Have you ever felt like a donation or grant would help your farm move in the right direction? If so, we have some good news – Massachusetts Department of Agriculture (MDAR) is now accepting applications for its Matching Enterprise Grants (up to $10,000) for Agriculture program (MEGA). Recent recipient Steve Murray, owner and operator of Heart Beets Farm, used his MDAR’s MEGA grant program funds to acquire a fertilizer spreader, potato harvester, flame weeder, and a new walk-in cooler.
The program is available for new farmers - those farming for five or fewer years - and offers grants to improve or expand their farms. It also provides technical assistance and business planning assistance. According to MDAR, the objective of this grant is “to assist farmers whose goal is to raise agricultural products and who aspire to develop their farms into commercially viable operations”.
I recently met with Steve at his farm in Berkley, Massachusetts where we discussed his recent MEGA grant. Steve now advocates for farms to take advantage of the MDAR opportunity. According to him, the application and review process is quick, with fund distributors providing support along the way. He said that made everything easier and more effective than expected. After filling out the quick application, he received solid business planning assistance by MDAR-furnished financial advisors who helped him develop a business and spending plan, including current marketing and production strategies, financial logistics, income projections, and goals for growth and development.
When I asked Steve what kind of advice he could offer beginning farmers who might be contemplating the MEGA grant program, he had some great things to say:
• First, Steve advises not to wait too long to fill out the application. The deadline is quickly approaching and it’s best to get the paperwork in process.
• Second, don’t worry too much about the preliminary application being exact. Once submitted, MDAR helps connect applicants with technical assistance providers to fine-tune their business plans and spending projections.
• Finally, plan safely and smartly. If beginning farmers foresee farming on 20 acres but are currently farming on one, then they should buy tools suited for the larger scale. Also, be conscious of the risk of overproduction without simultaneous sale increase.
MDAR serves as a resource and distributor for MEGA grants up to $10,000, with a one-to-one match. The deadline to apply is 10 April 2018. The folks at Massachusetts Department of Agriculture are waiting to help you grow your farm. Apply today and let them help you reach your agricultural goals!