Calling all Vermont women farmers. The Vermont Farm Womens Fund (VFWF) is offering its first round of grants to help women farmers improve their businesses and become more involved in agricultural policy development. One of the goals of the Farm Womens Fund is to provide women with financial assistance that is not readily available elsewhere, says Mary Peabody, University of Vermont Extension community resources and economic development specialist and a member of the funds advisory group. The idea is to help women get the education they need to make their businesses thrive. Women account for a growing share of Vermont farmers approximately half of the states 6500 farms reported having at least one woman operator, according to the most recent Census of Agriculture. Census data show that women often operate smaller farms and have lower farm earnings than their male counterparts. Many women also start farming as new entrants, and therefore may have different educational needs than people who come from farming backgrounds. The fund will make awards in two areas. Farm Business Development grants will provide support for education and travel to help recipients improve some aspect of their business. Leadership Development grants will provide support to help women farmers develop skills, access and opportunities to provide leadership in agricultural policy development. Examples of activities that could be funded include: new product development and research, feasibility studies, education in business management, tuition for leadership programs, seminars or institutes. Additionally, applicants may request funds to help defray associated travel, childcare, and replacement labor. The Vermont Farm Womens fund was initially established by Vermont author and photographer Peter Miller, who donated a percentage of the sales of his book Vermont Farm Women, to the fund. The fund has also received generous support from the Key Bank Foundation, Vermont Country Store, National Life, and individual donors. The University of Vermont Extension, through the Womens Agricultural Network (WAgN), is serving as the fiscal agent for the fund and will administer the grant award process. A panel of Vermont farm women will make award decisions based on applicant need and xxx. Grants will be capped at $750 per recipient with a total of six grants to be awarded. The deadline for submitting grant applications is May 5. Decisions will be announced by May 31.