Purdue webinar will outline funding opportunities

GREENFIELD — One of the perennial challenges for small, beginning, diversifying and/or urban farmers who are working toward some aspect of sustainability is finding a source of funding.

Often these farmers are seeking funding for enterprise startup or expansion, but sometimes they are just looking for funds to test an idea or to develop a production or marketing concept. They may wish to compare new ways of streamlining some farm task, reducing environmental impact, growing a new crop, conducting research or an educational program, becoming more energy efficient, adding value to a raw farm product or developing a local food system.

North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture, Research and Education (NCR-SARE) has several open calls for proposals that have the potential of offering much-needed funding for farmers and others for education and research related to the very broad topic of sustainable agriculture.

Current grants include:

2016 Farmer Rancher Grant Program; proposals are due Dec. 3.

2016 Youth Educator Grant Program; proposals are due Nov. 12.

2016 Partnership Grant Program; proposals are due Oct. 29.

Each of these grants can provide thousands of dollars to successful applicants to advance their research and/or educational outreach or efforts to educate youth about some aspect of sustainable agriculture.

The Farmer Rancher Grant encourages farmers and ranchers to submit grant proposals to explore sustainable agriculture solutions to problems on the farm or ranch.

Proposals should show how farmers and ranchers plan to use their own innovative ideas to explore sustainable agriculture options and how they will share project results. Projects should emphasize research or education/demonstration and may have a marketing component to them.

There are three types of competitive grants: individual grants ($7,500 maximum), team grants for two farmers/ranchers from separate operations who are working together ($15,000 maximum), and group grants for three or more farmers/ranchers from separate operations who are working together ($22,500 maximum).

Youth Educator Grant projects provide opportunities for youth in the North Central Region to learn more about sustainable agriculture (farming and ranching that is ecologically sound, profitable and socially responsible). Grants may include proposals involving traditional agriculture but also urban agriculture, aquaponics and season extension among others.

Educators use the grants to encourage young people and their parents to try sustainable practices and see sustainable agriculture as a viable career option.

Projects should help youth discover that sustainable farming and ranching is profitable; good for families, communities and their quality of life; and good for the environment long term. The maximum amount for grants is $2,000.

The Partnership Grant program is a recent addition to the grant lineup. It is intended to foster cooperation between agriculture professionals and small groups of farmers and ranchers to catalyze on-farm research, demonstration, and education activities related to sustainable agriculture. Individual grants are limited to $30,000.

Examples of appropriate Partnership Grant Program projects include developing a curriculum about food storage for farmers and processors, on-farm testing of cropping system strategies or grazing systems, cooperative efforts to develop new marketing approaches or investigations into new approaches to processing and/or adding value to sustainably produced farm products.

Funding considerations are made based on the relevance and potential of the project to increase the sustainability of agriculture in the region, as well as how well the applicant articulates the research and education components of their sustainable agriculture grant proposals.

To help potential applicants learn more about these funding sources and perhaps increase the chances of success, a free webinar has been scheduled for 10 a.m. to noon Oct. 7.

This webinar, “Funding Opportunities for Farmers and Others,” will be a free live interactive online program that will provide basic introduction to some of the current grants, applicant eligibility and how to apply for funding.

I will offer basic information about the available grants and insight on SARE priorities.

Kris Parker, Purdue community development regional educator, will offer a few tips for grant writing success in 2016 and beyond.

It is recommended that participants viewing from home or office log in to the site ahead of time to assess their connection and to make sure they have downloaded any necessary software ahead of time.

The session will be recorded and made available for later use via a web connection.

More information about NCR-SARE grants can be found at northcentralsare.org/Grants/Our-Grant-Programs/.

Video tutorials for the various NCR-SARE grant programs are online at northcentralsare.org/Grants/Write-a-Successful-Grant/Video-Tutorials.

For information on how to take part in this webinar, call me at 317-462-1113 or send email to rballard@purdue.edu. Or log in to the WebEx meeting room at purdue.webex.com/join/rballard on the Oct. 7.

While it’s not a part of this webinar program, a fourth grant — the NCR-SARE Research and Education (R&E) program — is also accepting pre-proposals. R&E grants support sustainable agriculture innovators with competitive research and education grants. Individual grants range from $10,000 to $200,000. 2016 R&E pre-proposals are due Oct. 22.