Between 2002 and 2020, 139 On-Farm Research Grants have been awarded, totaling over $1.9 million. Funded topics have ranged from agroforestry to horticulture to pollinators to small ruminants.
Southern SARE has long supported farmers in their efforts to conduct new and innovative sustainable agriculture production practices. In 2002, On-Farm Research Grants were authorized to provide opportunities for those ag professionals working directly with farmers and ranchers on sustainable ag efforts.
Emphasizing relationship building between researcher and farmer, On-Farm Research Grants have no pre-proposal requirements, nor are applicants asked to demonstrate specific outcomes in an intensive way.
On-Farm Research Grant proposals must meet the following basic requirements in order to be considered for funding:
- The proposed project focuses on sustainable agriculture practices and techniques to address a particular on-farm issue.
- Applicants must work directly with farmers/ranchers in their profession.
- Applicants must identify at least one farmer/rancher cooperator in the proposed project, and the work must be conducted on farm (either on the cooperator’s farm, or on a research farm with the cooperator’s involvement).
- The farmer/rancher cooperator’s primary occupation must be farming or ranching or they are a part-time producer. They run their own farm alone or with family or partners and have at $1,000 of documented annual income from their operation.
- The proposed project satisfies the requirements of allowable expenses.
- An outreach component is identified in the proposal.
Who Can Apply?
Agricultural professionals who currently and regularly work with farmers and ranchers are eligible to apply for On-Farm Research Grants. These can be extension specialists; university researchers; government agencies, such as NRCS; NGOs; community organizations; or other groups or individuals. An applicant may only submit one proposal per grant cycle.
On-Farm Research Grants are not open to farmers.
On-Farm Research Grant Calls for Proposals open September and grants are awarded in February the following calendar year. On-Farm Research Grant project maximums are $20,000 for two-year projects. SSARE recommends two-year projects; it is difficult to extrapolate useable, replicable, practicable data from one-year research.
On-Farm Research Grant funds may be used for the following purposes:
- 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.
- 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.
On-Farm Research Grant funds cannot be used 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 expenses or permanent farm improvements, including purchasing equipment; purchasing permanent greenhouses, high tunnels or other buildings; purchasing permanent irrigation; purchasing permanent fencing; planting an orchard; purchasing 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 On-Farm Research 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 On-Farm Research 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 On-Farm Research 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 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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