Fund On-Farm Innovations with SARE Grants
Posted: September 15, 2009
Do you have a new idea that you want to try out on your or a client’s farm? If so, USDA’s Northeast SARE program has two programs that can provide you with funding to put your idea to the test. Northeast SARE Farmer Grants fund farmers to test new practices on their farm. SARE Partnership Grants are also available, which fund agricultural service providers, such as Cooperative Extension, NRCS, and non-profit organizations, to conduct research and demonstrations on commercial farms. “SARE” stands for Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education and is a program funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to advance sustainable agriculture and food systems through investing in research and education.
Many farmers and extension educators in Pennsylvania have received Farmer and Partnership Grants up to $10,000 from Northeast SARE in the past to test out new ideas. In 2009, Farmer Grants in Pennsylvania were awarded for projects on grafted tomato transplant production in high tunnels and reduced tillage systems for small seeded vegetable crops. Projects in Pennsylvania on the trellising and mechanical harvesting of grape tomatoes, improving native bee pollination, and using a cover crop roller in organic pumpkin production were funded as Partnership Grants. In 2009, 30% of Farmer Grant applications were funded and 53% of Partnership Grant applications were funded.
The application deadline for Farmer Grants is December 8, 2009 and December 1, 2009 for Partnership Grants, but now is the time to start preparing your ideas and building a project team. Projects that are well thought out in advance of the deadline usually stand a better chance of receiving funding. Farmer Grants require that a technical advisor, such as an extension educator or other agricultural service provider, be involved in the project design, but the farmer actually runs the project and manages the funds. In a Partnership Grant, the agricultural service provider runs the project, but farmers must be involved in the project design and the project must occur on a commercial farm.
An important part of both Farmer and Partnership Grants is the outreach component of the project. You must share the results of your project with the community, so having a strong outreach component will increase the chances of receiving funding. Hosting field days, speaking at workshops and conferences, writing a fact sheet, or creating a website are common ways of conducting outreach.
To begin your project planning, make sure your idea fits with the Northeast SARE mission statement and review the application guidelines available on the internet at http://nesare.org/get/. You can also review prior SARE Farmer and Partnership Grants through the national database available on the internet at http://www.sare.org/projects/. For more information on Northeast SARE programs and funding opportunities, feel free to contact Charlie White at 814-863-9922 or firstname.lastname@example.org.