National nonprofit opens application period for grants to help improve animal welfare.

Family farmers who want to improve the welfare of their farm animals can apply for grant funding from Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT). Today, FACT announced a call for applications for its Fund-a-Farmer Project. Now in its fourth year, the Fund-a-Farmer Project provides microgrants to qualifying livestock and poultry farmers who need assistance in improving the welfare of their farm animals.

Grants of up to $2,500 will be awarded for projects that help farms transition to and/or improve access to pasture-based systems. FACT is interested in providing funds for working, independent family farmers that raise pigs, broiler chickens, laying hens, dairy cows, turkeys and/or beef cattle. Applications will only be considered from farms already considered highly welfare-oriented as determined by holding or working toward a humane certification for their livestock or poultry. Applications must be submitted online by November 3, 2015 for grants that will be awarded in March 2016. 

"The Fund-a-Farmer Project is an excellent example of how working directly with farmers can result in major improvements to farm animal welfare. In addition to creating a higher standard of animal care on farms across the country, our Fund-a-Farmer Project helps farmers to make needed changes that otherwise could not have happened. Such improvements to infrastructure benefit these farms' financial sustainability just as much as the welfare of the animals. It's a win/win for animals and farmers alike," stated Lisa Isenhart, FACT's Humane Farming Program Director.

To date, FACT has awarded 50 grants totaling nearly $98,000 to 47 farms across the country from California to Massachusetts. The grants directly have improved the lives of over 35,000 animals and continue to help a greater number of animals and farmers each year. Participating farmers have reported that the funded projects have improved animal welfare on their farms by providing protection from predators, increasing access to pasture, reducing mortality rate, increasing quality in living conditions, and improving access to water.

For example, in 2013 FACT awarded Le-Fort's Organic Crops in Creston, California a Fund-a-Farmer grant for drinkers, feeders, nests, perches, and fencing for their laying hens, which allows the birds plentiful space to exhibit natural behaviors, such as dust bathing and perching. These modifications also enabled the farm's eggs to become certified by Humane Farming Animal Care as Certified Humane. As a result of the Fund-a-Farmer grant and marketing their eggs as Certified Humane, Le-Fort's Organic Crops were able to grow their flock from 100 hens to 400 hens.

"We will finally be able to meet the needs of our customers at the Farmers' Market, where we usually sell out long before we close. This will mean a more stable, year-round source of income in addition to our vegetable crops. This is very important for our little farm," stated farmer Delores Howard.

In 2014, FACT awarded Deep Roots Community Farm in La Crosse, Wisconsin a Fund-a-Farmer grant to purchase scratching posts, portable fly-attractant barrels, and a portable chicken coop, which collectively will improve the welfare of their rotationally grazed herd of grass-fed beef cattle.

Farmer Ana Skemp stated, "FACT's Fund-a-Farmer grant has allowed us at Deep Roots Community Farm to not only improve the welfare of animals on our farm, but also to educate the public about animal welfare. A group of 33 middle school students came out to our farm helped us design and assemble the fly barrels and scratching posts. At the end of the project, they presented their projects to a group of parents, teachers, and younger students. This past summer, over 1,000 children visited our farm for field trips and farm camps and they learned about how these projects are improving the lives of the animals on our farm."

In order to help prospective applicants understand the grant application process, FACT will offer two online information sessions on the Fund-a-Farmer grants in September and October. Interested farmers can participate in the webinars on September 29, 2015 and October 21, 2015 from 4pm – 5pm EST. Farmers can register online for either or both of these free sessions.

For grant application guidelines, eligibility requirements, and to apply online, please visit www.fundafarmer.org. If you have questions about the Fund-a-Farmer Project, please contact Humane Farming Program Director Lisa Isenhart at (773) 525-4952 or [email protected].