Life on the farm can be quite challenging for handicapped farmers.
However, there are great benefits to using assistive technology. While there’s no shortage of the latter, disabled farmers may be short on the money needed to get their hands on such conveniences, and that’s where grants come in handy. Each state has a department devoted to providing these services. Some states offer a library of equipment you can rent short-term or long-term, and an abundance of resources, tools, and funding to help make farm life a bit easier.
As a result, there are several Assistive Technology grants that disabled ranchers or farmers can apply for, and here’s a look at some of them:
AgrAbility offers grants to persons with disabilities encompassing farmworkers, ranchers, and their families.
If you’re unfamiliar, AgrAbility is a consumer-driven USDA-funded program. This means that it’s not the most heavily funded program, but can be helpful in obtaining the education, assistance, and resources necessary if you’re a farmer or rancher with a disability.
The award limits range between $150,000 and $180,000 with the total budget for the 2019 distribution estimated at $4,100,000. That sounds like a lot, but they run out of funding fast, as more than 20% of farmers today struggle with some kind of disability.
That means that the competition for this grant is quite fierce, so it’s prudent to apply early the next time they’re offering.
You can find out more about this grant here. Applications are currently closed but be sure to subscribe and keep tabs on the next rollout. It will probably kick off sometime in early or mid-2020.
Look to your state’s vocational rehabilitation agency for grants covering assistive technology. These grants might provide free or discounted automatic hitching systems, specialized tractors, air suspension seats, and utility vehicles, among others.
The government’s RSA (Rehabilitation Services Administration) provides state-level funding via agencies.
However, this funding isn’t all dedicated to providing tools. Make sure to apply early as they typically run out before the end of each year.
Government funding goes towards training and restoration services, employment services, staffing, as well as assistive technology.
The US Department of Veteran Affairs also serves up disability claims which disabled veterans can use to acquire assistive technology.
You can learn how to file such a claim right here as well as learn more about the perquisites.
For example, you’ll need to accompany your application with medical documentation and proof of a legal, medically diagnosed disability. There also might be stipulations on how long you’ve been diagnosed, how long you’ve been farming, and whether it can be proven that your disability is linked directly to your service in active duty.
You might also find the Rural Veterans Coordination Pilot helpful with regards to obtaining additional funds for your farm.
Generally, the smaller organizations, charities, and local agencies are known to be more responsive on this front. It seems the VA gets more claims than any other agency, so it may be harder to qualify by taking this route.
Unlike other farm-specialized agencies for veterans, the VA is tasked with aiding homeless vets and mental health emergencies, among other things.
The government also provides funding to states through the Health and Human Services department.
These funds aid the inclusion, safety, and independence of disabled individuals. However, they are offered but not limited to farmers with disabilities. Specialized software, computers, hearing aids, home and vehicle adaptations are synonymous across state packages.
You can find out more via this link.
Check out the United States Department of Agriculture website too.
Their website offers several financing packages, including partial grants and loans. These are also available to the general public, so depending on how much assistance you need, this may be a last resort. Yet, they do offer programs dedicated to the farming community.
However, these mainly target low-income homeowners with a view of improving life in and around the place of living.
If your farm is in bankruptcy, or in need of serious maintenance, they may welcome your application with open arms. It can never hurt to inquire and see what they say.
Further, their assistive technology programs exclude basic home repair work such as fixing a roof.
However, it does support significant modifications to the home for the benefit of the disabled person, or handicapped farmer. It seems this agencies’ priority is helping those with disabilities who want to become a thriving contributor to society once again.
In our opinion, many farmers would meet their qualifications, and it’s worth reaching out.
Competition for any grant will always be fierce. This statement applies to any industry.
When it comes to applying for farming grants, it’s a case of the more, the merrier. Be sure to apply for multiple grants to improve your chances of success.
It’s less like purchasing a lottery ticket, and more like being a high school student applying for scholarships. The more accolades and recognition you’ve received, the higher your margins, the greater your social contribution, the more likely these agencies will take a thorough look at your application.
If there’s nothing special, about you or your farm, they may just toss your application to the side.
The key here is to appeal to the emotions of the agencies reviewing your application. Without being overdramatic, tell your story in authenticity and try to connect with the person reading your application, human to human.
Often, they’ll ask for an essay or breakdown of what you plan to use the funds for. When you tell your story, share your love for farming. Mention your family, and what the additional funds will mean for them.
Talk about your animals and your community. Share your expertise, and something sentimental as well. Surprisingly, if you come across needy, the agency won’t react as you might think. There are many other farmers in need who are also applying for the same funding. Being in need doesn’t make you more appealing.
Instead, focus on what gets you out of bed every morning, what fuels you, and what you plan to do with the funds once they’re in your account. But don’t be too direct and impersonal.
If you come across too direct, the person reviewing your application won’t relate to you. In other words, they won’t be able to develop much of an attachment to seeing you through your current struggle. If you can get them rooting for you, then they become emotionally invested in giving you their money.
This is a powerful way to win friends and allies when you need them most. Try to put yourself in their shoes, and imagine all the people asking for their help.
It also helps to research the structure of a good and detailed grant proposal. There are tons of tutorials online that can help you create the perfect proposal when it comes to length, headings, and writing style. Just don’t copy what you find word-for-word. You can guarantee many other farmers are copying these templates, and your app will be tossed in the trash if it seems redundant.
Learn about the core values of each agency you’re asking for funding. Incorporate those values into your proposal and relate to what each agency cares about as if they were a single person’s values.
It’s rarely the case that you’ll get a grant on your first attempt, so don’t despair in the face of rejection. You can always try again or look elsewhere. Stick to it for a while and you’ll get a feel for what kinds of proposals work best.
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