2025 Large Grant Preproposal Q&A Answers and Recordings

July 8, 2024

Northeast SARE's three largest grant programs are calling for preproposals for projects beginning in 2025. $5.9M in funding is available across the Research and Education, Research for Novel Approaches, and Professional Development grant programs. Preproposals are due August 6, 2024 by 5 p.m. EST.

The remaining Q&A Sessions are taking place on

Tuesday, July 16

Recordings of the sessions, along with the questions and answers are available below.

Questions asked in the 2025 Large Grant Preproposal Q&A Sessions:

Budget Questions

Can you have funding for your project from two organizations?

We do not fund work that is already funded by another grant. Applicants with existing funding need to explain how Northeast SARE's grant would fund specific aspects of their work that is not otherwise funded.

If the novel approach is something we don't have the infrastructure to test currently, can we fund the infrastructure we need, since infrastructure costs generally aren't allowed? Example: can we purchase a new compost system for testing?

It depends a bit on the farm you are working at. We definitely could not fund the start up of a new compost facility, but we could potentially purchase equipment that is specific to testing a new composting method on an existing farm. For questions about specific expenses, we suggest reaching out the grant administrator. 

Do you ever offer awards for less than a submitted budget?

No, we either fund or do not fund your project. However, if you submit a budget with unallowable expenses and your proposal is selected for funding, we will either work with you to fund a different, eligible expense or we will remove that item from your overall budget

Is there a specific amount of funding that can be included in tuition? Is there a specific amount of that the university must provide?

We don't require matching funds for any budget items. We can fund tuition for students that have any type of assistantship (teaching assistant, research assistant, etc). If you have questions, please reach out to a grant administrator.

Can land rental fees be included in the budget? 

Yes, land use or rental fees are allowable, as are fees for use of greenhouses, lab space, etc. Land purchases are not allowable. You do not submit a budget with the preproposal, but you will for the full proposal if you are invited to apply. 

Is there a guideline for determining the number of farmers reached vs the total amount of budget requested?

No. We don't provide guidance around this because every community, topic, etc is different. Reviewers are trained that we have no preference between a project that serves 100 farmers broadly, vs a project that serves 10 farmers in an intense way. Reviewers are looking for projects that are designed thoughtfully to support their audience. Your budget (in the full proposal) should clearly justify the need for each expense. 

 Can any part of the budget be used to provide funding to farmers to implement practices on their farms?

Yes, projects that support farmer implementation can be funded. It's usually easiest to structure this as a stipend, where farmers are given an hourly or flat amount for participation in a training program. After completing the program, they can use the stipend for whatever costs feel appropriate to them.  

Novel Approaches

Can novel approaches grants fund grad student stipends or tuition?

Generally, yes. If the tuition is part of an assistantship, we can definitely fund it. Otherwise, the classes would need to be highly related to the project. We can fund wages for graduate students working on the project. 

For the Research for Novel Approaches program, are new technology development projects eligible? If so, at what stage of the development are most awardees?

There must be some research demonstrating that the technology has good potential for adoption for farmers. We have funded new technology, but it must be close to adoption. 

What is the acceptance rate for preproposals? What percentage of full proposals are funded?

For novel approaches, most year 30-40% of preproposals are invited to submit full proposals, and 30-40% of full proposals are funded. 

Why do we have to do outreach/farmer engagement for Research for Novel Approaches projects?
How do we demonstrate how many farmers we will impact, and is impacting more farmers better?

The number of farmers is not that important, what is important is balancing number and depth. You can work in a niche industry with a small number of farmers if you will have a substantial impact on them, or you can have a smaller impact on a larger number of farmers. 

You do not need to do a full educational plan, but you do need to share your results with farmers. Cooperative extension folks in your state can help you reach farmers and plan outreach events. 

What are the performance indicators for the grant? What would make a proposal successful?

The goal of the novel approaches grant is to get a practice or technology ready for farmer adoption. A strong project will establish a body of evidence that a practice/technology is going to benefit farmers and/or help develop best practices for using a new technology or practice. All projects must contribute to Northeast SARE's outcome statement. 

Can we develop a product and will we own the intellectual property?

All project results are in the public domain. If you have further questions, please contact a grant administrator. 

How do we determine if a project is novel? 

