Funding Your Farm
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Starting a farm can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be out of reach. There are funding opportunities to help with land and infrastructure costs if you don’t have enough cash on hand to get started. However, it is important to remember that most funds will come with strings attached and that it will be important to keep farm and personal finances separate. Also, most loans and grants are going to want to see some sort of business plan to know that you have a plan for using the money responsibly and paying it back if that’s required.
Loans or grants can be useful tools for starting a new farm or expanding an existing operation. Before seeking out funding there are a few questions you should ask yourself:
- Do I have a clear goal in mind for how to use this money? Does it support my existing business plan?
- Do I know how much money I need?
- Can I accept a financial risk? Do I have the time to apply for and manage this funding?
- Do I have the training to do what I want to do with this funding?
If you can answer yes to all of these questions, then you may be ready to finance your farm. This page will provide an overview of available loans, grants, and alternative credit opportunities. This page is meant to provide an overview and does not present a list of all available funding opportunities.
Loans are available from the public and private sectors. It will be helpful to find a lender who works with farmers and understands the unique business considerations of running a farm.
AgCarolina and Carolina Farm Credit are financial cooperatives that offers multiple funding services, including a Young, Beginner, or Small Farmer Program that can help find the best financing options for your business.
USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) Loans
The USDA offers several types of loans through the Farm Service Agency. These loans may be direct or guaranteed. Loans are available to help with costs associated with ownership, operating, and expansion. Special programs are available to target audiences and emergency situations. In addition to traditional loans, FSA also provides microloans to help small farmers. These loans are for up to $50,000 and have special qualifications. Visit their website or visit your local FSA office for more information.
If you don’t see what you are looking for, consider looking through 2020 USDA-SARE Publication: Building Sustainable Farms, Ranches, and Communities: A Guide to Federal Programs for Sustainable Agriculture, Forestry, Entrepreneurship, Conservation, Food Systems, and Community Development. This publication provides details on funding opportunities from FSA and other USDA agencies.
The North Carolina Agricultural Finance Authority (NCAFA) was created by the North Carolina General Assembly to provide credit to farmers within the state. This Agency originates, finances, and services loans for agricultural production. Loans are available for: real estate, beginning farmers, disaster recovery, and agribusiness. Some of these loans are in partnership with FSA and AgCredit.
Alternative Options and Additional Reading on Farm Credit
If you are interested in some non-traditional farm credit opportunities there are socially responsible, triple bottom line, low-interest loans available such as through Kiva and Natural Capital Investment Fund. If you want to read more about farm credit, check out RAFI’s Farmer’s Guide to Agricultural Credit.
Grants for farmers are offered for specific purposes or programs. Most grants require some form of documentation or proof that a farm is established. For example, Southern SARE offers grants for research and education projects. Other organizations may offer grants for farmers for participation in a specific project or for emergency response.
North Carolina has grant programs to help farmers increase profits. There are three grant programs that have similar missions and criteria, but cover different parts of the state.
AgVentures covers: Alamance, Alexander, Alleghany, Anson, Ashe, Cabarrus, Caswell, Catawba, Chatham, Davidson, Davie, Durham, Edgecombe, Franklin, Forsyth, Gaston, Granville, Greene, Guilford, Halifax, Harnett, Iredell, Johnson, Lincoln, Martin, Mecklenburg, Nash, Northampton, Orange, Person, Pitt, Randolph, Rockingham, Rowan, Sampson, Stanly, Stokes, Surry, Union, Vance, Wake, Wayne, Wilson, Wilkes, Warren, and Yadkin.
WNC AgOptions covers: Avery, Buncombe, Burke, Caldwell, Clay, Cherokee, Cleveland, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Swain, Transylvania, Watauga and Yancey
UMO AgPrime covers: Bertie, Beaufort, Bladen, Brunswick, Camden, Carteret, Chowan, Craven, Columbus, Cumberland, Currituck, Dare, Duplin, Gates, Hyde, Hertford, Hoke, Jones, Lee, Lenoir, Montgomery, Moore, New Hanover, Pamlico, Pasquotank, Pender, Perquimans, Onslow Richmond, Robeson, Scotland, Tyrrell, Washington
Reach out to your local Extension Office if you are interested in applying for this grant. Applications open in November.
Looking for other grants? RAFI-USA has a list of grants and cost-share opportunities.
Depending on what your funding needs and timeline are, there may be alternative funding options to traditional credit lines. Crowd-funding and community funding are opportunities to have your community support your enterprise.
Crowd-funding through sites such as Kickstarter, GoFundMe, or any of the many other sites, allow businesses to tap into their networks and start promoting their ideas. While this does take some time and marketing skills, this funding avenue allows people to give feedback on business ideas and build some buzz for new enterprises.
Slow Money NC is a local organization that allows neighbors to contribute money to support their local food systems. People can donate to the organization and Slow Money will direct that money to local farm and food projects. Sign up with their organization to get added to their funding list.
No matter which credit line you choose, make sure you know what is required of you before and after getting the money and that you keep farm and personal finances separate.