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Northeast SARE Invites Farmers to Apply for $30,000 Grants


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Northeast SARE Invites Farmers to Apply for Grants in 2024

September 15, 2023 – The Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Program has announced its call for proposals for the Farmer Grant Program 2024.  This initiative aims to support innovative and sustainable agriculture practices, providing opportunities for farmers to address key challenges facing the industry.

Important Dates for Applicants

The online submission system will open on September 15, 2023. Applicants are to submit all proposals, along with the required attachments on or before November 14, 2023, by 5:00 p.m. ET.

About Northeast SARE

Northeast SARE is a vital program that offers competitive grants to a wide range of stakeholders, including farmers, educators, researchers, and nonprofit personnel. The program’s objective is to promote sustainable agriculture practices throughout the Northeast region. This initiative is one of four regional SARE programs, all of which are supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

The cornerstone of Northeast SARE’s mission is encapsulated in their outcome statement: “Northeast agricultural communities honour the holistic connection among land, water, air, and all living beings.”

The program envisions an agriculture sector that is accessible, sustainable, and just, rectifying historical and present-day disparities. This includes ensuring that all farmers and farm workers can steward resources effectively for the betterment of the environment, economic viability, and overall quality of life.

Covering thirteen states, the Northeast region encompasses Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Vermont, and Washington, D.C.

Empowering Farmers through the Northeast SARE Farmer Grant Program

The Farmer Rancher Grants provided by Northeast SARE empower farmers to devise innovative and sustainable solutions for their farms. These projects can focus on research, education, or demonstration. Grant requests can reach up to $30,000, and all projects must be completed within a three-year timeframe. Importantly, a technical advisor is a prerequisite and should be engaged early in the proposal development process.

Here is a concise overview of the key dates in the grant timeline:

  • Online submission system opens: September 15, 2023
  • Proposal submission deadline: November 14, 2023, 5:00 p.m. ET
  • Award decisions announced: Late February 2024
  • Contract start date for awarded projects: March 1, 2024
  • Projects must be completed by: November 30, 2027

Addressing Long-term Sustainability in Agriculture

The Farmer Grant projects supported by Northeast SARE aim to tackle issues pertinent to sustainable agriculture. Competitive proposals delve into new concepts, techniques, or the application of existing ideas in novel ways. Topics span a broad spectrum including marketing and business, crop production, livestock raising, aquaculture, social sustainability, climate-smart agricultural practices, urban and Indigenous agriculture, and more.

For guidance on crafting a project, consult SARE’s bulletin, “How to Conduct Research on Your Farm or Ranch.” Additionally, examples of previously funded Farmer Grant projects can be explored in the national SARE project database at projects.sare.org/search-projects/.

Eligibility Criteria for Applicants

To qualify for a farmer grant, applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • Be the owner or an employee of a commercial farm business.
  • Operate within the Northeast region (as detailed in page 1).
  • Have a commercial farm that produced and sold at least $1,000 worth of agricultural products during the census year.
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The grant program embraces all types and scales of farms, be they large or small, organic or conventional, urban or rural, and full- or part-time operations. If applying as a farm employee, a Grant Commitment Form must be completed, which includes both the applicant’s and the farm owner’s signatures.

Farmers affiliated with institutions or nonprofit organizations are also eligible, provided the farm produces and sells agricultural products that meet the aforementioned definition. In these cases, the name of the 501(c) organization must be used in the proposal, and a Grant Commitment Form is required.

Applicants with existing grants that are behind in their reporting are not eligible. Projects that are near completion should be finalized, and a final report filed. If a project is still in progress, ensure a recent annual report has been submitted. Additionally, only one proposal per farm per year is permitted.

It’s important to note that Northeast SARE will not fund proposals that duplicate work already funded by another grant program, whether internal or external to SARE.

Emphasis on Inclusivity and Diversity

Northeast SARE actively encourages projects submitted by or in collaboration with underrepresented groups, including women, the LGBTQIA+ community, and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). Furthermore, projects submitted by or in collaboration with Minority Serving Institutions are highly welcomed. This includes historically Black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, tribal colleges and universities, and other organizations that serve historically marginalized communities in the Northeast.

Financial Capacity and Accessibility

Northeast SARE grants operate on a reimbursement basis. Therefore, farms must have the financial capacity and legal structure in place to execute a Northeast SARE contract. This includes having the necessary funds available for the project before reimbursement is received, as advance payments are not possible.

Northeast SARE is committed to ensuring accessibility for all eligible applicants. If any challenges are encountered during the proposal process, applicants are encouraged to reach out for assistance or to request disability-related accommodations.