There's no bright line. Take a look at the review criteria and see if your idea fits the criteria. You need strong evidence showing that the practice is likely to benefit farmers, but farmers need a bit more research to develop how to utilize the practice/technology. 

Are applications submitted in partnership with research institutions prioritized?

No. We rank proposals on the review criteria based on the overall strength and benefits of the proposed project. 

What kind of research plan are reviewers looking for?

There are no firm requirements.  The research description should clearly outline the research objective and how it addresses the needs of the farming community. The treatments or study population and data to be collected should be appropriate for potential adoption of the novel approach by Northeast farms. A hypothesis is often used to express the project objective.

If a practice is known to be viable, would a project to measure its climate impact be eligible?

Yes. The Statement of Need section includes a review criteria that the project has potential to contribute to Northeast SARE's outcome statement. Climate impact has a clear connection. 

Is it preferred that research takes place on commercial farms, or may it all take place on research farms that offer a more controlled environment? 

There are no review criteria that prioritize research on commercial farms. Including research plots on commercial farms could be a part of the farmer engagement plan.

We are working on a livestock feed product using recycled grain byproduct. The product requires specialized equipment to produce. Our research will be on the economic feasibility of producing this feed product. Does the Novel Approaches program apply to for-profit efforts like this? 

Yes, for-profit entities are eligible to apply. Reviewers will be looking for the potential benefit to farmers, and to see that the design for any project product will be made public. Post project work may continue and lead to patented products.

How important are specific research credentials?

It is important that the key individuals are shown to have the skills and experience to conduct the project, but specific research credentials are not required if other evidence is provided.

What is difference in expectations for farmers who participate in research versus those who benefit from the education and outreach?

There should be both a clear plan to engage farmers throughout the project and an outreach plan that will reach farmers likely to adopt the novel approach. In the preproposal, these groups can both be described in the Farmer Engagement Plan. The full proposal will likely have sections to describe engagement with each of these groups separately. 

What does "novel" mean?

These applied research projects are designed to confirm the benefits and/or feasibility of new practices and approaches – i.e Novel Approaches—in agriculture. There should be some existing evidence from previous experiments or pilot projects (your own or others) suggesting that a practice or approach is beneficial and feasible, but further testing, data, and refinement are needed before it can be recommended for widespread adoption by farmers. 

Professional Development

Are farmers service providers? Or, can they be?

They are! Even in not dirt-focused work, farmers frequently act as service providers for other farmers and can be PIs on a PDP grant.

How do we communicate the impact of our work training trainers to train others?

You can use a simple format for writing an impact - X number of service providers will take Y action (or implement Z new skills) to help X farmers (optional: who represent X units of production)

I have determined I am eligible to apply as a farmer, now what is the eligibility for professional development?  Who can be trained?

This is a "train-the trainer" program.  Service providers are the intended audience to receive training, and the ultimate outcome of this program is that service providers will use what they learn to work with farmers.  Farmers can be considered service providers if they are training other farmers.

Does this grant require a year long training program, or can it fund one event?

The design of the training is up to your team and the best fit for those being trained.  The educational design should consider how the participants will learn best and how they will be supported to use what they learn in working with farmers.

This grant idea funds a project that trains Agricultural Service Providers - can it pay for the salaries of the ASPs who are being trained, or would funds only be for the trainers of the Agricultural Service Providers (ASPs)?

Funds can pay for project team members, trainers, and participant stipends in order for them to participate if necessary.

Are we able to use this grant to train and develop our youth programs?

Currently Northeast SARE focuses on training for farmers, and the professional development grant specifically focuses on training for service providers who work with farmers. Youth may certainly be part of farms.  For example, a training program for farmers who employ youth would be allowed.  

 What qualifications are needed for the trainers?

No specific qualifications are needed, but do describe the experience and role of each project team member and trainer.  Letters of commitment from these individuals will be required in a full proposal.

Do the ASPs being trained need to have qualifications to receive training and funding through the grant?  Are their requirements for our organization's staff to receive training?

No. As long as they are working in service of other farmers, they are eligible to receive training.

We are considering applying to SARE grants in two regions. How do we decide which region to apply to? How best do we communicate our connection to farmers?

Keep in mind that each SARE region manages grants differently. Review each call for proposals and determine which is a better fit for your work. To demonstrate your connection to farmers, communicate the types of service providers your project will engage and how they interact with their farming communities.

