Farmer Grant Webinar Recording

Recorded on October 5, 2021, this webinar describes the Northeast SARE Farmer Grant program for the 2022 grant cycle.

A PDF of the slides presented are available at: https://northeast.sare.org/wp-content/uploads/2022NortheastSARE_Farmer_Webinar_final10052021.pdf.

Farmer Grant Q&A

The following questions were posed by participants of the Farmer Grant webinar. If you don't see your question listed below or have additional questions about the Farmer Grant program, please contact grant coordinator Candice Huber.

Questions about Eligibility and Who Can Apply

Q: Who can apply and what kinds of projects are funded?

A: Commercial farmers and farm employees who meet the eligibility requirement of $1,000 in sales of agricultural product per typical year can apply to the Farmer Grant program -- please see Northeast SARE's Farm Definition for more information. Projects should seek new knowledge that other farmers can use and address questions that improve the sustainability of farms. See the Call for Proposals for more information.

Q: Can a farm apply for more than one grant if related to a different enterprise?

A: Farmer Grant proposals are limited to one per farm per year. If you have several ideas for this grant program, you will need to choose the one you want to submit for this grant cycle.

Q: Do I have to file taxes as a farm to be eligible for a farmer grant?

A: No, we do not require evidence or information about a farm's tax status.

Q: Can an MD-based company access the grant for overseas work? Can the eligibility requirement be stretched wide enough to include this overseas agricultural work?

A: No. The proposed project must lead to new information that enhances Northeast agriculture and be applied in the Northeast U.S.

Q: If we receive this grant, will it disqualify us for a larger research grant on the same topic but in more depth and a focus of leading farmers through the process developed in this grant program?

A: No. Individuals who apply for Farmer Grants can also apply to other SARE programs. However, Northeast SARE will not fund proposals that appear to duplicate work that has been approved for funding by another grant program (within or external to SARE).

Q: Are Farmer Grants open to nonprofits?

A: Farms affiliated with an institution or a nonprofit organization may qualify as a farm if they meet the farm eligibility requirement of $1,000 in sales of agricultural product per typical year -- please see Northeast SARE's Farm Definition for more information.

Q: Can I collaborate with a farmer to get a Farmer Grant?

A: Yes, we encourage collaboration. If you are a farmer, you may apply -- we do need just one farmer to be the project leader who will manage the project, be our point of contact and handle the finances. If you are not a farmer, please consider applying for our Partnership Grant program that specifically funds collaborations with farmers.

Q: Are farm workers (as opposed to farm owners) eligible to apply?

A: Farm workers are eligible to apply to the Farmer Grant program. They do need to submit a grant commitment form approved and signed by the farm owner or an organizational official. See the Call for Proposals for more information.

Q: How much profit would your farm need to show for this year in order to be considered for grant funding?

A: Farms do not need to show a profit to be eligible.

Q: Is a farm brewery, that uses hops and fruit grown on the farm, eligible for a grant?

A: Yes, if the farm meets the minimum eligibility requirement of $1,000 in sales of agricultural product per typical year.

Q: We are a value-added farm (grow corn to make bourbon) -- would we be eligible to apply?

A: Yes, if the farm meets the minimum eligibility requirement of $1,000 in sales of agricultural product per typical year.

Q: Would the grants be available for aquaponics farming entities?

A: Yes, aquaculture operations are eligible as long as the farm meets the minimum eligibility requirement of $1,000 in sales of agricultural product per typical year.

Q: I am a farmer who will be partnering with a landowner to start a farmers' cooperative distribution hub on his vacant land.

A: If you are currently a commercial farmer and meet the eligibility requirement of $1,000 in sales of agricultural product per typical year, you would be eligible to apply to the Farmer Grant program. Projects should seek new knowledge that other farmers can use and address questions that improve the sustainability of farms. See the Call for Proposals for more information.

Q: Can one nonprofit farm submit two grant proposals for a related project that has more than one goal?

