2024 Partnership Grant Call for Proposals Question and Answer Sessions - Call has closed

March 5, 2024

The Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Partnership Grant Program's 2024 Call for Proposals has closed. As part of the call for proposals, Northeast SARE Partnership Grant Administrator Candice Huber hosted a series of question-and-answer sessions taking place throughout March.

Partnership Grant Q&A sessions took place March 5, 13, 19, and 27 from noon-1:00 p.m. EST. Registration has closed.

Each session was recorded. The questions, answers, and recordings are available below.

Questions asked during the 2024 Partnership Grant Q&A Sessions:

Where is the link to download the Call for Proposals?


If you are the farm partner for the grant, is your time allowed in the budget?

Partnership Grant applicants are the ag service providers who will work with farmer partners. They can put in their budget an hourly or daily wage to include wages for farmers. Providing wages for farmers is strongly encouraged.

Can you be the farm partner for this and in the fall, apply as another applicant as a farmer to the farmer grant?

Yes, whether or not you are listed as the farmer partner in the Partnership Grant, As a farmer you can apply for a Farmer Grant in the fall.

Can a University Department apply?


Can an agroforestry student work in partnership with a farm?

You, as a student, wouldn't be able to apply. If you provide a service as a farmer, you could apply individually. If you are a graduate student, you should consider the Graduate Student Grant Program that is currently open for applications. The Graduate Student Grants are open to any graduate student enrolled at an accredited college, university, or veterinary school who is proposing to conduct research in the Northeast region.

Can the applicant for a partnership be an individual from the non-profit or does it need to be the entire non profit?

The applicant is the project leader and can apply as an employee of a non-profit. The organization itself will be the awardee. While the project leader is responsible for all aspects of managing the project, the organization will assume fiscal responsibility and willneed to complete a grant commitment form authorizing the project.

Would a project of growing culturally relevant crops to market be eligible?


If you have a few different ideas, how do you decide which project you want to pursue?

Choose which project fits best with Northeast SARE's Outcome Statement: Northeast agricultural communities honor the holistic connection among land, water, air, and all living beings. Agriculture in the Northeast is accessible, sustainable, and just, addressing historic and current inequities so all farmers and farm employees can steward resources to ensure sustainability, resilience, economic viability, and a high quality of life.

Be thinking about what reviewers are looking for. They want to know how your project will impact farmers in the Northeast.

Are analytical (ex. soil and water testing) costs eligible expenses?

Yes, you can request a line item for lab services or labor for testing and analyses. 

Aquaculture projects have been funded in the past. Can a scientist in a non-profit organization working with an aquaponics farmer qualify for this grant?

Yes, aquaculture, aquaponics, and hydroponics are eligible topic areas.

We are farmers that provide consultation and installation to clients but are not a consultation firm. Is there something deemed necessary to be seen as for profit consultants? 

We don't ask for documentation or proof that you are a service provider. If you are applying and are a farmer, you should make it very clear in the "experience, skills and capacity" section that you also provide a service to farmers. Basically, explain to reviewers how you are eligible for this program.

How flexible can we be with the budget? Do we need to submit any amendments if plans change during the course of the project?

After your project is awarded, if you want to make a significant change to your budget, you will ned to get approval from the Grant Administrator. Email them explaining what, why, and how much you want to move around. The grant administrator will want to be sure that your project goals have not changed and that the expenses are allowable. If the amount is small (< 10%) of the category total, no approval is needed. If an unexpected expense comes up - we're happy to help you work out what adjustments can be made so that we can cover that cost.

If the project is for product testing and development, can the budget expenses include a major piece of equipment for manufacturing the product? (It would be needed for the project but would be used after the project is over.)

If you need a major piece of equipment for the project that you wouldn’t otherwise have, and it is something that you are using after the project is over, we would pro-rate that expense. Thus, if it's a $10,000 piece of equipment with a useful life of 5 years, and the project will be running for 2 years, we would cover 40% of the cost. If the equipment will not be otherwise usable after the project ends, it can be requested in full. Project leaders are encouraged to rent equipment whenever possible as rental fees for equipment are 100% covered.