Is there anything we need to know about serving farms in terms of volunteer employees, and owners? 

This is a train the trainer program. If the people trained will end up working with a variety of stakeholders, it's important to communicate how farmers are still the primary audience

Can we partner with a nonprofit in food delivery for food system support?

It's great to have partners. Reaching out to more groups in your food system can make a training program more robust. 

Research and Education

What are the expectations for performance indicators by the end of the grant period?

The call for preproposals is very prescriptive regarding the 4 components that every performance target should include. If structured in this way, the performance target lays out exactly what you think can be achieved by the end of the target. The performance target is focused on the outcomes of the education plan - while research is an important part, when included, the performance target is focused on measuring what the outcome will be for farmers, on their farms, due to their participation in the education plan. 

What if it will take longer than the length of a Northeast SARE grant for the outcomes we expect to be realized?

This is something we hear often and understand - the longest a Northeast SARE project can be is 3.5 years, but sometimes it takes 5-10 years to verify an outcome. Reviewers do need to see some way to verify progress towards your performance taget/intended outcomes. So, in an example like agroforestry, where the performance target may involve planting trees that will not produce an economic return until long after the project is complete, a project team might survey the farmers to assess whether the farmers believe the behavior changes they made will contribute to the sustainability of their farm and how. That is just one example - there does have to be some way to document progress towards your performance target and verify some aspect of its success by the end of the project. 

Does Northeast SARE have preferences around how many farmers should be served by a performance target? I.e. is a target that includes hundreds of farmers more competitive than one that serves a small number of farmers? 

Northeast SARE reviewers regularly fund both kinds of projects. They are looking to see that you have appropriately scaled your project to the community and their needs. In the same funding cycle we regularly fund both projects serving 200 farmers across 3 states with a more dispersed education program AND more localized, targeted projects that provide in-depth service to a cohort of 10 farmers.

If selected to submit a full proposal how fleshed out should the educational curriculum be?

Applicants can review the 2023 call for full proposals (https://www.sare.org/wp-content/uploads/2022CallforNortheastSAREResearchandEducationGrantProposals.pdf) on our website. That document will give you a clear idea of how much detail we generally are seeking at the full proposal stage regarding the education plan. There is an optional place in the full proposal to upload educational curriculum, but it is limited to 5 pages and it is not a required component. 

Review Process

Are any of the reviewers involved with petrochemical fertilizer companies? Do you receive support from these companies?

All of our funding comes from the USDA through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Our reviewers are a pool of about 150 individuals from the communities we serve: government employees, farmers, service providers, researchers, educators, etc. 

Choosing a Grant Program

I'm considering working with a bio-tech start up to help them expand to new and beginning farmers. Is this a good project topic for the novel approaches grant?

There must be some research demonstrating that the technology has good potential for adoption for farmers. We have funded new technology, but it must be close to adoption. 

Would a practice that is in use in Canada, but could be of use in the Northeast, fall under R&E or NA?

The only required component of a R&E grant is an education program based on information ready for adoption at the beginning of the project. If you can educate on current best practices while you research whether the practice is adoptable in the Northeast, you could apply to the R&E program. If your focus is really the research on whether the practice that is proven elsewhere is adoptable in the northeast, it would more likely be a NA proposal. 

Which program would this idea best fit with? Working with a non-profit, start-up phase farm who is working with our organization for agricultural design for the farm. 

Northeast SARE large grants rarely fund work with a single farm, typically we fund projects that are relevant to a community (small or large) of farmers. However, if someone was testing a new model for a farming approach, they may have one or a few farms they were working with as a case study. One requirement of the R&E grant is that the education plan must be based on ready-to-adopt information that can taught to farmers at the start of the project. The research component can be more exploratory, but the education program must be based on proven information. One oversimplified example I like to give is lets say you want to do research on a brand new variety of cover crop. The education plan must be based on current best practices around cover cropping, while the research component could explore the new variety. As information becomes available from the research, that could be added to the education program. 

How do I chose between Novel Approaches and Research and Education?

You can submit a preproposal for both grants, but you can only submit a full proposal for 1 of them. Note that Research and Education projects must have education, but research is optional. If you do conduct research, your education cannot be contingent on research results.