A: Farmer Grant proposals are limited to one per farm per year. If your nonprofit farm meets the eligibility requirement and has several ideas for this grant program, you will need to choose the one you want to submit for this grant cycle. If the nonprofit has two or more separate farms, each farm would be eligible to apply.

Q: Does the grant require or prefer the involvement of the local farming community, or can the grant be for an on-farm project that will boost our own farm's productivity?

A: Your proposed project must benefit other farmers in the Northeast. It can boost your farm's productivity but the work must be applicable to other farms and assessed in a way that will help other farmers.

Questions about the Types of Projects Funded

Q: What type of farm project will allow us to qualify for a SARE grant?

A: See the Call for Proposals at www.northeastsare.org/FarmerGrant. Essentially any project that enhances the sustainability of agriculture in the Northeast.

Q: How small a project is too small?

A: No project is too small. Simpler, straightforward projects with modest budgets are just as competitive as larger projects.

Q: Does this program support urban farming initiatives?

A: Yes. Many urban farming projects have been funded by SARE. You can find examples in our database at projects.sare.org.

Q: Do projects related to grain production like wheat qualify for these grants?

A: Yes.

Q: How to justify research project on a practice which is widespread in Europe but new to U.S. and hence there might not be data available showing farmer interest in that practice?

A: In this case, it may be a good idea to focus on the problem that the practice will address. By demonstrating the extent of the problem and the farmer interest in overcoming the associated challenges, the need for the practice could be justified. You could also address how this practice might compare to other practices (if any) that are currently used for the same problem.

Q: I did not see a reference to project that address climate change adaptation, is that topic ok?

A: Yes, climate change adaptation and resilience strategies is an eligible topic. By searching our projects database, you could find projects that have been funded on this topic, see projects.sare.org.

Q: I noticed that there’s a separate category for graduate research. What if I’m both a farmer and a graduate student?

A: If you are applying as a farmer and all the expenses would run through your farm, you can apply for a Farmer Grant. If you have a research project for your graduate studies that you would like funded through your institution, you could apply for a Graduate Student Research Grant.

Q: Are Christmas tree production considered agriculture for these grants?

A: Yes.

Q: Are variety trials valid for grants?

A: Yes.

Q: If a farmer is doing something successfully in Vermont, can we learn about it and create it in New York and still get grant money?

A: Testing and assessment of a practice for a new audience is eligible.

Q: If SARE is funding a project addressing the same problem but in a different region and I would like to do a different approach, is this an issue?

A: No issue. Testing and assessment of a practice for a new audience is eligible.

Q: Would using native carnivorous plants for pest control be a good idea for a grant?

A: This topic would be eligible. You would need to make the case to reviewers, like other proposals, how this project will enhance the sustainability of agriculture in the Northeast.

Q: Can hydroponic operations and/or indoor farming operations apply?

A: Yes, hydroponics and indoor farming operations are eligible as long as they meet the eligibility requirement of $1000 in sales of agricultural product per typical year.

Q: Do you offer grants for fiber production, specifically flax?

A: Yes, fiber (including flax) is an agricultural product.

Q: What specific topic areas does this grant program identify as "high need" research?

A: Northeast SARE does not pre-determine "high need" topics; rather, we leave it to applicants to make their case to reviewers that a topic area is highly needed. Providing convincing evidence that farmers are interested in your work helps reviewers understand the extent of the need you are seeking to address. Supporting evidence could be the census, a survey, a focus group, a pilot study data, or specific examples.

Q: Can the idea for a grant be related to calf health? We have beef cattle.

A: Yes. Calf health would be an eligible topic.

Q: What are the project qualifications? Does a side by side trial, with versus without, qualify as a project?

A: Yes, a project that compares treatments in a side by side trial would be eligible. For more information on the components of a project, see the Call for Proposals at www.northeastsare.org/FarmerGrant.

Q: Would intellectual property or the innovative ideas be at risk of public or industry theft through one's participation?

A: All proposals received by SARE are confidential. Once a project is awarded and the contract is in place, all of the information and results are reported on and available to the public through our database.