I see that letters are supposed to be addressed to the project leader, but we have one "to whom it make concern" Do I need to change it?


I see that the farmer has a $1,000 sales requirement? Does the service provider have the same requirement?

The applicant does not have a sales requirement, they just must be someone who work with farmers (providing a service) as a part of their business. The farmer partner need to meet our definition of a farm: https://northeast.sare.org/wp-content/uploads/Northeast-SAREs-Definition-of-a-Farm.pdf

Does my farmer partner have to already be doing the type of work that I intend to research? Can they simply provide support and a "sounding board" for my ideas?

Your farmer partner should be related to the work you are doing, and they should have an active role in the research you intend to do. They do not need to be an exact match, but you should make it clear to reviewers what their expertise is and the role they will play in your research.

Is there a guideline for requesting the full $30,000?

Whatever amount you request should reasonably align with the work that you are doing. You do not need to request the full amount. Smaller projects are just as competitive as larger projects. 

My organization is applying with a fiscal sponsor. Can the fees be included in indirect costs? Are there any additional forms?

The fiscal sponsor will be the organization that signs the grant commitment form and the awardee in the contract for this project. If they are eligible, they will get indirect of 10% of total direct costs or total modified direct costs (depending on if they have a federally negotiated rate). Otherwise, you can include administrative costs within the direct costs of your budget. You should explain the relationship between the fiscal sponsor and project leader in the "resources, skills, and capacity" section. 

If you are not sure if you are eligible as a service provider, should you partner with a clearer partner as an agency?

If you have a co-leader who is part of an organization that is willing to be fiscally responsible for the award, it might be easier to have that oerson apply as the project leader. You could then be listed as a co-leader under "cooperators." If you have any questions about your eligibility, please contact Candice Huber at [email protected].

Can I list a post-doc researcher as co-PI or collaborator since this person will be heavily involved in the project? If yes, does this individual also need to submit a letter of commitment?

Yes, you can list anyone as a co-leader on the project under "Cooperators". Be sure to describe this persons knowledge and expertise in the proposal and have them provide letter of commitment that describes their background, interest in the project, and the work they are committing to do.

Do matching funds weigh into the score of the applicant?

Matching funds are not required and do not factor into the reviewers scoring of the proposal. If there is something needed for the project that you aren't requesting in your SARE budget, you should explain how it'll be resourced under the section for "experience, skills and capacity," so that reviewers will have confidence that you will be able to complete the project.

If you are part of a non-profit organization that also has a farm, can that farm be your farmer partner? 

The intent of this program is to work with a farm outside of your organization. This can be inaddition to the non-profit's farm. Reviewers look more favorably on applicants that have additional perspectives to bring more to the project.

If you are a non profit that supports farms, and you have farms that are on the land site of the nonprofit, is that technically a part of the non profit?

It depends on how it's set up. If the farmers are using the land to run their individual farms, they would be considered separate from the non-profit.

What program you have found most exciting and/or impactful over the course of your facilitating these grants?

There are so many. We encourage applicants to go to the SARE database at https://projects.sare.org and look at projects we have funded. Type in a key word of your interest or what your project is about to see what projects have been funded in that topic area.

For projects at universities, are there requirements for matching funds or indirect costs?

We do not require matching funds for any project. However, if you are using other funds to support project costs, we suggest explaining this in the proposal narrative so that reviewers are confident you have the necessary resources. For organizations that have a federally negotiated rate for indirect costs, we can provide up to 10%  of total direct costs for indirect. For organizations that do not have a federally negotiated rate we can provide the deminimus rate, which is 10% of modified total direct costs. The Budget Justification and Narrative Template has more information on indirect:  https://northeast.sare.org/wp-content/uploads/Northeast_SARE_2024_Budget_Justification_and_Narrative_Template_Farmer_GradStudent_Partnership.xlsx .

Can you provide more information about your review criteria?

