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Grants and Loans to Washington Farmers and Food Producers in Eligible
Counties to Support Wholesale Market Expansion and Enhance Productivity

Next Step Grants

Agency Type:

Foundation / Corporation

Funding Source:

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Community Food Co-op - Farm Fund

Deadline Date:



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Grants of up to $5,000 and loans of up to $12,000 to Washington food and farm producers and processors in eligible counties to support wholesale market expansion and enhance productivity. Funding is intended to encourage an increase in the availability, quality, and amount of local food produced and available to serve the wholesale market. Requests will be accepted from Whatcom and Skagit County applicants for projects benefiting Whatcom County.

The Farm Fund works to strengthen the market for organic and sustainable agriculture in Whatcom County, encourage ecological and socially responsible farmland stewardship, support resilient, successful farms, and to increase access to healthy food grown, raised, or processed by local producers.

The Next Step Project pairs grant funding with loans or other investments by the farmer to increase the amount, quality, and/or availability of local food produced and available to serve the wholesale market within 12 to 18 months. Specific Next Step Program goals are:

  • Support local farmers in realizing new economies of scale that reduce costs, and increase product quality and availability
  • Increase local product for the wholesale market, such as groceries, schools, hospitals, food banks, and/or sale via food hub or other distributor
  • Ensure the success of local farmers who have recently purchased land or are making a significant business expansion


  • Combined Grant and ICU Loan Option: If you want to pair a new loan with your grant application, or have taken out a Farm Fund secured loan within the past 12 months.
  • Grant Only Option: If you have already secured financing for this proposed project from another lender or in conjunction with personal investment.

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 187478

Estimated Size of Grant:

- Next Step accepts proposals for grants of $1,250 to $5,000.
- The grant to investment ratio is 1-to-4, with the minimum grant amount of $1,250 corresponding to a $5,000 loan. A maximum grant amount would be $5,000, corresponding to a $20,000 or greater investment.

Term of Contract:

- Applications must be initiated within 12 months of approval.
- Acquisition of additional farmland or production area - Flexibility up to a year before or after will be considered for this category.

Loans: If using a low-interest Farm Fund secured loan, terms are set by the applicant and ICU, with typical interest rates at 3%.

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

All food and farm producers and processors in Whatcom and Skagit County and supplying Whatcom County are eligible to apply.

Applicants must have a business plan or existing farm or production operation with a demonstrated business history.

Skagit County-based applications must supply Whatcom County as part of their project.

Pre-Application Information:

The Next Step Grant program is currently accepting applications with a deadline of Monday, January 17, 2022.

The Farm Fund Committee, the Co-op General Manager, and the Co-op Finance Manager review the grant and loan applications, and ICU makes lending recommendations to the Co-op. Grant and loan funds are typically available 2 – 4 weeks after decisions are announced, upon confirming loan or investment documents.

Contact Information:

Before starting your grant application, please review the funding source's website listed below for updates/changes/addendums/conferences/LOIs.

Direct questions to Jean at or 360-734-8158, ext. 311.

URL for Full Text (RFP):

Geographic Focus:

USA: Washington: Whatcom County

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