Since 1994, SSARE has awarded 316 Producer Grants, totaling more than $2.7 million.
From its inception, the efforts of the SARE program have gone to ultimately benefit the farmer, whether university scientists conduct research, or nonprofit organizations lead training workshops. The implementation of sustainable agriculture practices focuses on farmer profitability, responsible use of the land, and community quality of life.
Recognizing the value and importance of on-the-farm, producer experience in developing solutions to agricultural production challenges, the SSARE Producer Grant program was established in 1994 to give farmers the opportunity to conduct their own research projects. The competitive research grants program is intended to help farmers and ranchers develop sustainable production and marketing practices. The goal of the grant program is for farmers/ranchers to conduct projects to solve challenges and problems they face, and develop information on what works and doesn’t work so that other farmers and ranchers facing those same problems can benefit from the results of the funded project.
Producer Grant proposals must meet the following basic requirements in order to be considered for funding:
- The proposal must be submitted from an individual farmer/rancher or farmer/rancher organization, such as a cooperative. Proposals from NGOs, other community groups or researchers are not accepted.
- 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.
- The proposed project addresses production and marketing issues that promote sustainable agriculture.
- The proposal addresses a research project; Producer Grants are not designed to pay a farmer to “farm.”
- Projects must include at least one cooperator. They can be other farmers, researchers, extension agents, governmental or non-governmental organizations, or others who cooperate in project planning, data collection and outreach of results.
- The proposed project satisfies the requirements of allowable expenses.
- An outreach component is identified in the proposal. Outreach allows the farmer to share his/her project outcomes with the greater farming community.
Who Can Apply?
Producer Grants are open to individual farmers/ranchers or farmer organizations. Only one proposal may be submitted per grant cycle. Primary occupation is farming or ranching or the applicant is a part-time producer. At least $1,000 of annual income from the operation must be documented. Farmer organizations should be comprised primarily of farmers/ranchers and must have a majority farmer representation on their governing board. There are no restrictions on farm size or the length of time an applicant has been farming. Producer Grants, however, are designed for farmers already established in their farming operation, and not be beginning farmers or ranchers.
Producer Grant Calls for Proposals open in September and grants are awarded February the following year. Producer Grant project maximums are $15,000 for an individual farmer or rancher, and $20,000 for a farmer organization. One or two-year projects may be submitted. SSARE encourages two-year projects; it is difficult to extrapolate useable, practicable data from one-year projects.
Producer Grant funds may be used for the following expenses:
- Costs of sampling and sample analysis. This can include in-field data collection or lab data analysis.
- Renting equipment needed for the project. The rental must not extend beyond the project’s timetable.
- Materials and supplies needed for the project. The materials and supplies must remain within the scope of the project and be a reasonable request relative to the research being conducted. An example would be the amount of seed needed relative to the size of the research plots.
- Travel needed for the project, which can include lodging, mileage and meals. The travel must relate to the project’s goals/activities.
- Hiring labor needed to effectively conduct and complete the project within the proposed timetable. This can include hiring farmer/rancher labor beyond normal farming duties. Hired labor must remain within the scope of the project and be a reasonable salary request.
- Your own labor for project activities above and beyond your normal farming duties.
Expenses related to the project’s outreach plan. This can include holding a field day, workshop, farm tour or demonstration program; the printing of educational materials, such as fact sheets, manuals or curriculum; or the development of other resources such as apps, webinars or videos. The educational materials developed for the outreach plan must remain within the scope of the work and be a reasonable request. An example would be the amount requested for the printing of educational materials relative to the size of the audience the resource is intended to reach during the life of the project.
- Refreshments at educational events, such as workshops or field days.
Producer Grant funds cannot be for the following purposes:
- Starting a farm, NGO, business or other community organization, or expanding an existing farm, NGO, business or other community organization. Providing any kind financial support relative to the operation of the farm, NGO, business of community organization.
- Providing support of any kind for capital investments or permanent farm improvements, including: purchasing equipment; purchasing permanent greenhouses, high tunnels or other buildings; purchasing permanent irrigation; building a pond; purchasing and installing water containment tanks; purchasing permanent fencing; planting an orchard; purchasing livestock or bee hives; or purchasing crops or crop seed for use beyond the research plots and timetable of the project. Generally, any item that has permanent use beyond the life of the grant project is not allowed.
- Breakfasts, lunches or other full meals for the project’s outreach plan, or educational/resource event or program.
- Testing of commercial products. Products must be explored in broad generalizations.
Grant Writing Tips
Southern SARE Producer 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 your proposal falls in one of the following focus areas: Beneficial insects, alternative crops/animals, organic agriculture, sustainable marketing projects, sustainable grazing systems, soil health or water quality, appropriate technology, agroforestry, or increasing sustainability of existing farming practices.
- Only one Producer Grant is allowed by the farmer applicant per grant cycle. If you have more than one idea, we recommend you select your best proposal for submission, and save your other ideas for future submissions.
- 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 Producer Grants, we recommend developing no more than three (3) objectives in order to complete your project.
- We encourage collaboration and partnerships on grant projects. Cooperators help complement your skills. When you enlist the cooperation of people who have expertise in areas that you don’t, they’ll strengthen your project. Make sure to include cooperators from universities, Cooperative Extension, NGOs, community organizations, or other farmers to add value to your project.
- 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 other farmers.
- 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 “Statement of Problem” portion of your proposal. This is your “hook” for reviewers. Remember, they get to know you through your proposal. Tell your story.
- Seek assistance from other individuals or organizations in writing and reviewing your grant.
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