Our call for proposals includes both the questions that you will answer and the review criteria that reviewers will use. Our review teams are made of a mix of farmers, agricultural service providers, researchers, educators and other ag professionals. All proposals are also judged against our outcome statement [https://northeast.sare.org/about/].

Our team doesn’t work with farmers, we ARE farmers. Can a farm, working with other farmer partners, lead the proposal?

Yes, if you are a farmer AND you typically work with other farmers as a service provider, you can apply for the partnership grant. If you are a farmer that does not provide services to other farms, you should apply to our farmer grant program, which will open in the fall. 

If a farm is selling a grazing service such as goatscaping, would they be qualified as a farm? goatscaping

If the farm grows and manages the goats, and has at least $1000 of income is from the goat scaping and any other agricultural products produced on their farm, they qualify as an eligible farm.

What is a subaward?

Northeast SARE is awarded funds from USDA NIFA which the University of Vermont (UVM) manages into grants. Each award made through the partnership grant is technically a subaward from UVM to the project leader's organization.
The term "subaward is also used in project budgets. If you want to work with another organization on your project, you can include them in your budget as a subaward. The secondary organization will need to complete a budget and provide a scope of work and a grant commitment form. 

Is there an average per person amount that SARE allows for meals associated with training/workshops?

No, we do not have a published rate. You can estimate what a typical meal might cost or check with local businesses to get a quote. 

If a farmer already partners with a non-profit organization on other initiatives, and the farmer plays a volunteer leadership role with that organization, can the farmer still partner with that non-profit?

Yes, we would recommend that the nonprofit applies as the service provider and the farmer acts as the farmer partner. Someone who works for the non-profit (other than the farmer) should act as the project leader and prepare the application.  

Do we need to have our farmer partner locked-in to submit the application?

Yes, you need to have your farmer partner involved in order to apply. They should be described in the project proposal and they will need to provide a letter of commitment that is uploaded with your submission. If identifying farms to work with is part of your project, you can explain how and why in your proposal, but you must have at least one farmer who is committed to the execution of your project.

We will want to pursue our project whether or not we recieve funding, but the funding will help out project be more robust. Some of our farmer partners will need to start seedlings ahead of the August 1 contract start date. How would you explain this in the proposal and how would you support them?

Make sure you explain this in your proposal. Explain the project work you will do regardless of SARE funding and then explain how the SARE funding will allow you to enhance the project. 

Do we need to use "all the words" in the word limits?

No, there is no need to write extra. However, be sure to provide sufficient detail. For example, in Methods and Materials, make sure that you fully explain exactly how samples will be collected, how the data will be measured, how it will be analyzed, etc.

What suggestions do you have for finding partner farmers for non-extension folks?


  • If you are an agricultural service provider, think about the farmers you work with and how they might fit with the project you have in mind.
  • It may help to identify the problems a farming community is facing before identifying the partner farmers.
  • Contact farmer networks.
  • Sometimes It can help to conduct a needs assessment before applying, to demonstrate that the project will benefit farmers in the region - this could reveal farmers who would want to work with you.
  • You may be able to identify a farmer partner from an existing farmer grant project that you can find by searching our database at www.projects.sare.org.
Can you provide an example of a project that successfully moved from research into a practical application for farmers?

A previous Partnership Grant project started by researching best practices for using clover as a living mulch system. After identifying these best practices, the project leaders started a non-profit where they mentor other farmers to adopt these practices. 

Does the partner have to be a non-profit or institution, or could it be an LLC or sole proprietorship, provided said business is providing an ag service?

Yes, we can fund LLCs or sole proprietorships, as long as they are providing a service to farmer partners. We often work with crop consultants, for example. 

Is Aquaculture an eligible industry?

We fund aquaculture proposals every year. You can view projects here https://projects.sare.org/search-projects/ and view the definition of a farm here https://northeast.sare.org/wp-content/uploads/Northeast-SAREs-Definition-of-a-Farm.pdf

If you are part of a non-profit organization that also has a farm, can that farm be your farmer partner? 

The intent of this program is to work with a farm outside of your organization. This can be inaddition to the non-profit's farm. Reviewers look more favorably on applicants that have additional perspectives to bring more to the project.

