Building this farm, growing my dream – part 2

Previous posts // The Biggest Risk & Growing My Dream – Part 1

No‘ seemed to be the very word I’d been terrified of and was hearing over and over. Surprisingly, the word hadn’t killed me yet like I’d always assumed it would.

The Grant was submitted on time – but was unsuccessful. [A few tips included at the end of this post about grants.]

I also told you that I had canceled my FSA loan application. Hugely impatient… I thought I’d skirt around the Farm Service Agency and speak with a banker.

I contacted a farm lending service to talk about my goals – we knew that equity was going to be a challenge but the loan process through this type of lender would be A LOT faster.

I will fast forward 30 days and tell you that a loan through the lending service was not possible. The amount we were seeking was not feasible in terms of our assets.

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Before going back to the FSA to start the application again I decided to start from a different direction. The support from just about every person was to keep persuing this project, my dream of processing and bottling my own dairy products, this niche market was possible – we might be gray from stress, but we had to try again.



In June 2018 I submitted my new shiny application to the FSA for an on farm processing and bottling facility, a few changes to the plan and a smaller financial request. My loan officer was appeared thrilled [sarcastic] and agreed to meet with us to review the changes we had made in our plan to reduce the amount requested.

It’s scary to try again. I felt unbalanced walking this tight rope of ‘NO’ on the left side and a better future on the right side. Weekly there were emails from the FSA requesting more research, more perfecting, validation for projections; did these new facts match the information I had provided 3 months ago. Month by month, in agonizingly slow steps we’ve provided the information with no news towards our approval [or denial] of the loan request. AND this is where I struggle with the government – my life is on hold until I know which direction my farm will take. I’ve cried countless tears from worry and stress, put farm improvements on hold because I don’t want to jeopardize my chances of getting approved. I am surrounded by what-if’s; if it’s approved we go this route, if the loan is denied we choose this path. It is a very tense period.





The dairy industry in itself is, shit guy’s – I can’t even explain the feeling.

  • It’s sitting down twice a month and there are bills that simply cannot be paid; I’m lucky if I can sneak a portion of what is available and distribute it evenly among the stack of rolling accounts.
  • It’s hard to separate farm from the home because both Brad as I work solely on the farm, I’m constantly justifying why a certain percentage of the farm income must go to household groceries, and activities for the kids.
  • It’s the very fact that I have to choose between paying the sawdust bill off or go on a much needed grocery trip to stock the pantry as to why I can’t explain the feeling of being a dairy farmer.
  • My heart can’t agree with my brain in WHY I’m allowing my family to struggle this way.

In the last post I mentioned that without the FSA my farm wouldn’t be able to operate – it’s true, I’m going behind on my mortgage payment to keep operating expenses paid up. So while I sit here, 4 months into the loan process with no idea of its outcome…I can understand the hesitation. But the entrepreneur in me says THIS is WHY I have to push to growing MY dream.

Xo, Nicole

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My tips on hunting down the elusive grant opportunities

I’m a woman in agriculture. Therefore, I am socially disadvantaged. When dealing with the FSA or the government’s grant programs – it doesn’t bother me a bit.

Grants are awarded on a point system and different portions of the applications can generate more points, beginning farmers and minority groups are two areas I could qualify for. I applied for the VAPG program offered through the USDA, this program helps agricultural producers enter into value-added activities related to the processing and/or marketing of new products, you can find more information here.

 

If you’re looking into applying for a grant I have a few suggestions:

  • Speak with individuals at your local USDA office, more specifically someone who specializes in rural development
  • Speak with your counties director of business and economic growth
  • Hiring a grant writer can help you organize and prepare the application
  • Get your DUNS and SAM accounts started – information here

Another important Grant expectation is that it will benefit the community; employee people and generate revenue for your area.

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