| Published: June 11, 2021

Give Your Farm a Jumpstart

On June 1, Horizon launched a new grant opportunity, offering 10 $10,000 grants to startup farmers in Horizon Farm Credit’s territory. We recently interviewed Crystal Standish, Horizon's chief sales and marketing officer. Crystal shared about the grant program and Horizon's commitment to young, beginning and small farmers.

Why did Horizon decide to make this investment to support beginning farmers?

Our board, management and staff see this as an investment in our future. We're doing everything that we can to support the efforts for young and beginning farmers. As you know, farming is such a capital intensive business and it really can be quite a challenge for folks starting their own farm operation.

Could you tell our listeners a bit more about the specifics of the Jumpstart Grant program and what’s involved in the application process?

This program is open to both full and part-time farmers in Horizon's territory which covers 52 counties and central, western and northern Pennsylvania as well as four counties in West Virginia. Farmers must have started farming within the past two years, or they plan to start a farm within the next two years. Altogether we're awarding 10 $10,000 grants and the grant money must be used to help the producer start their farm or use it for agricultural purposes.

Also, we'll be looking for a well thought out business plan. Additionally, grants applicants will need to complete the online educational program called Ag Biz Basics. Ag Biz Basics is a program that we are offering to the grant applicants for no charge.

That's it, we're really only assessing those three criteria - the one-page application, the business plan, as well as the successful completion of Ag Biz Basics.

For the grant applicant’s business plan, we want to make sure is that you put in the time and effort into considering the startup of your farm business. There's no specific page number requirement for that business plan, but we are offering use of our template that we have on our website. We'll also require that the business plan includes financials or projections for the business.

A couple other things to keep in mind are that we have posted a Frequently Asked Questions document. So check that resource out as well. And finally, the grant application deadline is August 31st, and winners will be announced in early October.

Horizon offers a number of other incentives and programs for young, beginning and small farmers in addition to the new Jumpstart Grants. Share some highlights of those programs.

Horizon has been very focused on supporting young beginning as small farmers for many years, but this year in 2021, in addition to offering Jumpstart Grants, we also reworked some of our other programs.

We're doing this to help reach more farmers. And with that, we're offering some additional cost savings and we've modified our credit standards. One significant incentive is we're offering a 25 basis point interest rate reduction on new Horizon loans for eligible young or beginning and small farmers.

We also have a number of other incentives to save young, beginning and small farmers money as they utilize some of our services. A couple of examples include:

  • Up to $250 off any loan origination fee
  • Up to $500 off Horizon record keeping and tax services
  • Up to $500 off Horizon business consulting services.
  • Up to $500 off an appraisal completed for a loan or a fee appraisal completed within two years of loan closing
  • Horizon may also pay the initial year fee incurred for any FSA or any other governmental loan guarantee.

Then finally we have up to $250 off for educational reimbursements from Horizon. This is to help those young, beginning and small farmers pay for trainings or meetings that you might attend.

Horizon's flagship educational program for young and beginning farmers is called AgBiz Masters, which has held each winter. In 12 years of the program, it’s reached more than 1,500 young and beginning farmers across Pennsylvania and neighboring states with 640 graduates of the two-year program. We'll start promoting AgBiz Masters in August, so watch for more information in the coming months.

As we wrap up today’s episode, share with our listeners what excites you the most about the future of agriculture in Pennsylvania. 

To me growing up on a farm and now after spending over 20 years professionally in an agricultural career, the future of farming is really near and dear to my heart. I truly appreciate how hard farmers work each day to provide food to our tables.

What's really exciting to me is that Pennsylvania is one of the number one states in the country with the number of young ag producers right now. Over 14% of all farmers are less than 35 years old in Pennsylvania.

As I'm working with many young people across our territory, getting started in farming, they're very smart, energetic and have lots of fresh ideas. Even earlier today, I had a chance to work with our summer intern class and they're all very passionate about starting a career in agriculture. I find that really refreshing, and it's very clear to see that the future is bright for agriculture and farming and full of opportunity.

I find it very rewarding to be a part of supporting the ag industry and working with farmers. It feels really great that we're able to give back in a small way, knowing how positively agriculture has shaped my individual life.

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