A few years ago, I was able to meet a couple of farmers and ranchers who received Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) grant funding. Hearing from them directly about how the funds helped their operations, I am still excited to share more about SARE, including their grant funding opportunities. The producers I met made good use of SARE funds to try out new business directions/products/techniques. In turn, they shared what they learned with the wider agricultural community, so that others could learn from their experience and research. SARE offers grant funding, reports of grant project findings, and other books/guides/videos to support agricultural producers.
What is SARE?
Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Through grants and outreach, SARE seeks to promote sustainable, research-based approaches to U.S. agriculture.
We have a state-level Florida SARE program, led by SARE State Coordinators Gilbert Queeley of FAMU and Marilyn (Mickie) Swisher of UF. Our Florida program is part of the larger Southern SARE, covering the southern United States.
Southern SARE offers grants and research-based information intended to help farmers and ranchers adopt and share sustainable practices. Following are a few highlights of funding and other resources available.
Grant Funding Available to Farmers and Ranchers
Since 1988, Florida has been awarded $9.2 million in SARE grants. Florida has also received additional SARE support through multi-state projects. Southern SARE offers grants for the following: Research and Education, On-Farm Research, Producers Professional Development, and Graduate Students. This article focuses on the Producer Grant and the On-Farm Research Grant.
Producer grants offer funding for farmers and ranchers to conduct research. The funding supports producers in testing a solution to a production problem they are facing. Current priority focus areas for funding include: beneficial insect habitat, alternative crops/animals, organic agriculture, sustainable agriculture marketing projects, sustainable grazing systems, soil organic matter building/protection/management, appropriate technology, agroforestry, or increasing sustainability of existing farming practices. Full-time or part-time farmers or ranchers, farmer/rancher organizations, and indigenous community food system producers are all eligible to apply for the Producer Grant. Each funded project includes an outreach plan, to share the research results with the farming/ranching community. Projects must include at least one cooperator. Cooperators can be other farmers, researchers, extension agents, organizations, etc. Proposals are due November 10, 2023.
On-Farm Research Grant
On-Farm Research Grants emphasize relationship-building between farmers/ranchers and other agricultural professionals. Agricultural professionals include extension specialists, university researchers, government or non-government agencies, or other groups or individuals working with farmers/ranchers. Funding allows the grant recipient and the farmer/rancher to work together in researching sustainable practices. The research should address an on-farm issue the farmer/rancher is facing. Current priority focus areas for funding include: 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. Each funded project includes an outreach plan, to share the research results with the farming/ranching community. Calls for proposals typically open each year in December.
Research-based Information to Help Your Operation
SARE grant recipients complete Grant Reports, sharing the results of their research studies. Grant reports can be helpful in developing a new grant proposal, by allowing applicants to see examples of previously funded projects. Through the reports, farmers and ranchers can also learn from other producers about business innovations they may be considering. Examples of previously funded research projects in Florida include:
- Evaluating the feasibility of a mobile livestock processing facility,
- Using high tunnels to extend tomato production in South Florida,
- Assessing sweet potatoes as an alternative specialty crop in Northeast Florida, and
- Examining elderberry as an alternative crop in Florida.
Books, Guides, Videos, and More
For farmers and ranchers, SARE offers books, guides, and videos to help you implement sustainable practices that fit your operation. Some of the topics covered include pest management, soil health, crop production, water use, energy efficiency, and livestock forage. Publications are available for a variety of audiences, including beginning farmers, Spanish-language publications, resources for youth education, and more. Visit the Southern SARE Resources & Learning page to search for a specific topic of interest or just explore what is available.