When deciding between a Research and Education or a Research for Novel Approaches, how do we determine if an idea is "ready for adoption" (a requirement for the education plan component of a Research and Education grant)?

Applicants for the Research and Education grant will need to clearly articulate for reviewers that the education plan is based on information that is ready for farmer adoption as of day 1 of the project. The research component can be more exploratory, but the education program must be based on proven information. One oversimplified example I like to give is lets say you want to do research on a brand new variety of cover crop. The education plan must be based on current best practices around cover cropping, while the research component could explore the new variety. As information becomes available from the research, that could be added to the education program.

In our project, we need the research component to be done before we can do the education component. Can there be a year 1 research and a year 2 education?

Sometimes a project might be more appropriate for the Research for Novel Approaches before it is ready for the Research and Education program (although there is no guarantee a project will be funded first in one and then later another Northeast SARE grant program). Research and Education reviewers are seeking that the Education plan is a core component of any Research and Education grant and that the education plan is able to begin on day 1 of the project because it is founded on information that is ready for adoption by farmers. The Research for Novel Approaches program does have an Outreach component where education can still be a component. 

In my role, we promote Best Management Practices for nitrogen reduction. I've created a test that can test for a decrease in nitrate leaching. We want to use this new test to ensure that our suggested management practices are working, then help more farmers use the BMPs. Which program would be a good fit for this project?

This is likely a good fit for the research for novel approaches program because your practices need more research to demonstrate that they are ready for adoption. Novel approaches projects do require an outreach component, so you will still be able to get funding for farmer education


Who reviews the preproposals?

The review teams are made up of a mix of farmers, researchers, service providers, and others involved in sustainable agriculture. The reviewers will have a general understanding of sustainable agriculture, but may not be specified in your area of study, so write your proposal to a general farming audience and avoid jargon. 

What does the advisory committee need to look like? Who should be included?

Advisory committees are not required for preproposals. The call for full proposals will include information about the advisory committee. Generally, your advisory committee will need to include both farmers and service providers. 

Where can I find the full proposal call for proposals (CFP)?

You can view past full proposal  CFPs on the website. We will send this years CFP to invited applicants in early September. 

Can you say more about the advisory committee requirement? How significant is that group and how do they play a role in the project?

First, please note that the advisory committee is not a required part of the proposal unless you are invited to submit a full proposal - it is not required at the preproposal stage. At the full proposal stage, you are required to have an advisory committee made up of at least 2 farmers and one agricultural service provider who will provide input into the design of the proposal and project and who will continue to advise and inform the implementation of the project if funded. Consider these folks your ambassadors and representatives to the community(ies) you are trying to serve. They should be involved in helping to shape and advise the project. Additionally, it is entirely appropriate to include compensation for these individuals in the budget that would be required if you are invited to submit a full proposal. 

How many partners do you recommend be established ahead of the application?

As many as you need for your project team.  If an expertise is identified, but the person is not yet named, that is OK for the preproposal. 

Who are the reviewers?

Reviewers are the same people who can be applicants: farmers, researchers, nonprofit staff, government officials, etc. We aim to have at least 1 farmer on every review team. We try to make sure that every proposal is matched with a reviewer who has expertise in that area. We recommend writing for a broad audience as not all reviewers will be familiar with your specific topic. 

My organization works closely with another on our programming. Should we apply separately, or can we apply collaboratively?

You can apply together, however for administrative purposes, Northeast SARE only recognizes 1 Project Leader. Even if two individuals co-lead a project, you will need to designate one as the main point of contact.

Can the project evolve between the preproposal and the full proposal?

We expect full proposals to have largely the same focus as the preproposal. You will get reviewer comments between preproposals and full proposals. You are welcome to make changes to address these comments and will have space in the full proposal to explain why you made the changes you did.

We have applied for a North Central SARE grant. Do we create a whole new profile? 

You can use the same account to apply to SARE grants in any region. Northeast Projects must take place in Northeast. 

Is it ok if the project team has multiple leadership roles?

Yes. In our application system, the "Project Leader" is equivalent to the "Principal Investigator" in other systems. The "Applicant" is often the same as the Project Leader, but may be different if necessary. You may designate other leadership roles within your project team as you see fit. Northeast SARE encourages compensation for all people who contribute to a project.

