NRCS Grants – Our Experience

by Cam
Published: Updated:

Our Experience

We recently applied, qualified for, and were awarded a high tunnel as part of the NRCS High Tunnel initiative. For many it is referred to as NRCS Grants, even though that may not be the formal or correct terminology.

After a recent video we posted where we mentioned the NRCS High Tunnel, a lot of you have expressed interest in this process, how to apply, how to know if you qualify, etc. If you are curious what exactly a high tunnel is, and if it’s the right thing for your farm, click here to learn more.

This post will dive into the details of our experience with the NRCS, the paperwork, and everything else involved in receiving the grant. There is a lot of good information on their website, but there were also a lot of questions we asked that could only really be answered by our in person representative.

There are also inevitably some other parts to the process that aren’t necessarily explained, or simply can’t be explained on a nationwide website (

High tunnel initiative NCRS Grants

Hopefully by us going deeper into the details, it will help you better understand the process so you feel more prepared and educated when you apply for grants, if you decide it’s the right thing for your farm or homestead business.

The Purpose of NRCS Grants – Conservation

The Purpose of the NRCS High Tunnel Initiative is conservation. By setting up a high tunnel, a farmer who keeps crops growing in it has these benefits, as stated directly from the NRCS EQIP website:

  • Extend the growing season
  • Improve plant quality and soil quality
  • Reduce nutrient and pesticide transportation
  • Improve air quality through reduced transportation inputs
  • Reduce energy use by providing consumers with a local source of fresh produce

Though not a requirement, a grower can practice additional conservation practices like cover cropping, mulching, and many more. We keep 1/3 of our crop area (including outside the high tunnel) in cover crops each year.

cover crops in high tunnel
Pea & oat cover crop, far left.

Our Story

First, we need to back up a few years. Before we had our land, we would occasionally buy meat from a local farm. During a tour of their property one day, they mentioned how they had just used some NRCS/EQIP grant money to install waterlines throughout their entire property. Having accessible water in essentially any part of their property was such a huge benefit for them for multiple reasons. And quite frankly, we were jealous!

This was the first time I recall realizing that receiving federal NRCS grants was actually in the realm of possibility for a small scale homestead family like ourselves.

Up to this point I assumed government grants were reserved for those big farms with thousands of acres of row crops and million dollar combines. I was gladly mistaken.

We didn’t have land yet at this point so we took that experience and put it in our back pocket for the time being. The option of federal money came up time to time in conversations between Becky and I, but we didn’t really think too much of it at the time.

Also, to be honest, Becky and I would often go back and forth on our comfort level getting money from the government, which inevitably would mean they “knew where we lived”, and they can “track” our farm now, aagh!

We realized we were letting this fear dictate our actions. The probability of a hostile government takeover of the Seasonal Homestead Farm is slim to none. With this reality check, a few years of serious growing under our belts, and an increased need for more tunnel space to grow food, we decided it was time to apply for a government grant.


This is where it gets fun! First thing we had to do is locate our local NRCS extension office. For this, there is an easy to use locator tool on A link to that is here. Once I found our local extension office, I called them and explained I was looking for a grant for our farm similar to the waterline grant our farm friends received for theirs. Our friends received their grant thru the EQIP program(Environmental Quality Incentives Program), so I started off in that direction.

I’m sure I was tossed around to a few different people during that first call. Most county USDA offices will have a Farm Service Agency(FSA), a Natural Resource Conservation Service(NRCS), and possibly others(Rural Development, Conservation District, etc). My main interaction was 90% with the NRCS, 10% FSA. The EQIP program falls under the NRCS division of the USDA. I never thought I’d use three acronyms in one sentence…sorry about that.

nrcs grants

So once you learn a handful of government program acronyms, they don’t let you proceed any further until you fill out some paperwork(totally kidding). ….Now my next big task is to make the following paragraph about paperwork sound exciting exciting enough to keep you reading…fingers crossed!

**Spoiler Alert** I originally called the USDA with the intention of getting a grant for underground water lines like what our friends received.

We ended up with a but more than that, after essentially being asked of our agent, “what else do you need to help with conservation practices on your farm?” That was a fun question to answer 🙂


There were really only three forms they asked from us in order to get on the waiting list for an NRCS grant.

1) The FSA was first. They needed a form that officially registered our farm with the USDA. They asked for our parcel numbers to our property, etc. This was basically so they could legally connect the dots between the applicant, and the land we own. This was pretty much it for the FSA

2) Next, the NRCS forms. These got into a few more details, farm address, business name, what we grew, how long we’ve been growing, and other related data.

There were others, but these were the main ones. Interesting to note that for us, since we have farm registered as an LLC, and Becky and I as members, they needed three copies of each form. One for me, one for Becky, and one for the business. Just how they needed it done.

Can I just say, it’s 2024 when I’m writing this post, and you’d think we’d have a way by now to consolidate paperwork?!? EVERY form we willed out asked for our name, our address, and phone numbers, etc. Seriously?!

