You do not need to grow soybeans on a titanic scale in order to receive financial assistance from the USDA. Small-scale farmers are also eligible for significant assistance if they are engaged in the right kind of agricultural activity.

The Hickories is a small, highly-diversified farm in the midst of suburban Ridgefield, Connecticut. The farm’s owner sells by direct-market through a CSA and a roadside farm stand. The land is productive enough to support 225 CSA contracts weekly, which is impressive for its size. Everything grown on the farm is certified organic.

Organic certification qualified the farm to receive significant financial assistance from the USDA. The farm is the beneficiary of funding through the Environmental Quality Incentive Program. Program recipients get financial assistance to help plan and implement conservation practices that address natural resource concerns and for opportunities to improve soil, water, plant, animal, air and related resources on agricultural land. The Organic Initiative Program, which falls under the EQIP umbrella, provides assistance of up to $20,000 annually (with an $80,000 max program payout) for farmers to implement conservation practices related to organic production.

In FY 2010, the EQIP program handed out over $838,000,000 to conserve agricultural resources on 13 million acres of land. Some of this money went to small-scale farms like The Hickories. Funding is definitely out there for you if you go after it aggressively enough. Just because you are small does not mean you are beneath the radar of the USDA. There are an infinite number of ways these programs can be used to make a real difference on your farm. You just need the right guidance.