Is it possible to log in and see the application questions?

Yes, anyone can log in to our application system and see the preproposal questions, although the Call for Proposals includes all of this information and important additional background material. https://projects.sare.org/


Do research results need to be presented publicly?

Outreach of some variety is required, and reviewers have an expectation that results will be shared publicly to increase outcomes from the funding. 

Choosing a Topic

We are looking at the shortage of hands-on training for beginning farmers in our state that they need to be able to comply with federal food safety regulations as well as market access in order to grow their farm and increase profitability. Is food safety training for beginning farmers something SARE would consider a focus that would lead to greater sustainability?

Yes, we have funded food safety training for farmer in the past. Sustainability can be defined in many different ways. It is most important in your preproposal to make the case that your project is addressing a significant need or opportunity for farmers in your target audience. 

Are rainwater usage, raised garden beds, composting eligible topics?

Yes, you need to make the case to reviewers that the farmers you are working with meet the definition of the farm. Northeast SARE has intentionally tried to make this definition welcoming to and inclusive of urban and indigenous agriculture. 

Livestock farmer education is challenging due to biosecurity concerns. How might we address this?

I recommend searching funded Northeast SARE projects to see if there are any ideas there. You might also reach out to potential project partners working in your field to see if they have ideas. Northeast SARE staff are unable to support applicants trying to address specific topical challenges for proposals. We can share what reviewers tend to see as strengths and weaknesses, we can help people determine which program their idea is a good fit to apply for, or to answer clarifying questions about how different aspect of our grant programs work, etc. We can't help shape specific proposals ideas. 

Can educational program be focused on financial viability for farmers or does it have to be production focused?

Northeast SARE funds any and all topics related to agriculture, as long as the audience meet our definition of a farm. This can include financial and marketing topics, production topics, land access and succession - anything to do with farming as long as the audience meets the definition of a farm. 

Can we survey users to demonstrate need for a novel approach? Is that a common approach to applications?

It comes back to what the impact is on farmers. You would need to make the case that your project activities are serving the needs of farmers. Social science research is eligible and encouraged. 

Is there a benefit to submitting a project that serves multiple states vs 1 state?

Generally no, reviewers are looking at a scope and scale that matches the funding requested. We fund projects that have a strong impact and relationship with just a small number of projects, as well as projects that work lightly with hundreds of farmers.

What is the turn around time on reimbursements?


Could you fund a project that works with farms within a prison?

It is possible. We are legislated to serve farms, so the prison farm would need to meet Northeast SARE's definition of a farm: https://www.sare.org/wp-content/uploads/Northeast-SAREs-Definition-of-a-Farm.pdf. Generally, we don't fund community garden projects because they don't meet the definition. We recommend reaching out to the staff member for the grant program you would like to apply to for more information. 

Can the same PI make a preproposal for more than 1 grant program?

Yes, you can submit preproposals to multiple programs, but if you are invited to submit a full proposal to more than one programs, you must choose only one program to which to submit a full proposal.

Can you have an existing grant with Northeast SARE when you apply?

Yes, as long as you are up to date on your reporting requirements, you can submit an application while you have a currently funded project. 

Would it be possible to include a subaward for a cooperator outside of the Northeast? (for instance, Virginia?)

Yes you can have a cooperator with a subaward outside of the Northeast. However, the vast majority of project activities and the audience served need to be in the Northeast. 

Is the service area restricted to the Northeast?

Yes, all projects must have a primary service area within Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, or Washington, D.C.

If we have TA providers providing education spread across the country, is it an issue that they are not in the Northeast?

As long as the audience for the activities, the people receiving the TA, are in the Northeast this is completely fine. 

Can the Professional Development grant replicate a project that has previously been funded by Northeast-SARE in a different location or would an entirely new project be preferred?

We do fund projects that replicate existing education programs, as long as the applicant demonstrates a clear need in the specific community that they intend to work with. In the full proposal application, there is an opportunity to include previous work, which is where you could describe this existing project. 

Do you fund projects that serve urban farms?

Yes! We have many urban farming projects. You can search our project database here: https://projects.sare.org

Can an LLC be an eligible applicant?

Yes, for-profit businesses are eligible to apply.

If you are on the advisory committee or collaborator for one proposal, can you be a PI on another proposal?