Q: My context of farming is indoor mushroom production. The information that I want, and I know other farmers want, is the technical information (practices, equipment, design) behind spawn production in a lab environment. There are technical experts in this field, but is simply gaining this information and making a manual for it the body of the project? Or is getting that equipment and putting it into practice the body of the project?

A: Either of these could be the body of the project - testing equipment to learn what works and what doesn't, or developing a manual for use and best practices (or both!) The goal is to have a project that will provide new and useful information to farmers.

Budget Questions

Q: What types of expenditures are permitted under the grant's terms?

A: See pages 4-5 as well as the Appendix in the Call for Proposals at www.northeastsare.org/FarmerGrant.

Q: Can compensation for the technical advisor be included in the grant reimbursement? The technical advisor is reimbursable for time and travel, correct? Does compensation for technical advisor count as qualifying expenses?

A: Yes, expenses for your technical advisor (time, travel to project, etc.) are allowable.

Q: What about compensation for applicants for their time, if/when a project is accepted?

A: Compensation for the project leader and others for their time is allowable. We encourage farmers to ask for compensation for their time on the project and to request a realistic and fair wage.

Q: Will you be able to provide a statement to a bank that reimbursements will be made within 30 days from filing? That would help a farmer apply for and get a line of credit from a commercial bank. This is a huge barrier here in WV.

A: This is a new question to us and a great suggestion! We have reached out to individuals within Northeast SARE’s host organization, the University of Vermont, to determine if this is possible. If this is something we are able to implement, recipients of funded Farmer Grant projects will be notified.

Q: How frequently can you submit receipts?

A: Invoices for reimbursement may be submitted once a month.

Q: Can the grant budget include the farmer's / employees' time related to the project? Can labor be a cost?

A: Compensation for the project leader and others for their time is allowable. We encourage farmers to ask for compensation for their time on the project and to request a realistic and fair wage.

Q: We are looking at new product development to promote our area Veteran Farmers. What costs can be associated with new product? Labeling?

A: Costs such as labeling, testing, development and distribution of a new product are typically allowable expenses as long as the results of the project provides public benefit and results and can be applicable to other farmers in the Northeast (e.g. the marketing and promotion of the product can serve as a model for other farmers).

Q: Would you fund people - salaries, etc.?

A: Compensation for the project leader and others for their time is allowable. We encourage farmers to ask for compensation for their time on the project and to request a realistic and fair wage.

Q: If a budget contains something the reviewers find objectionable (e.g. purchase of a microscope when they would have preferred a rental) will that prevent funding of the project, or can the reviewers request edits, or approve a project contingent upon a change in the budget?

A: If there is a budget item that reviewers find objectionable but they otherwise would score the project high, the project would be approved with a contingency to adjust the budget. Often after a project is awarded, the grant coordinator will work with the project leader to revise details in the budget to ensure that all budget items are allowable.

Q: Are utilities considered billable?

A: Utility bills are allowable as long as they can be directly related to the project. If awarded, a for-profit businesses (eg., commercial farm) will receive a vendor services agreement as a contract from Northeast SARE’s host institution, University of Vermont (UVM). Vendor services agreements cannot include indirect costs, though any overhead expenses that can be directly attributable to the grant project may be included in the direct costs of the budget. Individuals on farms associated with nonprofit organizations should contact the Northeast SARE office for details on allowed indirect costs. If awarded, nonprofits receive a subaward agreement that flows down through UVM from USDA NIFA and these agreements have different federal regulations and compliance requirements.

Q: Can the labor of harvesting be included if the amount being grown was for SARE was significantly more due to different conditions?

A: Labor for harvesting that is directly related to the SARE project and not part of your normal operation is an allowable expense. Reallocation of funds from one budget category to another over the course of the project is allowable upon approval from the grant coordinator. However, the total amount of funds for a project can not exceed the original award.

Q: Can you talk a bit about funds eligibility for durable goods/equipment in terms of product development projects? How do you build and test things without buying components?