3) Ok, back to forms. The last one we had to fill out was a short two pager about Wetland Conservation and Erodible Land(Form AD-1026). Not sure what this one was for, but they said they needed it. Oh, I guess we did also fill out a Direct Deposit form. So, four forms in total, I lied earlier when I said three.

One other thing of importance was since our farm is setup as an LLC with two members(Becky and myself), they required three of each form. One for the LLC, one for Becky, and one for me. They didn’t really explain why, except that they required three separate forms. Only downside to that was my hand got really tired filling out the same thing three times.

Farm Visit

Next was a farm visit by our local NRCS agent/representative. They set up an appointment to come to the farm, and had me show them around the place. The point of this was so they could physically see the property, and get a better visual of what we planned to do with the grant money.

Our local agent that visited told me our place was one of the most interesting places he’d been to, and he really enjoyed seeing everything we were doing. He commented later to me that he’s used to visiting larger scale farms that just do miles and miles of one crop, or one animal, so ours was a welcomed break from that.

This tour was a great opportunity to showcase our property, what we’ve already been working on, and what our growth plans were.

It gave me some needed face time with the NRCS agent to get more details on what grants were available that could be beneficial to us on our farm. This is also when our agent asked me, “what else do you need?” I was really tempted to reply with, “well, what else do you have?”, but I didn’t want to sound greedy.

That said, there are programs out there that we never would have found had I not asked questions like, “do you have grant money for fencing that facilitates rotational grazing?” or “are there grants for winter cover crops?”

We took the approach that there is money allocated for these purposes, and if we qualify for some of it to use on the farm, then by all means, let’s take advantage of the opportunity.

Follow Ups

We are 90% there. Now all the forms are in, and the farm tour is done. I did have to send them a simple aerial view of our property marked with where we wanted the water lined ran. it was just a lot of phone calls and emails with our agent ensuring they had all our paperwork filled out correctly and in time.

Consistent, but not annoying follow ups I feel were helpful in keeping the process moving, and giving me the peace of mind that we were on the right track.

The NRCS grants office is not going to necessarily be proactive and reach out to us if anything is missing or delaying the application process. I followed up regularly to check the status of the grant.

Once awarded the grant, we went to their office to sign the contract. The contract basically states that we will do what we have discussed, within a years time, and have the agent out to approve the project. At that time they will take our receipts and reimburse us up to the allocate grant money amount. This was a bit different than we had initially thought.

We thought with it being a grant, they would give us a pre-determined amount of money on day one, then we’d have 12 months to use that money to complete the project. Nope.

How it works is that we will front the money for supplies, and after finishing the project, getting their sign off, and then upon turning in receipts, they will reimburse the money to us. This exact process wasn’t communicated to us, so hopefully our learnings will help some of you be better prepared when you apply.

All in all, we are excited to have access to some extra money to expand out farm. The forms weren’t as dreadful as I thought the would be. A few forms here, a few emails and phone conversations there, and a decent amount of follow ups to “trust but verify”. Definitely worth the time spent for what we are getting back in return.

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Kate March 8, 2024 - 4:02 pm

Good morning!
I am wondering if you would be able to share where you get your bulk mushroom compost (if you still do so). Our family is moving to S. MO and will need to establish another garden at the new property. Thank you!

Becky April 28, 2024 - 8:48 am

Sorry for the delayed response! The mushroom compost comes from J-M Farms in Oklahoma.

Stephanie March 10, 2024 - 6:12 pm

Question about the grant: Your farm had to be registered as an LLC. Does that mean you have to make an income? And is there a certain income amount you have to make?

Becky March 17, 2024 - 3:45 am

It doesn’t have to be registered as an LLC, it can be a sole proprietorship. I know there was an income limit, if the farm makes more than a million dollars a year it doesn’t qualify. But I can’t remember if we needed to prove it was income producing. I will ask Cam and get back to you! He did most of the paperwork.

Jean Louis April 27, 2024 - 5:01 pm

You misunderstood. It’s not a grant; it’s a cost-share program. It reimburses part of the cost for installing conservation practices. Your write-up didn’t mention conservation at all. The purpose isn’t to expand your farm; it goes against their policy to help with expansion. Unfortunately, the agency is prioritizing money distribution over scientific conservation. You’re just another customer for them to give money to, not to blame you.

Becky April 28, 2024 - 8:07 am

Hi Jean, we practice conservation practices. You must be a new visitor to the site. We do rotational grazing, mulching, no-till, multi-species grazing, and use cover crops. Our NRCS representative said our farm was one of the most diverse he had seen in the area. However, none of those additional conservation practices are actually required, it’s something we choose to do. The requirement is to keep crops growing in the tunnel. By doing so, anyone with a tunnel is increasing soil and plant quality and reducing energy by providing available local food. I apologize for the poor wording, we will remedy that in the article.


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