Southern SARE has awarded 231 Graduate Student grants, totaling more than $2.6 million.
SARE may be a small program compared to other USDA agricultural funding efforts, but it consistently has an impact out of proportion to its budget. One aspect of the program contributing to this success is the high level of continued engagement researchers have with the SARE program; researchers and extension specialists routinely revisit SARE as a source of grant funding for sustainable agriculture projects.
This relationship is best illustrated through the Graduate Student Grant program. The grant was started in 2000 to give Master’s and PhD students the opportunity to conduct sustainable agriculture research projects. It has been a vehicle to apply for other SARE grants as students further their research careers.
Graduate Student Grant proposals must meet the following basic requirements in order to be considered for funding:
- Graduate students must be enrolled full time, according to the institution’s requirements, at an accredited institution in the Southern region at the time of proposal submission. International students are welcome to apply as long as they are enrolled in an institution in the Southern region.
- Graduate Student Grant projects must address sustainable agriculture issues of current and potential importance to the Southern region.
- The proposed project satisfies the requirements of allowable expenses.
- The graduate student is only allowed to apply for one proposal to the Graduate Student Grant program during his or her graduate student program.
Who Can Apply?
Master’s and PhD students enrolled at accredited institutions in the Southern region are invited to apply for Graduate Student Grants. A graduate student may receive only one Graduate Student Grant during his or her graduate student program. The Graduate Student Grant can only be used for the graduate student who submitted the proposal. If a graduate student transfers to another institution, the grant award cannot follow the student. If the graduate student cannot complete the project, the grant cannot be transferred to another graduate student without SSARE approval.
Research projects must focus on sustainable agriculture and cover issues related to improving the profitability of farmers/ranchers in the Southern region; sustaining and improving the environmental quality and natural resources base on which agriculture depends; or enhancing the quality of life for farmers and ranchers and the communities they support.
Graduate Student Grant Calls for Proposals open in February and grants are awarded in August each calendar year. Graduate Student Grant project maximums are $16,500 for two-year projects. SSARE recommends two-year projects; it is difficult to extrapolate usable, replicable, practicable data from one-year research.
Graduate Student Grant funds may be used for the following purposes:
- Materials and supplies needed for the project, including software. The materials and supplies must remain within the scope of the project and be a reasonable request relative to the research being conducted.
- Costs of sampling and data analysis, either in the lab or in the field.
- The purchase of equipment. Any equipment obtained becomes the property of the university that funded the graduate student grant.
- The rental of equipment or operating charges.
- Labor. The graduate student may receive up to a maximum of 50 percent of the project total. This is actual identifiable work on the project and NOT a general graduate stipend.
- Special texts not readily available.
- Travel and per diem necessary for the project. Use your university per diem rules.
- Student travel to one conference (not to exceed $1,000 including registration) to present his/her SARE-funded research.
Graduate Student Grant funds may NOT be used for the following purposes:
- Graduate student stipends.
- Preparation of thesis copy.
- Publication costs.
- Purchase of classroom books or payment of tuition.
- Permanent capital improvements (such as land, buildings, purchase of livestock or bees, purchases of permanent irrigation or fencing, greenhouses or high tunnels, or planting an orchard)
Grant Writing Tips
Southern SARE Graduate Student 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.
- Only one Graduate Student Grant is allowed by the applicant during his or her graduate student program. If you have more than one idea, we recommend you select your best proposal for submission.
- 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.
- Successful projects include clear goals and objectives. Due to the small size of the Graduate Student Grants, we recommend developing no more than three (3) objectives in order to complete your project. Make sure the methods are appropriate to accomplish your goals.
- Make sure you include an outreach plan. Outreach plans can include field days, educational resources, how-to videos, publications, workshops, or presentations are conferences to share research results with farmers or colleagues.
- 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 generally outlined in the “Abstract” portion of your proposal. This is your “hook” for reviewers. Remember, they get to know you through your proposal.
- Seek assistance from your advisor, or other individuals in writing and reviewing your grant.
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