The Vermont Farm Women’s Fund (VFWF) is offering its next round of grants to help women farmers improve their businesses or become more involved in agricultural policy development. The proposal deadline is Midnight October 28, 2010.
Additionally, VFWF is piloting a new scholarship initiative this fall to help defray course, conference and workshop fees. These scholarships – up to 75 percent of the event fee or $150, whichever is less — will be awarded on a rolling basis beginning immediately.
“Our goal is to help women get the education they need to make their businesses thrive,” says Mary Peabody, a member of the fund’s advisory group. “A little bit of support that makes it possible for farm women to access the right education at the right time can make a big difference.”
The new “Scholarship Initiative” is designed to provide more flexibility in helping women farmers take advantage of educational conferences, workshops and courses. The application process is streamlined and applications will be accepted and reviewed on a rolling basis. Generally, decisions will be made within five business days.
Women account for a growing share of Vermont farmers. The most recent USDA Census of Agriculture showed that the number of female principal farm operators in Vermont increased by 50 percent, from 967 to 1466 between 2002 and 2007. The data also show that women typically operate smaller farms and have lower farm earnings than their male counterparts. A primary goal of VFWF is to help strengthen and stabilize these businesses.
The Vermont Farm Women’s Fund has been making awards since 2008. Since then, farmers have used the support the fund provides to help research and develop new products; conduct feasibility studies; and to attend workshops, conferences and classes to learn new marketing, business management and value-added production skills and knowledge.
For the upcoming award cycle, the fund will make three kinds of awards. In addition to the small “scholarship initiative” awards, it is also seeking proposals for Farm Business Development and Leadership Development awards. Farm Business Development awards provide support for education and travel related to helping recipients improve some aspect of their business. Leadership Development awards provide support to help women farmers develop skills, access and opportunities to provide leadership in agricultural policy development. Additionally, applicants for the Business Development and Leadership Development awards may request funds to help defray associated travel, childcare, and replacement labor.
“These funds have been tremendously helpful to us,” said Judith Irving, who along with her daughters Josey and Calley Hastings, runs Fat Toad Farm, a diversified livestock farm in Brookfield, Vt. Fat Toad used their 2008 VFWF award to explore the production and market feasibility of some new, added-value goat’s milk products. “We feel really privileged to have been part of this program,” Irving said.
VFWF was able to expand its award program this fall due in part to support from the John Merck Fund and the Vermont Community Foundation.
The Vermont Farm Women’s fund was initially established by Vermont author and photographer Peter Miller, who donated a percentage of the sales of his book “Vermont Farm Women,” to the fund. The University of Vermont Extension, through the Women’s Agricultural Network (WAgN), serves as the fiscal agent for the fund and administers the grant award process. A panel of Vermont farm women makes award decisions.
The deadline for submitting grant applications is October 28. Visit http://www.uvm.edu/~vfwf for more information. Click on the “Application Forms” link on the left to apply online, or, request an application package by calling 802-223-2389×15.
University of Vermont Extension, and U.S. Department of Agriculture, cooperating, offer education and employment to everyone without regard to race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, and marital or familial status.
Outreach Education Coordinator
Women’s Agricultural Network
617 Comstock Rd.
Berlin, VT 05602