Who is a service provider?

Anyone who works with farmers as part of their job is a service provider. This could be an extension agent, NRCS agent, non-profit worker like MOFGA or NOFA, a private consultant, or even another farmer who provides services to other farmers. 

Is there a place to find successful partnership grant proposals?

While we don't publish successful proposals, you can search our database of funded project reports here: https://projects.sare.org/search-projects/. To see Northeast SARE Partnership proposals specifically, set the region to "Northeast" and the project type to "On Farm Research/Partnership"

Should projects be set up as an experiment?

You can conduct a research experiment, with variables, a control, and measured results. You can also do a social science research project or a demonstration of a new technique or technology within a community. The call for proposals explains how to present your project. 

What types of expenses are eligible? Salaries? Equipment for an experiment?

In general, we are able to fund salaries and wages for work that is specific to the project. We highly encourage farmer partners to be compensated for their work. Materials and equipment also must be specific to the project. If a piece of equipment is commonly used by the applicant or farmer outside of the project, it may need to be prorated. If you have questions about your specific project expense, please contact the Grant Administrator. 

Is a beekeeping education program an eligible project type?

Yes, we have funded many beekeeping projects, especially around disease management and overwintering. Education is also eligible, as long as it is focused on farmers. For example, you could create a curriculum, demonstration, or guide. To be a competitive project, we recommend either presenting new information based on research, or sharing existing information with a new audience. 

Should the project and budget be for the same length of time?

The project length can be up to 3 years. The budget does not need to be broken out by year and all budget items can be expensed at any time during the the project period.

Is the grant paid one time? Or once per year of the project?

We fund on a reimbursement basis, where you make the expense and then send us an invoice with receipts. We then process the invoice for payment which usually takes 30 days. We do not provide any money up front. However, you can invoice us as frequently as works for you.  

I work for a non-profit that does not have IRB capacity. Our project will involve in-depth interviews with farmers, but we believe we may be exempt. Should we budget for an outside IRB review?

IRB is Institutional Review Board, which makes sure that all data collection from human research subjects is ethical. We require IRB review (either exempt or non-exempt) to fund projects that work with human research subjects. Typically, we require partnership grants to provide their own IRB review. This can be from going through the series of questions at www.hhs.gov/ohrp/regulations-and-policy/decision-charts-2018 and determining that the project is exempt, by hiring a certified outside firm to do the review, or by collaborating with someone who has access to an institutional review board (often an extension agent). Livestock are required to go through a similar process, called IACUC.

Are there any examples of Partnership Grant projects turning into larger research grants?

Yes, many projects start as a partnership grant, then move to a research and education or professional development grant. The partnership grant can fund a needs assessment, baseline research, and building partnership networks. 

Are rabbits considered livestock?

Yes, rabbits are considered livestock

The project involves heritage nut tree assessment in New York. We have a variety of partners, including our Farm Bureau, and farm owners. Who is the "partner farmer" and what are the other roles?

The farms that you are working with (where you are collecting the seeds) should be identified as partner farmer(s). You should have a letter of commitment from at least one farmer, who will help you with project design and execution.

I'm an extension educator working with a flower farmer. I don't want this project to affect profitability for the farmer, and want to make sure the farmer is compensated for their time. Can I also compensate them for their bed space since our trials might impact their production?

Compensation for farmer's time is important to our reviewers, and we can also fund rental of land from the farmer, picking a rate that is appropriate for what they are "missing out on" in profit by dedicating land to the research project.

Is it a lottery or first-come-first-served?

Your grant proposal will be reviewed by a team of agricultural professionals--farmers, researchers, educators, and agricultural service providers. Each review team will rank the proposals they are assigned based on the review criteria that is included in the call for proposals. The top ranked proposals (above our funding cut-off) are the ones awarded.

How much should we compensate farmers?

We recommend that you work with the farmer to determine a fair rate. We generally compensate our farmer partners $387 per day, or $50 per hour. 

Related Locations: Northeast