A: For product development, components are an allowable expense and can be included in the budget. Note the project development funded by SARE will require that the design and process be included in the final report which will be available to the public.

Q: We are a starting hops farm and need grants for equipment.

A: SARE does not provide funds for start-up equipment.

Q: Is it taxable?

A: SARE grant funds are considered taxable income. The money is distributed by the University of Vermont (Northeast SARE's host institution) that issues 1099s each year.

Technical Advisor Questions

Q: How do I find a technical advisor?

A: To find a technical advisor, think about who you typically go to with questions about your farm business -- this might be someone from a local Cooperative Extension office, a farmer nonprofit, state or federal agency, even another farmer. They may be willing to be your technical advisor or give suggestions of individuals who may be a good fit with your project. You can also reach out to a Northeast SARE state coordinator for suggestions -- see SARE in Your State for the state coordinator in your area.

Please share our Guide for Northeast SARE Farmer Grant Technical Advisors with individuals who may be interested so they understand their roles and responsibilities.

Q: Does SARE approve the technical advisor? Is there a formal agreement written that the advisor and applicant need to submit / sign?

A. Reviewers will consider the experience, knowledge and role of the technical advisor in review of the proposal. Technical Advisors are required to provide a letter of commitment to the project which needs to be submitted with the proposal by the deadline.

Q: Can a technical advisor be a retired college professor with a focus farming?

A: Sure. A technical advisor can be anyone who has experience and knowledge in the project's topic area.

Q: Is technical advisor a must? May I prepare the proposal and submit on my own?

A: A technical advisor is required for this grant program. You are expected to prepare the proposal and submit it yourself but you must have a technical advisor who will provide you with support on your project.

Q: Does the technical advisor also need to be located in the Northeast region?

A: No. A technical advisor can be location outside the Northeast region as long as they have knowledge and experience that would be applicable to your project.

Q: Can the technical advisor be from within a nonprofit farm organization?

Yes. A technical advisor can be anyone who has experience and knowledge in the project's topic area.

Q: Can a farmer at a nonprofit farm organization use a technical advisor from that same nonprofit?

A: Yes. A technical advisor can be anyone who has experience and knowledge in the project's topic area. However, if it is someone who is within the same organization, it must be clear that they are advising on the project and not taking the lead.

Questions about the Application Process

Q: How do I begin?

A: It starts with an idea for a project. Read the Call for Proposals at www.northeastsare.org/FarmerGrant, identify a technical advisor, and then develop your proposal. Leave plenty of time - previous applicants have reported that this process can take as much as 40 hours.

Q: Are previous applications available to see what has been successful, typical length, data, etc.? I am a scientist and am wondering how detailed this process would be.

A: To see projects that we funded, got to projects.sare.org, search projects, and filter for Northeast region and Farmer/Rancher project type. Otherwise, the Call for Proposals provides instruction on the detail needed.

Q: Where is the Word doc template?

A: The word doc template can be found on page 6 of the Call for Proposals at www.northeastsare.org/FarmerGrant.

Q: Is preliminary info needed?

A: Any preliminary information such as needs assessment, background on the industry, anecdotal information, etc. that would help reviewers understand the need for the work is requested under "Problem and Solution."

Q: Could you make an estimate of the total number of hours/range it will take to do the application?

A: Previous applicants have reported that developing the proposal and submitting it can take from 20 - 40 hours.

Q: How does the application process work?

A: Proposals are submitted on line and the deadline is November 16, 2021 at 5pm. Detailed instructions can be found in the Call for Proposals at www.northeastsare.org/FarmerGrant.

Q: What suggestions and info can you provide about writing a grant?

A: On our website, you will find full information in the Call for Proposals at www.northeastsare.org/FarmerGrant, a comprehensive overview and further suggestions covered in the webinar recording above, and a link to a brief set of "Tips for Submitting a Strong Farmer Grant Proposal".

Q: How to apply and uncover the heart of the research question at hand.

A: We suggest that you work with your technical advisor to develop the research question and design the project.

Q: Is there help applying?

