This time of year is a favorite of Farm Aid staff members: It’s grant reading season!
After the annual Farm Aid festival, we come back to many tall stacks of grant proposals that have been mailed by farm and food organizations from across the U.S. These proposals come from organizations that are long partners of Farm Aid (including some that got their start thanks to Farm Aid funding in 1985!) and from organizations we’re just getting to know. Many of those new groups we met because of our annual festival, which gives us the chance to connect with new farmers, organizations and communities each year.
Each grant proposal requests grant funds for the organization’s good work. All Farm Aid staff members take part in the process of reading the grant proposals and assessing their merits. Then we join together, present the cases made for each organization, and come to agreement on where and how Farm Aid’s grant dollars will be put to best use.
Especially in times like these, these proposals give us hope and faith—and proof—that good things are happening out there, and that power lies in people coming together.
Reading a stack of grant proposals gives a person insight into the incredible work happening in communities all over the United States. Especially in times like these, these proposals give us hope and faith—and proof—that good things are happening out there, and that power lies in people coming together! Each proposal includes a clear illustration of the success the organization can achieve in its work—stories of the farmers they’ve impacted, testimonials about the power of the people involved in the work, facts and figures that show the changes being made.
Some of the proposals are for national work, focusing on influencing policy decisions that support family farm agriculture. That is desperately needed right now, especially as the Farm Bill has expired, trade wars have worsened farmers’ incomes, and as important things like conservation programs, beginning farmer programs and nutrition assistance programs are at risk of being cut. The other proposals are for regional and state-based work, many of them to fund grassroots work that builds and strengthens community in rural and urban areas alike.
Proposals vary from providing hands-on training to help farmers be more resilient and creating wholesale markets for farmers in rural areas that are far from markets and lacking in infrastructure, to making it possible for low-income families to shop at the farmers market and afford good, healthful food, and fighting factory farms in rural communities. The proposals include insights from which we can learn so much. One of the proposals I’m reading had much to say about the way rural America is perceived these days, and about what’s really happening in those communities: “We are in the midst of the struggle for economic, environmental and democratic justice, and the reality of what we are up against is not as simple as it oftentimes appears from the outside.” Too often in our society we think we know what communities are going through without actually listening to them describe what they are going through. This listening is so important, and it is part of what makes Farm Aid’s grant program process so informative and inspiring.
Reading about the work people and organizations are doing to strengthen family farmers, eaters and communities is so heartening. We’re going to do our best to fund this crucial work as much as possible. If you want to be part of this critical function of Farm Aid—to support good work happening across the country to bring family farm agriculture front and center—please give a gift today. With your support, we can help everyone do more!
We’ll make all of our granting decisions over the next few weeks–stay tuned to learn about the important and inspiring work Farm Aid is able to fund around the country with your help.