The last several years have been difficult for Wisconsin farm families, says Roger Williams, who manages the Harvest of Hope Fund and is retired from University of Wisconsin Extension and UW-Madison.
“Prices for agricultural commodities have been depressed, and the rapidly escalating costs of farm inputs — seed, fertilizer, fuel, machinery and land — have resulted in thin margins or actual losses for many farm families in our state. Drought has also been a huge problem in some areas of Wisconsin,” Williams says.
Williams, who has been managing the fund since it started 35 years ago, says the goal of Harvest of Hope is to offer financial help and hope to Wisconsin farm families in difficult financial situations.
The fund offers gifts of up to $2,000 to help address common farm financial problems: power cutoffs or threatened cutoffs; medical or veterinary bills; house or barn fires; feed for cattle; machinery repair; farm accidents; supplies for spring planting; climatic conditions such as floods, drought, frost or hail; or putting food on the table or fuel in the tank.
Farmers can apply for a grant up to two times and are eligible to receive up to a total of $4,000.
According to Williams, Harvest of Hope was launched in January 1986 and has given more than 1,730 grants totaling over $1.1 million to farm families in difficult situations throughout Wisconsin.
“Harvest of Hope started during the farm crisis in 1986,” Williams explains. “We thought it would be a short-term need, but it has turned into program that has continued to help farmers for 35 years.”
The Harvest of Hope Fund was created by and is still supported by the Madison Christian Community, an ecumenical Christian community on the west side of Madison, Wis., Williams says.
While several individuals and churches give money to support Harvest of Hope every year, much of the financial support for the past several years has come from Epic Systems of Verona, Wis.
Five principles are important in making decisions about awarding grants to farm families, Williams says.
- The goal is to keep Wisconsin family farms in the hands of family farmers.
- They respond to families in difficult situations, at times that could turn into disaster.
- They respond quickly, usually in two to five days.
- They are especially sensitive to the needs of farm families with small children.
- They link farm families with local resources for financial or management assistance. “We think this is in the best interest of the farm family and the Harvest of Hope Fund,” Williams says.
How to apply
If you are interested in applying, go to madisonchristiancommunity.org. Simple application forms and financial planning statements are available on the website.
“Both an application form and a financial planning statement must be submitted for us to act on your request,” Williams says.
If you have questions, call 608-836-1455 and press 8; your call will likely go to voicemail. Please provide the reason for your call and your complete name, address and phone number.