The Role of Technical Advisors

All projects must engage a technical advisor, who can be an extension educator, researcher, government employee, nonprofit staff member, private consultant, veterinarian, agricultural service provider, or an experienced farmer. The advisor should possess the expertise relevant to the proposed project. It’s important to note that technical advisors do not need to reside in the Northeast region, and they should not have a personal relationship with the applicant.

The technical advisor plays a crucial role in providing the support necessary to create and execute a successful project. This includes offering feedback on the proposal, assisting with research design, providing technical information, troubleshooting challenges, and helping disseminate the results.

A letter of commitment from the technical advisor, outlining their background, expertise, and role in the project, is a mandatory component of the proposal.

Funding Allocation and Project Duration

Approximately $800,000 has been allocated for funding projects in this cycle of Farmer Grants. Awards typically range from $5,000 to $30,000, contingent on the complexity and duration of the project. Projects with multiple farms involved, extensive educational components, or long-term research spanning multiple years or locations may receive higher funding. However, straightforward proposals with modest budgets are equally encouraged.

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Projects are expected to run for 1-3 years, with all projects mandated to conclude by November 30, 2027.

Conflict of Interest Policy

To maintain transparency and integrity, members of the Northeast SARE Administrative Council, SARE staff, and SARE State Coordinators are prohibited from being funded or named in proposals submitted to this grant program. Additionally, members of proposal review teams are not permitted to evaluate proposals from organizations they are affiliated with.

Northeast SARE upholds a comprehensive Conflict of Interest policy which can be accessed at: https://northeast.sare.org/northeast-sare-conflict-of-interest-policy/.

Public Accessibility of Project Information

While proposals and reviews are kept confidential within Northeast SARE, funded proposal text and project reports will be made accessible to the public. This commitment to transparency aligns with the USDA NIFA program’s dedication to sharing the results of funded projects.

Allocation of Funds: What’s Eligible and What’s Not

Northeast SARE grants must adhere to guidelines set forth by USDA NIFA and the University of Vermont, the host institution for Northeast SARE. Eligible expenses for this grant program encompass a range of project-specific costs, including labour, materials and supplies, travel, publication expenses, compensation for services, meeting and training costs, equipment, rental or operating charges, subawards, and indirect costs.

However, certain expenses, such as capital costs, normal operating expenses, promotional items, international travel (unless integral to project success), and select others, are not covered by this grant program.

Applicants are encouraged to meticulously review the list of eligible and ineligible expenses provided to ensure accurate budgeting.

Proposal Selection Process

Proposals undergo a rigorous evaluation process, conducted by independent review teams comprised of individuals from various agricultural backgrounds. These teams assess proposals using a scale of 1 to 5, based on the specified criteria. Each proposal receives a summative score, which is then considered by the Northeast SARE Administrative Council in making final funding decisions.

In the selection process, the Council places additional emphasis on underrepresented audiences, topics, and geographic locations within Northeast SARE’s grant portfolio.

Tips for Proposal Preparation

The key to a successful proposal lies in advanced planning. Applicants are advised to begin preparations well in advance of the deadline, allocating 20 to 40 hours for proposal development. This includes working on the budget, obtaining the signed commitment letter from the technical advisor, and gathering all required documents.

It’s highly recommended to have someone review the draft of the proposal for clarity, accuracy, and overall strength. Finally, applicants should retain a final copy of their proposal for their records.

Clear Communication and Writing Guidelines

In crafting proposals, clarity and simplicity are paramount. Applicants should avoid using technical jargon and specialized vocabulary. Instead, write for a diverse audience, including farmers, researchers, educators, and service providers. When utilizing acronyms or terms that may not be universally understood, provide clear definitions.

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The proposal must be submitted in English, and external links should only be included in citations.

Word Limits, Formatting, and Writing Suggestions

Word limits apply to various sections of the proposal. It is advised to compose responses offline, using a word processing program to ensure accuracy and compliance with word limits before transferring the content into the online system.

Figures, tables, and supporting graphics are permissible in designated sections.

Apply Now

For those interested in applying for the Northeast SARE Farmer Grant, submissions can be made online at https://projects.sare.org/.

Conclusion

The Farmer Grant Program 2024 presents a valuable opportunity for farmers to advance sustainable agriculture practices, address key challenges, and contribute to the resilience and viability of agriculture in the Northeast region. By fostering innovation and inclusivity, Northeast SARE is taking a significant step towards a more sustainable and equitable agricultural future.

For further information and any inquiries related to the Call for Proposals, please visit the Northeast SARE website at www.northeastsare.org/FarmerGrant or contact Candice Huber at [email protected] or 802-656-7587. Don’t miss this opportunity to be part of the movement towards a more sustainable agriculture sector in the Northeast. Apply today!

 

 


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