Application Design and Farmer Involvement. It’s Our Secret Sauce.

No one likes to hear about process. We agree that our projects are far more interesting. That said, we think it is our process—and its relentless focus on farmer involvement and measurable outcomes—that help us identify the projects with the most potential for impact.

This article originally appeared in the 2018 NYFVI Annual Report.

Each project that is selected for funding has the support of farmers; either through hosting research trials, serving on an advisory committee or even the endorsement from NYFVI review panels.  We think this involvement and input is critical to ensure that our funding dollars are put to the best possible use.

Our application, based on the Outcomes Funding Framework, asks potential project leaders to think first about the impact they intend to achieve and then work backward to identify precisely what they will need to do to make it happen.  The framework requires applicants to define performance targets that identify what will be different at the farm level as a result of the project, establish milestones to achieve that performance target, and then describe the activities they will undertake to make it happen.

We also ask the potential project leaders to describe the problem or opportunity their work is designed to address, providing specific information about how they know this work is important to farmers, and who the farmer beneficiaries will be.

This ensures that as the board and review panels evaluate projects for funding, they are able to distinguish fairly easily among the group and identify the projects that have the potential to make a real impact.

Since our board and review panels are all farmers, they have “boots on the ground” knowledge of what’s important and can prioritize the projects that they find most relevant for NY farmers. So overall, for a proposal to succeed, it needs to define its relevance to a farmer’s bottom line, deliver a good value proposition, and be combined with an excellent work plan.

Since 2006, we have had over 500 potential project leaders participate in our Outcome Funding Framework grant writing workshops.  While not all of those who participated have received funding, we hope that we have helped them improve every project they undertake.

NYFVI Farmer Review Panels

Farm Viability makes extensive use of review panels to evaluate, score, and rank proposals.  Panel members are selected based on their ability to objectively evaluate proposals within their area of expertise. Review panels for the 2019 grant cycle include:

• Apple
• Craft Beverages
• Direct Market
• Dairy
• Hemp
• Field Crops
• Fruit
• Goats
• Livestock
• Pollinators
• Sod
• Vegetable