at 815/933-8337. Register Here

Winter High Tunnel Videos

Through an Illinois Department of Agriculture Sustainable Agriculture grant Lincoln Land Community College (LLCC) in partnership with the University of Illinois Extension conducted high tunnel vegetable production research during the winter of 2014 and produced a series of videos on topics for building beds, planting, growing, pest management and harvesting. The videos are available to educators and farmers wanting to teach or learn how to start production in a high tunnel.

High tunnels are minimally-heated, low cost, plastic-covered greenhouses which use little or no energy from fossil fuels to heat or ventilate the structure. High tunnels provide horticulture crop producers these benefits: extending the growing season of many high value crops such as melons, peppers, tomatoes and strawberries; protecting crops from weather extremes in regard to temperature, sunlight, strong winds, driving rain and destructive hail; and protecting crops from harmful insects, wildlife and diseases that can lower marketable yield. High tunnels can be used to intercrop many vegetable species. On a small plot of land, high tunnels permit intensive production of food crops.

New Guides Available from Farm Commons on Developing Sales Contracts

Strong, resilient, sustainable farm businesses are built on a solid legal foundation – and Farm Commons is there to help. Announcing two new resources for farmers who are looking to develop sales contracts for non-traditional sales arrangements. Both guides include step-by-step process and principles for developing sales agreements, an hypothetical situation to help illustrate the concepts, and sample documents.

1. Building Strong, Legally Enforceable Sales Agreements with Availability Sheets and Invoices

2. Building Strong, Legally Enforceable Sales Agreements for Production Services

Know Your Food: Local Producers Guide to Entering the University Dining Facilities

The University of Illinois Dining Services invites you to a workshop on Monday, November 16, 2015 to learn about the logistics of bringing food from local producers to University Dining Services and engage in dialogue with local producers, suppliers, distributors and consumers involved in the process. The workshop will be held from 9am-3pm at the SDRP Multipurpose room (301 E. Gregory Drive, Champaign) Please contact Dawn Aubrey ( or Christopher Henning ( at University Dining Services for questions.

Diversify with U of I Extension Classes on Eggs and Goats 

“Selling Eggs in Illinois” Classes in Boone, Dekalb, and Ogle Counties
With the growing popularity of keeping backyard poultry, more and more folks are wondering whether they should start a small egg business.  It’s certainly possible, but depending on how and where you want to sell those egss, there may be a lot more to it than just hanging a “fresh eggs” sign at the end of the driveway.  Do you have the time?  Do you have a market?  Will it make a profit?  What are the regulations?

“Raising Goats for Meat ant Milk” Classes in Boone, Dekalb, and Ogle Counties
Are you thinking of getting goats for your small farm?  It doesn’t take lot of land to support goats, but it does take good management skills to keep them happy, healthy, and productive.  Join Andy Larson, Local Food Systems and Small Farms Educator, for a workshop where aspiring goat producers will learn the basics about:choosing the best goats for their intended enterprise; the facilities, fence, and pasture necessary to support their goats; basic goat nutrition and health requirements; marketing and profit considerations for a successful goat business.