Research and Education Grants

  • Research and Education Grant

    Learn more about Research and Education Grants in the Call for Proposals. This CFP is for the Research portion of the Research and Education Grant Program only.

Research and Education Grant Schedule

March: Research and Education Grants Call for Pre-proposals are released.

June: Research and Education pre-proposals are due.

August: Selected pre-proposals invited to submit full proposals.

November: Full proposals are due.

February: Full proposals are awarded.


Southern SARE’s Research and Education Grants are the flagship grants of the program. They were the first grants offered when the program was launched in 1988, and were the only sustainable ag grants available to researchers and educators until additional grant programs were added to SSARE in 1994.

To determine allowable costs for the funding, refer to the USDA-NIFA Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circulars: A-21: Cost Principles for Educational Activities, and A-110: Uniform Administrative Requirements for Grants and Agreements With Institutions of Higher Education, Hospitals, and other Non-Profit Organization. Refer to the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations for additional grant regulations.

Research Grants

Research Grants are competitive research grants for teams of interdisciplinary researchers that encourage a systems approach in sustainable agriculture.

Most agricultural field research is component research – analyzing a part of a system in isolation to the other system’s components to seek a solution to one problem. While good information has been gained from well-conducted component research, one of the shortcomings of a component view is that sometimes a solution to a problem creates new problems to be solved. In addition, component research provides results that often only offer short-term solutions to long-term problems.

As researchers dig deeper into the impacts of component research on other parts of the system, the research agenda is becoming more complex. With this complexity in mind, systems research is becoming more important to addressing the questions and finding the methods needed for a more balanced, long-term sustainable agricultural system. Systems research provides the opportunity to probe the interrelationships of all parts of a system in a long-term environment to answer questions related to profitability, environmental stewardship and community quality of life as the system changes over a long period of time. What does quality of life mean for sustainable agriculture research grants?

To retain our historical strengths, to advance sustainable agriculture, and to encourage a systems approach to research, SSARE offers three categories for Research Grants: production research, postharvest-food systems research, or a continuum that spans both.

  • Production research—Focused on actual production methods, this kind of research has made up the bulk of SARE’s project portfolio in the past and has developed techniques that have become common tools for farmers. SSARE continues to fund these types of research proposals as they provide key parts of a larger holistic system, particularly as they relate to farmer participation in our program and complement the Producer, On-farm, Professional Development, and Graduate Student grant programs.
  • Postharvest/food systems research—These projects examine what happens past the farm gate such as in the markets, distribution systems and policy making. This category can serve as a funding path for social science researchers to also make a difference in our farm and food systems.
  • A combination of production and postharvest/food systems research—While some research can be separated into production and postharvest levels, we also seek to encourage attempts to provide integration of the different levels of the agricultural system, as well as the different sciences that lend more value to the results. The ultimate in systems research would connect what goes on in the ground with everything that happens after a crop is harvested, including adding value, marketing, infrastructure for processing and transportation, as well as policy making.

The Call for Proposals includes relevant priority areas that allows researchers to more accurately categorize their research project. These categories include: Emerging area, minority and limited resource farmers; organic farming systems; environmentally sound practices/agriculture ecosystems; marketing/economic development; policy, project evaluation and quality of life; and women in sustainable agriculture.

Research grants are research-based with an educational/outreach component to extend the project findings to the public.

Grant Requirements

Research Grant proposals must meet the following basic requirements in order to be considered for funding:

  • Project outcomes must focus on developing sustainable agriculture systems or moving existing systems toward sustainable agriculture.
  • Projects must involve a systems research approach to sustainable agriculture.
  • Emphasis in Research Grants is placed on farmer participation, particularly for the production projects, on the relevance to sustainable agriculture, and on the strength of a holistic approach. At least three (3) cooperating farmers must be involved in the project, each with a unique and detailed role. For farmers involved in your project, the primary occupation is farming/ranching or part-time farming. Producers run their farm alone or with family or partners and have a least $1,000 of documented annual income from the operation, as defined by USDA. SSARE also considers proposals with farmers from indigenous agriculture that produces products for community food systems. These enterprises may be eligible where the production activity has an annual value of less than $1,000, even if products are not sold due to cultural factors.
  • The project’s central purpose must be research-based with an educational/outreach component to extend the project findings to the public, with specific applicability for and potential adoption by farmers.