Yes, you can only be the PI on one full proposal, but you can serve as an advisor/collaborator on another project. You cannot change PIs between preproposal and full proposal to get around this requirement. 

Do you provide grants to watershed associations for watershed based conservation projects, like green infrastructure and practices to help minimize the adverse impacts of climate change?

We exist as a grant program to serve farmers. You will need to make the case that farmers or farm service providers are your audience. 

Is there a limit of how many proposals an organization can submit?

No, organizations can submit however many preproposals are appropriate. However, each Project Leader can only submit up to 2 preproposals per program, and only 1 full proposal total across all 3 programs. You cannot change Project Leaders between the preproposal and full proposal.

Is a certain amount of funding dedicated to each state?

No, there is no specific funding amount per state. Occasionally, a proposal that is highly scored but not recommended for funding may get "bumped up" to be funded if it is from a state that is not well represented. 

Can we collaborate on other preproposals that are being submitted?

Yes you can be a PI on one grant and a collaborator on another grant. We have a conflict of interest policy for staff, reviewers, etc. 

Is the funding earmarked per applicant type?

No. We rank proposals on the review criteria and fund regardless of application type. 

We are in a second year of a research and education grant. Can we reapply, and if so, do we need to significantly change the program?

We do not have a policy preventing you from reapplying for funding. You can submit a preproposal for a continuation of the existing project or for a new project. Either way, please answer the questions in the preproposal application and defend the impact your project will have on farmers. 

Would an educational program focused on business management tools for farmers be eligible for this grant?

Northeast SARE funds any and all topics related to agriculture, as long as the audience meet our definition of a farm. This can include financial and marketing topics, production topics, land access and succession - anything to do with farming as long as the audience meets the definition of a farm. 

My organization is currently in the process of becoming incorporated. Are we eligible?

If your organization isn't incorporated yet, you would likely need to use a fiscal sponsor. We recommend reaching out to the grant administrator for assistance. We cannot provide funds directly to an individual person. 

My organization has a non-profit arm and for-profit arm. Should we submit two applications?

If the projects are significantly different, you can submit two preproposals. However, you will only be able to submit one full proposal if both preproposals are approved.

What are the structures we need to have in place to apply and manage a grant?

Most importantly, we are a reimbursement grant, so your organization must have the capacity to pay for the expenses up front and be reimbursed. You also need to do a yearly report plus a final report, as well as submitting monthly or quarterly invoices. We don't require a specific business structure--for profit business will get one type of contract, whereas non-profits get another. For profit businesses don't get a 10% indirect rate, but they can include "overhead" costs in the budget that are directly related to the project. 

What defines an eligible individual to act as a farmer on the advisory committee? 

Their eligibility should be based off our definition of a farm, which requires they produce $1,000 of saleable product within a calendar year.

Do you have funding available for Youth Programs, Intro to Gardening, partnerships with local schools and Community Gardens ?

Generally no. As a USDA funded program, we are legislated to serve farmers that meet our definition of the farm. The primary audience for all projects must be farmers. However, you can have beginning farmers or youth who are secondary beneficiaries. Additionally, some community gardens may be eligible as farms, based on if they meet our definition of a farm. 

Our FSA registered farmer is our lead instructor. Does that qualify us for funding so he can teach the community to Farm?

The people who are benefiting from your project need to meet the definition of the farm, not necessarily the project team. If the audience isn't currently farming, they can't be considered farmers.

Do northeast breweries and craft distillers qualify as agribusiness for these grants?

If the breweries and distillers are the ones growing the corn, wheat, hops, etc, they likely meet the definition of a farm. Otherwise, they likely do not. 

We have a current Research and Education grant that is going well. We want to continue and grow this work. Are we eligible to apply for additional funding?

We do not have a policy against this. You are eligible to apply for additional funding. 

If a similar project has already been funded, is that okay?

As long as the audience is new, it is okay. We train reviewers to think about whether the project is new to the local farming community, not new to farming research and education in general. It can be seen as a strength if you present other work that has been done and how your project will build on it.  

Is a community garden that hosts classes an eligible project?

You will need to explain in your proposal how this audience meets our definition of farm. Urban community gardens producing food for communities can be eligible. We recommend focusing on how the gardens are part of a food system in order to be considered a farming practice. \

Are tree crops eligible?

