Attention Massachusetts farmers! A new program developed by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) aims to assist beginning farmers get started with their businesses by helping with start-up or expansion costs. The Matching Enterprise Grants for Agriculture Program (MEGA) provides technical and business planning assistance to support beginning farmers. The goal of the MEGA Program is to assist farmers who hope to develop their farms into commercially viable operations. It does this by helping them acquire equipment and other non-land assets needed to run a farm business; providing technical assistance and capital; and bringing new ideas, products, and enthusiasm to the Massachusetts agriculture industry.
In order to be eligible for this program, farmers must have secure access (ownership or lease agreement) to the land they farm, have been in business for five years or fewer, and have the ability to raise matching funds. Non-profit organizations and farms are not eligible for the program; only commercial farms will be considered for funding.
Now in its second year, the MEGA program will award a maximum of $10,000 per farm. Last year’s MEGA program, in its pilot year, funded 10 programs; a similar number of grantees is expected for 2012. Use of the funds is intended for fixed capital and equipment that will enhance the viability of the farm. Farmers selected will participate in a technical assistance and business planning process. Current farm operations of the grantees will be reviewed by program consultants, who will suggest improvements and growth strategies for each farm operation selected.
The MDAR has a Request for Response (RFR) published on their web page that includes detailed information about applying for this grant as well as an application form. The deadline for applying is June 26.
Beginning farmers in Massachusetts should take advantage of this promising opportunity to obtain funding. Since the deadline is approaching, those interested should explore the possibility of applying to strengthen their farm operations and further develop their business.