A: Feel free to contact Candice Huber at candice.huber@uvm.edu or 802-651-8335, x554, at anytime if you have questions about the application process. For help developing your proposal, seek out help from your technical advisor or contact another peer or professional who has grant writing experience or research/education experience in your topic area.

Questions about the Review Process

Q: How equity is considered in the review process of applications?

A: If a part of a proposal's goal is to address equity in the food system, this should be included in the "problem and solution" section of the proposal where the problem, issue or opportunity--and why it matters--are described so reviewers can fully consider it. Reviewers evaluate the extent to which all proposed projects contribute to Northeast SARE’s Outcome Statement: “Agriculture in the Northeast will be diversified and profitable, providing healthful products to customers. Farmers and the people they work with will steward resources to ensure sustainability and resilience, and foster conditions where farmers have high quality of life and communities can thrive.”

Q: What types of qualifications/proposals are most likely to be accepted?

A: Northeast SARE does not pre-determine funding priorities but rather leaves it to applicants to make their case to reviewers that a topic area is highly needed. Providing convincing evidence that farmers are interested in your work helps reviewers understand the extent of the need you are seeking to address. Supporting evidence may include a survey, census information, a pilot study data or specific lived experience examples.

Q: What are the qualities of a good grant application?

A: A good grant proposal is one that makes a strong case for the need for the work and is a well-designed project that will benefit farmers in the Northeast. For further detail see the review criteria in the Call for Proposals at www.northeastsare.org/FarmerGrant.

Grant Management Questions

Q: What are the accountability and reporting expectations after getting a grant?

A: All expenses must have proof of payment and be within the budget. There is no final financial report required, but if awarded, you will need to complete annual progress reports on the project work and a detailed final report with the results. To get a sense of expectations around managing a Farmer Grant project, see northeast.sare.org/grants/manage-a-grant/manage-your-farmer-grant/.

Questions about Grant Program Demographics

Q: What are the number of black applicants for this program? What percentage of black applicants and percentage of black applicants funded?

A: Thank you for this question! Northeast SARE is currently engaged in a process to learn how to better center BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) farmers, agricultural service providers and other stakeholders in its work. As part of these efforts, we are working to improve demographic data of the program’s applicants and grantees, including some recent changes in SARE’s online grant management system. At this point, we have the following demographic information (see below): Table 1. Applicants to Northeast SARE Farmer Grant Programs from 2016 to 2020, displayed by race and ethnicity; Total Farm Operators, displayed by race and ethnicity, 2017 Census of Agriculture are presented to provide context; and Figure 1. Number of applicants and grant recipients for all Northeast SARE grant programs from 2019 to 2020. We hope to collect and share more demographic information in the future.

Table 1. Applicants to Northeast SARE Farmer Grant Programs from 2016 to 2021, displayed by race and ethnicity. Total Northeast Farmers (All Producers) as compiled by the 2017 Census of Agriculture, displayed by race and ethnicity, are presented to provide context.
Figure 1. Number of applicants and grant recipients for all Northeast SARE grant programs from 2019 to 2020.

Q: How many applications do you receive? How many are funded?

A: Last year, we received 61 proposals and 29 of those were funded, a success rate of 48%. This rate is in our typical range of 40-50% awarded projects and what we expect to be able to fund again this year.

Additional Questions

Q: What is a CSA?

A: CSA stands for "Community Supported Agriculture" -- SARE has published several resources on CSAs including a description at: https://www.sare.org/publications/marketing-strategies-for-farmers-and-ranchers/community-supported-agriculture/.

Q: I’d like a better definition of "sustainable communities" -- could you please explain this project idea?

A: I am unsure of the context but as a project idea, it could describe any project that would enhance the productivity, health and quality of life of communities, as long as it met the other eligibility requirements and intent of the Farmer Grant program.

Q: How do you do the leaning column headings in Excel?

A: In Excel: Right click, select Format Cells, select Alignment, adjust degrees in Orientation. In Google Sheets: select Format, Text Rotation, click on angle to adjust.