Webinar Connects Applicants with Answers and Best Practices

July 1, 2022
The 2023 Large Grants Webinar covered three Northeast SARE Grant Programs.

Northeast SARE’s recent 2023 Large Grants Webinar featured information about three Northeast SARE grant programs: Research and Education, Research for Novel Approaches, and Professional Development. Speakers included Associate Director Heather Omand; Grant Coordinators Nevin Dawson, Kali McPeters, and Katie Campbell-Nelson; as well as grantee and current Administrative Council (AC) member, Kwame Matthews. The event was moderated by Communications Specialist Vander Gac.  

What you will find below:

Resources for Applicants 

There were a number of useful pages on the Northeast SARE website and other documents linked during the webinar.  

One of the first documents linked helps prospective grantees identify which program best aligns with their project. https://www.sare.org/wp-content/uploads/Northeast_SARE_Grant_Comparison_Chart.png 

Speakers encouraged anyone interested in applying for a Northeast SARE grant to reach out directly to grant coordinators or their state’s Northeast SARE’s state coordinator. Contact information for both can be found here:  https://northeast.sare.org/about/our-team/northeast-sare-state-coordinators-and-staff/ 

Research and Education and Professional Development grants are the only two Northeast SARE grant programs that require a performance target. A Research and Education grant performance target measures a behavior change in farmer participants, while the Professional Development grant performance target measures a behavior change among service providers who work with farmers. To help attendees understand performance targets, presenters encouraged reviewing Northeast SARE’s Guide to Outcome Funding at: https://northeast.sare.org/outcomefunding 

Northeast SARE’s Definition of a Farm is an important tool for understanding how and why a farm is considered a farm. It is available here: https://northeast.sare.org/farmdefinition 

You can view a PDF version of the 2023 Large Grants Webinar Slideshow here: https://northeast.sare.org/wp-content/uploads/2023_Northeast_SARE_preproposal_webinar.pdf

You can provide feedback on the webinar by completing a survey here: https://qualtrics.uvm.edu/jfe/form/SV_1zikyWSCSKOieDI

Grantee Presentation: Dr. Kwame Matthews

Guest speaker Dr. Kwame Matthews discussed his Northeast SARE grant project, Increasing the Use of a Natural Fungus to Control Internal Parasites in Small Ruminants.  

Read more about the project here: https://projects.sare.org/sare_project/lne21-418/ 

This Research and Education proposal was a strong example of a project clearly designed with and for farmers, included research needed by farmers in addition to an education plan that could stand alone regardless of research outcomes, and could clearly improve herd health management for small sheep and goat producers.  

Webinar Q&As

Attendees asked a variety of questions which brought about valuable answers and interesting conversations around all of Northeast SARE’s grant programs.  

Question (to guest speaker Kwame Matthews): Do you have any suggestions on the best way to engage farmers when writing a grant? Phone call, survey, other approaches?  

Answer: I have used phone calls and emails. I have several sheep and goat farmers that I will communicate with throughout the year. When I’m thinking of writing a grant, I’ll talk to those farmers. If you have an idea for a grant, going to events and workshops and so on, you can meet the farmers there in person. They will give you their opinion on if your grant would make sense to them as a farmer. Emails are always good. 

Question (to Kwame): What about people who are interested in becoming a grant reviewer?  

Answer: If you become a reviewer, that is a benefit to you as someone who wants to write a SARE grant. What it does is give you that knowledge up front, to see how the grant proposals that get funded look. In that sense, it will help you to design your grant properly. You’re not stealing ideas, but what you do is try to organize the grant in a way that it’s fundable and it’s readable.  

If you write a grant and nobody can read it then more than likely – and not just for SARE – it can’t be funded because they don’t understand what you’re doing. It’s not clear to anyone how you will utilize the funds, do your research or your education programs.  

Question: What kind of equipment can be purchased through this grant?  

Answer (Heather): To be fundable by Northeast SARE, the equipment has to be clearly specific to the project and its research and education mission. Ineligible uses of funds include most things that are considered to be startup and or capital costs for farms so that usually includes things like tractors, greenhouses, certainly any buildings, any kind of machinery equivalent to tractors, those things are generally not fundable by SARE. However, if as part of your research or your education you're exploring a new kind of implement or a new kind of process that involves certain equipment or machinery that may be fundable.  