Yes. There is no limit on the types of food and fiber crops that are eligible. See the definition of a farm document for further clarification. https://www.sare.org/wp-content/uploads/Northeast-SAREs-Definition-of-a-Farm.pdf

Definition of a Farm

Is the definition of a farm sales requirement applicable to non-government organizations?

The definition of a farm does not apply to the applicant necessarily for the Research and Education grant, but to the audience the project/proposal aims to serve. If you are seeking to serve non-profits who educate farmers, that would be more appropriate for the Professional Development program. In that case, the requirement would be that the service providers are educating farmers who meet our definition of a farm. 

Does Northeast SARE fund projects that serve beginning farmers, or do they have to be established farmers?

It depends. Northeast SARE reviewers will be seeking to ensure that each preproposal that is invite to submit a full proposal will ultimately benefit farmers that meet our definition of a farm (https://www.sare.org/wp-content/uploads/Northeast-SAREs-Definition-of-a-Farm.pdf). Based on the USDA definition of a farm that we are beholden to, farmers must produce at least $1,000 of saleable product in a year. They do not have to sell that product, but they must have produced at least $1,000 worth of product. Please refer to the document for more information. It is worth noting that the primary audience for the project activities need to meet this definition. If that is the case, there can also be secondary audiences participating in and benefiting from the project activities that do not meet the definition.

Our organization works with farmers to provide agricultural education. Would they meet the definition of a farmer if they are working on our organizations farm that produces way more than $1,000 of agricultural products?

Yes. This is similar to farm employees and workers, who are also eligible to apply for the Research and Education grant as long as they have the support of the farm they work on. If they are farming on a farm operation that meets the definition of a farm, they are an eligible audience for a proposal, even if they are not farming on their own land currently. As long as the people you are serving are actively producing that $1,000+ of agricultural products. 

Is an entity who is only generating compost qualify as a farmer?

No. Farmers with composting operations as one component of their farm, who otherwise meet the definition of a farm, do qualify for Northeast SARE grants. An entity that is ONLY producing compost for sale does not. 

Post-award Grant Management

How does salary reimbursement work with FTE percentages for full time staff?

If you are awarded funding, you will be reimbursed by invoicing Northeast SARE. You will put your salary on the invoice based on how your institution budgets. We prefer FTE but we can also do hourly. When your institution invoices us for your salary, we reimburse you at the rate invoiced. 

Can a farmer be the host organization, but have a service provider partner (i.e., university. staff) submit their own expenses for reimbursement?

generally, the host organization gathers the expenses from all partners, then gets reimbursed by Northeast SARE and distributes the funds out to the partners. When a farmer is the PI, they get a different kind of contract than other institutions get, so we may choose to give each partner their own contract. You can reach out to a grant administrator to learn more. 

How does Northeast SARE ensure that grantees are spending their budgets appropriately? 

Our finance team scrutinizes invoices to ensure they match the budget. If they don't match, we can modify your budget so long as it still helps achieve the stated project goals. In general, it is best practice to reach out in advance if you intend to spend funds on something that was not included in your budget. 

How do organizations that struggle to work with reimbursement grants make it work if they don't have a fiscal sponsor?

Northeast SARE is aware this is a challenge, and we are looking into ways to address this in the future. For now, there are only two very limited strategies we are aware of. The first is: invest staff time the first month of the grant, invoice for that after the first month, and then use that reimbursement towards materials and supplies that are needed for the projects. The second is: Northeast SARE does not require matching funds, so often organizations can use our grants as matching funds towards other grants that can fund early expenses for a Northeast SARE project. 

How often can we submit invoices?

You can turn in invoices as often as is helpful for you. Our terms are net 30, so we repay within 30 days of receiving a correct invoice.

How long does it take for invoices to be reimbursed?

UVM is our host institution and attempts to reimburse all invoices within 30 days of being submitted. To be safe, it is best to plan for reimbursements arriving within 45-60 days.

Farming Community

How do reviewers evaluate and score an authentic connection to farming communities?

The review criteria is listed in the call for proposals for every question, including farming community. Preproposals are short, concept documents, and reviewers understand that they are working with a summary version of the full proprosal. The full proposal will allow more room to expand on this authentic connection.

