99% of Ohio's roughly 80,000 farms are family-owned. (Jamie Smed/Flickr)
Ohio is the sixth-largest state with beginning farmers, and new funding is available to help those just entering the business to survive the challenges spurred by the pandemic.
The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association's Beginning Farmer Program is taking applications for Pandemic Relief Microgrants ranging from $500 to $5,000.
Program coordinator Robin Hackett explained the unpredictability and supply chain disruptions of the past two years have been especially tough for early career farmers who are more vulnerable to disruptions.
"You don't have the capital, the infrastructure or generally the resources to adapt as a mature business would," said Hackett. "And so I've seen a bunch of young operations really have trouble, getting off the ground because of impacts caused by the pandemic."
Eligible farmers must be located in Ohio, in operation between one to ten seasons, and using sustainable agricultural practices.
Applications will be accepted through March 7. Learn more online at beginfarming.oeffa.org.
Hackett said the website also features examples of how the microgrants can be used.
"So buying cover crop seed or compost or soil amendments," said Hackett. "Purchasing equipment or materials for an infrastructure project. In addition we're encouraging people to reach out: we can kind of talk them through whether or not what they're applying for would in fact be eligible for consideration."
And he added that beginning farmers are an integral part of the local food system, and need supports to grow and thrive.
"Having been a beginning farmer myself, I know getting into farming is no easy venture," said Hackett. "The future of agriculture really is the young farmers of today and I'd hate to see attrition because of the pandemic when there are programs like this one that can hopefully make a difference."
The latest USDA census found there are more than 33,000 beginning farmers in Ohio.