If the recipient organization is clearly dedicated to education or research, and the equipment is going to be used in perpetuity for education or research it is likely fully fundable by SARE if the project is reviewed favorably and awarded by the administrative council. When for-profit businesses request equipment and that equipment might be used to generate profit once the project is complete – in those instances we have to prorate the cost of the equipment for the grant time period; while it is being used for research and education. 

It all depends on the project and how the equipment is justified in the proposal and how it relates to the education and the research proposed. I encourage applicants to get in touch with the relevant grant coordinator and we can try to help answer more specific questions. 

Question: How will the potential pause in preproposal calls for these programs in 2023 effect preproposals submitted this year?  

Answer (Heather): The potential pause will have no effect on preproposals and full proposals submitted in 2022. Anyone who submits a preproposal in August 2022 and who is invited to submit a full proposal (in October of 2022) – all those full proposals will be reviewed. Favorably reviewed proposals awarded by the Administrative Council in February of 2023 will be funded and contracted in March 2023.  

In May of 2023 we may not release a call for pre-proposals (typically May is when we would do so). If there is no call for preproposals next year, there will also be no call for full proposals.  

Question: Has the total amount of available funds changed? 

Answer (Heather): In total, $5 million is available across all three programs this year. We have larger allocations in 2022 than in 2021.  

Question: If a project spans multiple states does it matter which state coordinator you reach out to?  

Answer (Katie): State coordinators in each state have their own expertise and are often part of the extension service at a university so they're a great person to reach out to get another perspective. They have their own networks, it's just a great way of building your network in whichever states you're in so you may contact them in all the states you plan to work in and any one of us on staff. 

Question: Can Professional Development grants fund a non-profit organization to provide training to farmers on use of website and e-commerce technology? 

Answer (Katie): It might help if you distinguish your audiences for your program. If you're primarily training farmers, you may look at the Research and Education grant program and focus on education only (research is not required). If you are looking to train service providers to work with farmers on website or e-commerce technology for example, or any topic or subject matter, then you would look at the Professional Development grant program. If it's a brand-new e-commerce technology program that no one has tried before, but it shows real promise, that could be the Research for Novel Approaches program. 

Question: How often can grantees be reimbursed for project expenses? 

Answer (Heather): If awarded a grant through Northeast SARE, you can invoice and be reimbursed as frequently as monthly, and we encourage grantees to invoice at least quarterly.  

Question: Which grant would apply to preparing high school students to work in urban agriculture? 

Answer (Heather): Northeast SARE’s founding legislation requires that the people who benefit from any grants we make must be farmers. If a project wants to work with high school students, they can benefit from the project, but you would need to make the case to reviewers that the primary audience are farmers that meet Northeast SARE’s definition of a farm

We recognize that youth and urban farming often go hand in hand and are essential to our food system and to farming in our region. Northeast SARE has to focus on farmers as the primary audience, and there are urban farming practitioners who have figured out how to make that work. If you want to reach out to me (Heather), I'd be happy to point you to some projects that have been funded by SARE. 

Answer (Vander): To share a helpful example of how to think farmer-first when writing a grant: if you're talking about working with high school students, for example, teaching farmers to work with high school students is farmer first. Teaching high school students to work with farmers is not farmers first. Sometimes it’s as simple as that.  

Question: Where can I look for funding for startups? 

Answer (Katie): Northeast SARE funding does not fund farming start-up costs. There are beginning farmer and rancher coordinators across the United States that are similar to the group of Northeast SARE state coordinators. They may be able to help you identify resources to help with start-up expenses. 

Question: If your project could apply to more than one grant, can you apply to more than one for different aspects of the project?  

Answer (Kali): You are welcome to submit two pre-proposals per program (Research and Education, Professional Development, and Research for Novel Approaches) each funding round, so you are eligible to submit six different pre-proposals each year. You may submit different versions of a similar concept to more than one grant program. It is important in the eyes of reviewers that each of your proposals stand alone and are not contingent upon the success of another program or project. If you are invited to submit multiple full proposals you can only choose one per year across all three grant programs (so a total of one full proposal submitted, not one per program).  

