Patterns are shifting
The pinch on state budgets is felt by all grant recipients. “Part of our challenge is the state has had to cope with budget cuts, and their granting is not as active as it used to be,” Kolbenschlag said. “I have lately tried to work more with seeking out private grants. There are many private grants, and lots of directories and online sources.”
Non-financial state assistance includes valuable time- and money-saving advice from state government professionals, including Amelia Brown Wilson, director of the KDA’s Division of Agritourism. “Dr. Wilson has been down here several times meeting with members of our executive committee,” Kolbenschlag said. “State Rep. John Carney has also been helpful. He’s very good at attending our meetings, giving advice, and making contacts with other departments in state government.”
Grants, one contact at a time
Grant proposals for Homeplace are written by anyone available – they can’t yet afford a full-time person to pursue funding. In addition to knowing the forms and requirements of actual grant-writing, it’s important your organization establish and maintain connections with the gatekeepers. That procedure for Homeplace was illustrated by Rebecca Nash, Taylor County extension agent for family and consumer science, who as an advisor to Homeplace helped build its network one contact at a time.
First, and crucially, the education aspect of Homeplace allowed the University of Kentucky to support her spending time to get Homeplace established.
Secondly, she set out to climb a steep learning curve about historic preservation. “I did not know the Nature Conservancy even existed before they got the option on this 400-acre farm,” Nash said. “The learning curve was huge.”
Homeplace then rode a unique wave of public interest in farm lifestyle education. “We first formed a three-county 501(c)(3), so county governments were on board,” Nash remembers. That led to involvement by the state, then TOURSEKY, then to becoming part of Congressman Hal Rogers’ regional tourism development efforts.
Nash cautions that times are different now, and some money sources they use were available only then. But, she said, the principle is the same – get your story out, establish social and political contacts, hitch your purpose and services to a fundable trend, and make sure an ever-widening circle of people know your needs.
Get your story out to volunteers
The Homeplace group made its needs widely known through local publicity and word of mouth. “We put out a newsletter and made ourselves highly visible,” she said, and the public responded with such assistance as a five-figure private donation for a new roof. “I think there are people now willing to support good causes they believe in, but they want them to be sound causes,” Nash said.
Grants require progress reports, a task that gets split up at Homeplace. Reporting is delegated to the person whose efforts secured the grant in the first place.
One key to keeping volunteers deeply involved is making the group big enough to easily share the load while distributing vital tasks to everyone so they feel needed, Nash said.
“The big story with Homeplace is the progress we’re making, but we have a long way to go,” Nash said.
“I see agritourism as a value-added enterprise – somebody has to do the marketing and educating, but the farmer can’t stop doing the primary thing that makes the money,” she said.
This article first appeared in the February 2015 issue of Agritourism Monthly, a Kentucky Department of Agriculture newsletter dedicated to Kentucky's agritourism industry. Jim Trammel is managing editor of Agritourism Monthly.