Who Can Apply?

Researchers from public and private institutions, such as 1862 and 1890 land-grant universities or other colleges and universities; government agencies, such as the Natural Resources Conservation Service or USDA-ARS; non-governmental organizations; community-based organizations; agribusiness; and individuals such as ag consultants are eligible to apply for Research Grants.

Funding Amount

Research Grants require a two-step application process: A pre-proposal application process and a full proposal application process for those invited by the review committee to submit a full proposal. Grant Calls for Proposals open in February and are awarded February the following calendar year. Research Grant project maximums are $400,000, limited to three (3) years.

Research and Educations Grants are paid by reimbursement of allowable project expenses.

Grant Writing Tips

Southern SARE Research and Education Grants are competitive. Each year we receive more grant proposals than we have monies to award funding. Here are some suggestions that might aid in strengthening your proposal:

  • Follow the instructions in the Call for Proposal. Failure to follow directions or omit any required information will result in your proposal being rejected.
  • Make sure SARE is the right granting organization for your project. Review the proposal guidelines, priority areas, and evaluation criteria in the proposal. Every year we receive a number of well-written, well-designed proposals that don’t clearly address the SARE program’s unique goals and criteria.
  • Projects is all areas of sustainable agriculture are welcome and encouraged, specifically projects in the following focus areas: Emerging Area, Minority and Limited-Resource Farmers; Environmentally Sound Practices/Agricultural Ecosystems, Marketing/Economic Development, Organic Farming Systems, Policy/Program Evaluation/Quality of Life, Women in Sustainable Agriculture.
  • Thoroughly research your project before applying. You may have a great idea for a project, but the research related to the topic may already be well established. We look for projects that are new, innovative, generate results that are useful beyond one year and produce information that many farmers can use.
  • Involve farmers, growers, ranchers and other end-users in the planning, design and implementation of your project.
  • Collaborate with other researchers, farmers, or organizations on your project. To be successful, projects should involve a variety of disciplines and areas of skills of expertise.
  • Look beyond state lines. Strengthen your proposal by addressing issues that are relevant in several states or regionally, rather than just one state, or a niche area.
  • Successful projects include clear goals and objectives. Make sure the methods are appropriate to accomplish your goals. If the project involves experimentation, are plot sizes, replications, and controls adequate to providing meaningful information? Be sure to consult with a statistician in developing your experimental design. Your team should have both the background and the expertise to carry out the proposed project.
  • Make sure you include an outreach plan, and have a process in place for evaluating your results.
  • Clearly outline the activities of your training program and discuss how the activities proposed will reach the target audience and achieve your objectives.
  • Don’t wait until the last minute to begin your proposal and to submit it to the SARE Grants Management online system. The deadline for proposal submissions is firm. Anticipate technological glitches, budget issues, user error or other issues that might cause delays.
  • Be clear on the “what”, “why”, and “who cares” of your research project and how it pertains to sustainable agriculture. This is your “hook” for reviewers. Remember, they get to know you through your proposal. Be sure they understand the importance of your project.
  • Avoid jargon and spell out fulls names of acronyms.
  • Have a colleague proofread your proposal to identify errors, omissions, or sections that seem unclear.

Alabama 23 $3.4 million
Arkansas 35 $5.4 million
Florida 36 $6.4 million
Georgia 58 $10.6 million
Kentucky 16 $2.7 million
Louisiana 11 $1.1 million
Mississippi 10 $1.4 million
North Carolina 68 $11.1 million
Oklahoma 15 $2.4 million
Puerto Rico 6 $814,821
South Carolina 19 $3.6 million
Tennessee 14 $2.3 million
Texas 41 $8.9 million
Virginia 23 $4.5 million
U.S. Virgin Islands 5 $892,423