Okay, so you might have gotten some initial grant funding to help you start realizing your agritourism dream. Congratulations.
Now step two – how to fit that income over your operating expenses and stretch the corners to make ends meet.
One enterprise showing us the way here is Homeplace on Green River, which was profiled in the September 2014 issue of Agritourism Monthly.
George Kolbenschlag, a member of the Homeplace board, tells Agritourism Monthly that Homeplace has a detailed history of national, state, and community support. “Since receiving its 501(c)(3) status in 2001, Homeplace has been granted over $850,000 in funding from 15 organizations and agencies,” he said.
Wide support network
In addition to support from the governments of the three Kentucky counties it primarily serves – Adair, Green, and Taylor – Homeplace receives support from The Nature Conservancy; the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service; TOUR Southern and Eastern Kentucky (TOURSEKY); the Tebbs Bend Battlefield Association; the Heartland Waterways Tourism Corridor; the state departments of Agriculture, Fish and Wildlife, and the Forestry Division of the Energy and Environment Cabinet; the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service; and others that play a role in the re-establishment of the farm. Funding for initial purchase of the property was provided by The Farmland Protection Program.
The farm depends for its ongoing operational expenses and labor on leasing its cropland; donations; generating revenue from weddings, festivals, funerals, and other on-site activities; and the support of a large group of volunteers, Kolbenschlag said.
The total 400 acres that make up Homeplace on Green River and the adjacent Tebbs Bend/Green River Nature Area owned by Taylor County is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The combined 800-plus acres and surrounding region gives multiple avenues through which Homeplace can appeal for major tourism development funds, Kolbenschlag said.
Everybody watches for funding
The farm is operated by a board of directors with representation from Adair, Green, and Taylor counties. Volunteers run the farm, and everyone keeps eyes open for funding opportunities. “We’re an all-volunteer organization, so we depend a lot on our volunteers to let us know when grants appear,” Kolbenschlag said.
Major help comes from Tour Southern and Eastern Kentucky, a quasi-governmental organization. “They have advised us on other grants as well as provided some support of their own,” Kolbenschlag said. Recently, TOURSEKY helped arrange a $17,000 grant for Homeplace to repurpose one of its older barns.
“We had no suitable show area for animals, so we sent TOURSEKY a grant request for money to repurpose an older barn as an animal demo area. That grant let us put up bleachers and build holding pens and a display/exhibit area,” Kolbenschlag said.
Funding for a clear purpose
As the Homeplace fund-seekers illustrate, you have better luck with grants when you can state a clear onetime purpose to which the grant funds can be directed.
Your chances are enhanced if the grantor can see that the one-time infusion will spark continuing dividends in later years. Grant-makers won’t usually authorize funds to finance operations that would dry up when the grant runs out. “Most of our grants are directed grants – four to five thousand dollars to buy things like signage or wagons,” Kolbenschlag said.
Homeplace succeeded impressively in getting big grants in the early going. “We got $200,000 grants from the USDA Farmland Protection Program. That’s really what got us started, helping us acquire the property. The Nature Conservancy also helped,” Kolbenschlag said.
Convergent trends also assisted Homeplace when TOURSEKY started up the Heartland Waterways area and named Homeplace a tourism hub for its six-county area. Programs were developed for “Kentucky’s Outdoor Classroom” involving students from grade school through college level.