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6 Tips For Accessing Government Grants

If government funding announcements leave you scratching your head on whether or not you’re eligible, you’re not alone. Actual announcements are usually high on ten dollar words and low on concrete details.

There’s a reason for that: often, the actual announcement is made long before details are even hammered out. And, as with many programs and their general (vague?) wording, what’s eligible often comes down to how well you can match your project to the stated goals of the program.

Recently, I applied for funding for a summer employee for my sheep farm. We’re taking on a rather large grazing contract on a solar power installation and will need help. Last year, the federal government rolled out the Green Youth Jobs initiative. I knew about it because of coverage here on RealAgriculture. So, I kept an eye out for the program (again, announcements happen long before actual programs start), and successfully accessed funding for this summer, a whole year after the announcement was made.

When I announced on social media that our farm had been successful in securing funding and were looking for an employee, I got three-times more messages on how I got funding than actual applications. People had never heard of the program, let alone knew when the deadline was. This month, the provinces are rolling out details on the Canadian Agriculture Partnership programs, and with that coverage comes renewed questions of “How do I even access this?”

Mark your calendars: Here’s my first tip: when you read about or hear about a funding program, mark your calendar (electronically or otherwise). Figure out when details will be announced or when funding might be available and write yourself a reminder. For example, the Green Youth Jobs initiative was announced last spring. The actual application window was this last January. The internships start this month. I had a reminder in my calendar in December to look into funding.

Get to know who runs the programs: The recently rolled out Canadian Agricultural Partnership funding is administered by the provinces, for the most part, though it is jointly-funded with the federal government. Find out what group administers the program by province (links below) and then get to know who runs it. The staff are incredibly helpful in telling you what steps you have to complete ahead of applying. Warning: you likely need to be somewhat tech savvy. Not tech savvy? See the last point.

Talk to people who have successfully accessed programs: Not everyone advertises that they’ve received funding, but some farmers are pretty open about it. Ask around, or, when someone mentions it, be bold and ask for more information. Sometimes you just have to get into the grant loop to start navigating your way. The more people you know, the better information you’ll get.

It involves a lot of paperwork: Don’t love paperwork, online forms, and workshops? Well, time to suck it up, buttercup. The government is doling out tax-payers’ dollars — there are going to be hoops to jump through, and for good reason. You could be eligible for tens of thousands of dollars you were going to spend anyway. You’re going to have to invest your time and effort.

Know the prerequisites, know the deadlines, know the details: In Ontario, for example, each different pillar of funding requires different completed workshops. Timelines are typically pretty tight between workshops and funding intakes, but workshop certificates are “good” for five years. For example, many projects require a completed environmental farm plan, but may also require a biosecurity or Grow Your Farm Profits workshop. During the workshops, you’ll also get more details on eligibility. Most grants require you to pay for things upfront (but NOT before your project is approved), so make sure you read the fine print. Next up, figure out roughly where your project fits, take the required workshop, and apply within the deadline. A fellow procrastinator? There are several intakes per year!

Invest in decent tech and ask for help: Applications are done online, including signing. At a minimum, you need a working email address, and a computer current enough to access online portals. Again, grants can be pretty generous — if it means upgrading your computer to get there, it’s likely worth it. And if you aren’t the best at filling out online forms (or using $10 words in your application), find someone who is, either within the farm, or a trusted friend or family member. Just make sure you start working on it with enough time before the deadline to get it done.

For those who are wondering, the Green Youth Job Initiative information is available here(and may still have funding available).

Happy application writing!

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Photo Credit: Lee Gunderson

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