Question: Which grant would I apply for if my project is an aggregation of local produce for minority farmers sent to wholesale and other markets? 

Answer (Heather): It depends on how you might want to frame and focus the grant proposal. For example, if your focus is educating farmers around how to make that model work, that would probably be a Research and Education grant that doesn’t include a research component (which is eligible, or, maybe there is research you want to do about consumer preferences, etc.). Research and Education grants only require an education component.  

If you were trying something different that had been tested but wasn't proven to be ready for adoption by those farmers, then it might be a Research for Novel Approaches project.  

If you're trying to work with other service providers to teach them how to teach farmers to do this aggregation model, then it could be a Professional Development project. 

Some guiding questions might be: 

  • Is research or education the most important component of your project, or do you need/want both? 
  • Do you plan to work with farmers? Or people who work with farmers? 

Research only? Most likely the Research for Novel Approaches program.  

Education for farmers? Research and Education program. 

Education for agricultural service providers to work with farmers? Professional Development program. 

Research AND education for farmers? Research and Education program. 

Remember, this is an oversimplified answer! Make sure you carefully read the calls for proposals to be sure your idea is eligible.  

Please note the question above regarding the fact that Northeast SARE cannot fund start-up business expenses. 

Question: Do you need a farm ID number to apply for a grant? What other requirements are there?  

Answer (Katie): You don't need to have a farm ID number. You may be a farmer to apply you don't have to be a farmer to apply for any of these grants.  

Question: Can a grant request include the cost of forming a taxable organization? 

Answer: If a grant is awarded, the contracting process will require tax documentation for the host organization and so the applicant will need to have that organizational status established in order to have the forms that are needed. Northeast SARE does make grants to individuals (typically as consultants or other sole proprietors) and for-profit businesses.  

Question: Should we have space secured for our equipment? 

Answer (Heather): When reviewers review proposals they will look to see that you either have what you need to implement a project or that you're asking for it as eligible expenses. Building costs would not be an eligible expense for a Northeast SARE grant, but renting a facility would be. You either need to have that space identified or have a plan for identifying it. Reviewers are going to look to see that you have what you need to successfully implement the project. 

Question: How might a grantee approach implementing a program to develop aspiring farmers, rather than existing farmers with land?  

Answer (Heather): Again, the farmers that benefit from the grant need to meet our definition of a farm which does require those farmers either sold or could have sold $1,000 of commercial product in the previous year. If certain audiences don't meet our definition of a farm it doesn't mean they can't be part of a grant, it just means they cannot be the primary benefiting audience of the proposed project – the primary audience need to be farmers.  

There may be ways where a project is teaching farmers or other service providers about the model that's being tested and then this could possibly be a fundable Northeast SARE grant. Again, that primary benefiting audience has to be farmers that meet our definition. 

Answer (Katie): This is a tip for anyone on any of the topics that they may have a question about. It's really helpful to go to our projects.sare.org ‘Search Projects’ function and look at other projects that have been funded. All their reports are available there, so you might search for “aspiring” or “beginning farmer” because we have funded projects with those project audiences. 

Question: Can restoring or building a barn be part of a grant?  

Answer (Heather) It is unlikely that would be an eligible use of funds, because that would be considered capital infrastructure. Unless a building is being adapted to research a specific technique or new approach then it might be possible depending on the proposal details and specific expenses, but usually anything involving buildings is not an eligible expense. 

Question: Which grant would be the best fit for educating and supporting small minority farmers in urban gardening? 

Answer (Heather): That sounds like a Research and Education and/or Partnership project to me, although there could also be a Farmer grant in there. In terms of the three programs accepting preproposals currently, it's probably a research and education project. We expect to release the Farmer Grant call for proposals in September, with a November deadline for applications. Note that gardening may not be the primary focus for any Northeast SARE grant program. The farmers who primarily benefit from the project must meet our definition of a farm. 

Question: When will the Farmer and Partnership grants open this year? 

Answer (Heather): We expect to release the Farmer Grant call for proposals in September, with a November deadline for applications. 

The Partnership program, similar to these three programs, may not call for proposals next year. If there were to be a call for proposals for that program, that usually comes out in January or February. 

Related Locations: Northeast