If you are a beginning researcher in this field and don't have an already-established connection to an underserved farming community, is that a weakness for the application? Is it a strength to a establish a new connection as part of the application?

The Research for novel approaches program farming community question is formatted a bit differently because we know lab research isn't always community-based. It is not a good idea to indicate that you will serve historically underserved communities if you cannot or do not demonstrate how your project is based on an authentic connection. Meaningful connections can be new, so long as they are authentic and based on serving the needs of the partners. 

Could we include the development of a strategy to engage underserved farmers in our grant?

Yes, you can include information about your plans to build new relationships with underserved communities. However, reviewers are going to be looking to see that this work is done in a way that is not extractive to the community. We encourage you to be thoughtful and transparent. 

Where can I find more information about the historically underserved farming communities questions?

The question and all necessary information are in the CFP. The definitions are based on USDA guidelines. Reviewers will consider both the checkboxes you indicate as well as the connection you demonstrate in the farming communities question.

Is the plain community considered underserved?

The USDA does not include the plain community in their definition of underserved communities, so it is not included in the Historically Underserved Farming Communities checkbox question. However, you can and should provide details about your connection to this community in the farmer community section. 

How closely should my project be connected to the historically underserved farming community?

We suggest only including a relationship with a community if you plan to work with that community as a core part of your project activities. It is not enough to say my project could theoretically benefit this community; you must show that you are planning to work directly with them. 

Can SARE assist with establishing relationships with the farmer communities?

We cannot. However, we do have state coordinators at each land grant institution. They make be able to point you in the right direction. https://northeast.sare.org/sare-in-your-state/

What documentation will you need to show that we are working with limited resource farmers? Would we need to fill out the form NRCS has farmers fill out using their tax returns?

We don't require supporting documentation, other than optional letters of support from the community at the full proposal stage. In your answer to the farming community and needs question, you should describe the community you are serving. 

How should we get farmer input before the preproposal?

It depends on the farming community you intend to serve. University projects often send out surveys in newsletters. Other options could include attending farmer meetings, interviews,  focus groups, etc. 

What are some examples of farmer engagement opportunities? How should I calculate a realistic number of farmers who will be engaged

Some common examples of farmer engagement strategies include publications, hosting educational events, train the trainer workshops, presentations, and conferences talks. Including farmers as research partners can also be part of the engagement plan. There is no minimum required number of farmers who will be engaged. Plan to show how the connection with farmers will be authentic.

How can I show a connection to an underserved community when it as so far been through shared community and gatherings rather than direct engagement? 

Be honest and transparent about your connection with underserved communities. Reviewers will find value in new relationships, even if the proposal does not receive the highest possible score. At the preproposal stage, reviewers know that space is limited, and there will be more room to add detail in the full proposal. 

Materials and Methods

Is there preference to conduct research on a specific farmer demographic, or is a cross section appropriate?

Reviewers are looking to see that you design your research to address your hypothesis. Reviewers will consider, What are you looking to do and do you have the right methods, people, sample, etc. to do that?

Performance Target

How strongly should the verification of outcomes be made? It may take years to fully verify the outcomes of our project?

This is something we hear often and understand - the longest a Northeast SARE project can be is 3.5 years, but sometimes it takes 5-10 years to verify an outcome. Reviewers do need to see some way to verify progress towards your performance target/intended outcomes. So, in an example like agroforestry, where the performance target may involve planting trees that will not produce an economic return until long after the project is complete a project team might survey the farmers to assess whether the farmers believe the behavior changes they made will contribute to the sustainability of their farm and how. That is just one example - there does have to be some way to document progress towards your performance target and verify some aspect of its success by the end of the project. 

Would it be better to have a strong education component for a larger group of farmers or a more focused effort on a smaller group of farmers?

Northeast SARE reviewers regularly fund both kinds of projects. They are looking to see that you have appropriately scaled your project to the community and their needs. In the same funding cycle we regularly fund both projects serving 200 farmers across 3 states with a more dispersed education program AND more localized, targeted projects that serve a cohort of 10 farmers. 

Does the behavior change need to be directly related to crop/animal production?

No. Your behavior change does not need to directly relate to production. The performance target must contribute to sustainability and our outcome statement. For instance, financial management, social services for farmers, landscape management, etc can all be funded as long as the beneficiaries meet the definition of a farm. 

Related Locations: Northeast