SARE grants for your farm

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SARE is the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program. Serving farmers across the United States and outlying islands, SARE provides farm grants for research and education projects. This week, FarmRaise Premium members were able to sit down with Rob Myers, from the North Central SARE program, and ask their top questions about SARE’s popular “Farmer Rancher” grants. Below are some highlights from the discussion, as well as answers to commonly asked questions.

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About SARE Farmer Rancher Grants

SARE is a US Department of Agriculture program that supports on-farm research and education with grant funding for farmers. Operating across four regions of the country, SARE is made up of committees of farmers, ranchers, researchers and educators that evaluate and administer grant funding directly for farmers and agricultural professionals.

Some highlights of the Farmer Rancher grant program

  • Available across the USA: SARE’s Farmer Rancher grants are available in every region
  • Reviewed by other farmers: After you submit your grant, it’s actually other farmers that review and score it.
  • Award maximums range from $15,000 to $30,000: Multiple farmers can apply together as a group to get more money. But know that if you’re applying as a farmer group, the farmers must come from two different farms (can’t be a husband and wife, or mother and daughter applying as a “group”).
  • It’s about doing something new: Competitive projects are those that allow a farmer to get some experience trying out a new practice on the farm, and these can include marketing practices. You should be trying out a new production method, or figuring out a new way to do things in your area.
  • And something sustainable: Profitability, environmental impact and quality of life for you and your community – these elements must be present in your proposal and addressed by your project.
  • Almost all farmers are eligible: The cool thing about SARE is almost any farm is eligible, including hydroponic operations and large, commercial farms. There is no income threshold.
  • Projects are from 1 to 2 years: At the end of your project, you need to invite people out to the farm to showcase what you did and what you learned (even if the project failed).

How do I learn about how SARE could be applied to my farm?

Go to the SARE project search page and enter keywords describing your farm in the search for “project title.” To broaden the search, in the “project report” section you can search by region or state as well.   

Is it applicable to greenhouses and indoor CEA farmers.

Yes, SARE funds greenhouse projects and indoor farming projects.

Navigating the application process

Each of the four SARE regions has a detailed set of guidelines on how to apply for the SARE farmer/rancher (or alternatively called the producer) grants.  To find the guidelines, just go to www.sare.org, click on the region your state is in, then look under grants for the producer or farmer/rancher grants.  The guidelines will be there along with general tips or overview.  It is also recommended you talk to the SARE farmer grant coordinator for your region.  

  • North Central SARE – Joan Benjamin 402-805-7678
  • Southern SARE – Candace Pollock-Moore 770-412-4786
  • Northeast SARE – Candice Huber 802-651-8335, ext 554
  • Western SARE – Cayley Eller 406-994-7349

Eligibility for new programs on an existing, conventional farm?

We have funded SARE producer grants on fairly conventional farms, but the project needs to involve trying out a new practice or approach that holds potential for improving the sustainability of the farm.  

Projects for smaller sized farms?

SARE grants are not tied to the size of the farm, so any size farm is eligible as long as it meets the definition of a farm for the relevant SARE region. 

How can I increase my competitiveness?

The proposal will be most likely to be funded if you explain how you are going to test different methods of doing something and compare it to your current approach.  We wouldn’t typically fund just spending time gathering information on a topic. For example, if you’re looking into a new nutrient management regime, you will be more likely to get funded if you can articulate a research question and a plan to address it. So you might create test strips and compare your current NM regime with a new regime you want to try.

Tips for writing a proposal?

Project can be unique to your farm, but at least some components of the project should be of interest to other farmers.  SARE is less likely to fund a project where only one farmer will ever benefit from what is learned.  Be specific on your methods, make it clear what you are comparing, and be sure to talk about how the project holds potential for improving sustainability of your operation.

Are there certain crop types that are normally more acceptable than others? Also would projects using organic soil allowable.

Pretty much any type of crop is eligible for a project, but the project needs to contribute to sustainability.  If the crop of interest is a really minor or obscure crop, be sure to explain how work on this crop might create opportunity for other farmers in your region.  

What about projects that would need several years before knowing results?

The project length varies a little by region (most are 2 years) but work on a longer term problem is perfectly fine.  You can still have a field tour, for example, that shows your initial results from the project period.

How can I use the funds?

  • Pay part of your time devoted to the project
  • Hire a consultant or pay extension agent’s time to help put it on
    • ie: grazing or soil health consultant
  • Some farm supplies are eligible – but they must be used for the project
  • Travel expenses to go to a workshop or a grazing school (but you can’t just use it to generally go to any event or conference)
  • Equipment cost rules vary by region, but some equipment can be covered. There are budget guidelines in each regions’ call for proposals that will help spell this out for you.
  • Funding is not a loan that you have to repay. It’s a grant for YOU to use on the project.

Reporting requirements?

You are required to file a report. If you’re doing a 1-year project, just one report is due at the end of that year. If you’re doing a 2-year project, one report is due midway through and another at the end.

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