NSAC's Blog


August 25, 2016


Editor’s Note: This is the latest in a series of periodic blog posts on the happenings in each of the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) regions, focusing on project solicitations and grant award announcements.

The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program funds farmer-driven research and education through a competitive grants program. SARE is the only competitive research grant program offered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that focuses solely on sustainable agriculture, and has been supporting research in this field for nearly 30 years.

SARE is administered through four regional councils of producers, researchers, educators, and government representatives. These regional councils are responsible for setting SARE policies and grant making. Because each of the SARE councils houses their program information, requests for proposals, and other important information separately, NSAC provides a periodic aggregation of data from across the regions – the “SARE Roundup”.

Each one of SARE’s four regional offices administers three primary grant programs: Research and Education, Professional Development, and Producer Grants. Some regions also offer additional grants for community innovation, graduate student research, agricultural professionals conducting on-farm research, and region-specific initiatives. Read on for details about what is going on in your SARE region!

National SARE News

SARE, in partnership with the Conservation Technology Information Center, conducted its Cover Crop Analysis Survey in March 2016. In August they released their survey report, which can be downloaded here.

The report found that acreage planted to cover crops continued to rise, and also noted that 33 percent of surveyed farmers found that their profits had improved as a result of using cover crops.

SARE also put together a Cover Crop Perspectives video series, which includes interviews with farmers across the country. Featured videos from each region can be found in the sections below.

North Central SARE

NC-SARE has announced a call for proposals the 2017 Farmer Rancher Sustainable Agriculture Grants and the 2017 Youth Educator Sustainable Agriculture Grants.

NC-SARE expects to fund 40 projects in the Farmer Rancher Sustainable Agriculture program with approximately $400,000 available for funding. The deadline for project proposals is December 8, 2016 at 4pm CST and can be submitted online.

There is approximately $20,000 available in funding for the Youth Educator Grant program, with a $2,000 cap on individual grants. Proposals should be submitted online by November 10, 2016 at 4pm CST.

Earlier this month, NC-SARE announced grant recipients for its 2016 Research & Education, Graduate Student, and Professional Development Awards.

The NC-SARE Research and Education program awarded more than $2 million to 11 projects, with individual grant amounts ranging between $165,600 to $200,000. The Research and Education Program awards grants to projects that promote environmentally sound, profitable, and socially responsible food systems. Following is a sampling of some of the projects funded in this cycle:

  • The University of Wisconsin’s Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems was awarded $199,246 for the project, “The Fruit and Nut Compass: Developing a Tool and Guiding Principles for Diversified Farms.”
  • The University of Wisconsin was awarded $200,000 for the project, “Grazing Management of ‘Kernza’ Intermediate Wheatgrass as a Dual Purpose Crop.”

The 2016 Professional Development Program funded 6 projects totaling $431,000; these competitive grants emphasize training agricultural educators in extension, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and non-profit sectors. Examples of projects funding include:

  • Practical Farmers of Iowa was awarded $73,447 for a project that will allow Farmer-educators within PFI to share their knowledge of conservation investment, cover crops, and third crops with other farmers and stakeholders. The grant will help them improve their teaching skills so that they can spread the word about these important sustainable practices and shit shift Iowa’s farming systems to a more sustainable agriculture.
  • Rachel Armstrong of Farm Commons in Minnesota was awarded $70,613 for the project, “Empowering Professionals with Sustainable Farm Law.”

NC-SARE also awarded more than $196,000 to 17 projects in the 2016 Graduate Student Grant program. These awards are used to fund graduate student projects that address sustainable agriculture issues.

NC-SARE Cover Crop Perspectives

Ray Gaesser grows 6,000 acres of corn and soybeans in Southwest Iowa. Practicing no-till for the last 30 years has protected his soil, but recent severe rainfalls have convinced him more is needed. “Our goal is to have a cover crop on every acre,” he says. Learn more about Ray and his farm by watching his SARE Perspectives video.

Northeast SARE

NE-SARE has announced a call for proposals the 2017 Research and Education grant program, the Professional Development grant program, the Partnership grant program, and the Farmer grant program.

The 2017 Research and Education grant program typically funds projects between $30,000 and $200,000. The 2017 Professional Development Awards typically fund proposals between $30,000 and $150,000. Both programs are dependent on FY 2017 SARE funding. Full proposals for both programs are due by online submission on October 18, 2016.

The 2017 Partnership grant program, reserved for agricultural service providers like non-profits, consultants, state departments of agriculture, can be used to fund on-farm demonstrations, research, marketing and other projects with farmers as cooperators; projects are capped at $15,000. The deadline for submitting full proposals is October 25, 2016.

The 2017 Farmer grant program funds projects by commercial producers who want to test innovative ideas in field trials, on-farm demonstrations, or market initiatives; a technical advisor must also be involved. The deadline to submit proposals online is November 29, 2016.

NE-SARE Cover Crop Perspectives

Jim Hershey farms 500 acres in Southeast Pennsylvania, where he grows corn, wheat and soybeans. He has been planting cover crops for the last three years, and now uses a five-way mix of crimson clover, radishes, triticale, Austrian winter peas and oats. Learn more about Jim and his farm by watching his SARE Perspectives video.

Southern SARE

S-SARE has announced a call for proposals for its 2017 Producer Grants. Proposals for the program, created for Southern-based farmers, ranchers, and farmers/ranchers organizations, are due November 18, 2015 at 5 p.m. EST. S-SARE expects funded grants to be announced late February 2017.

Producer Grants fund sustainable agriculture research projects that aim to create a wealth of knowledge for farmers by highlighting successes (or lack thereof) in agriculture technology, ultimately reducing financial risk that typically results from production challenges.

S-SARE funds projects for up to two years, with a maximum of $10,000 and $15,000 for an individual producer and producer organization, respectively. To be eligible to receive producer organization funding, an organization must be made of mostly farmers and ranchers, where farmers lead the organization’s governance.

2016 Research and Education Grants

In June of 2016, S-SARE announced grant recipients for its 2016 Research & Education grants.

The S-SARE Research and Education program awarded more than $1.9 million to 9 projects, with individual grant amounts ranging between $135,000 and $252,000. The Research and Education Program awards grants to projects that promote environmentally sound, profitable, and socially responsible food systems. Recipients of the Research and Education grants included:

  • Delta Land and Community in Arkansas to Validate Sustainability/Resilience and Quality of Life Indices to Identify Farm-and Community-level Needs and Research and Education.

More recently, S-SARE awarded more than $128,290 to 13 projects through its Graduate Student Grant Program. Funds in this program are used to fund graduate student projects that address sustainable agriculture issues; projects range from berry and nut production to soil cover crops and pest management in brassicas.

S-SARE Cover Crop Perspectives

At Frog Song Organics in North Central Florida, John Bitter grows upwards of 80 crops in a year. Figuring out his rotations is the key to success as an organic farmer, and cover crops are an integral part of every rotation. Learn more about John and his farm by watching his SARE Perspectives video.

Western SARE

W-SARE has several grant applications deadlines coming up: November 2, 2016 for the Professional Development Program; December 7, 20106 for Farmer/Rancher grants; December 7, 2016 for Professional and Producer grants.

W-SARE Cover Crop Perspectives

Larry Thompson has been planting cover crops on his organic vegetable farm since the 1960s, “long before it was the cool thing to do,” he notes. Cover crops improve the soil, manage nutrients, control erosion and provide beneficial insect habitat. Learn more about Larry and his farm by watching his SARE Perspectives video.


Categories: Conservation, Energy & Environment, Grants and Programs, Research, Education & Extension

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