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September 2018

Northeast SARE Invites Farmer Grant Applications 

Northeast SARE is now accepting applications for the 2019 cycle of the Farmer Grant program. Applications are due by 11:59 p.m. ET on November 27, 2018. Projects awards are made in late February 2019 with projects to start in the spring. Application instructions and additional resources are available at:

Learn More about Farmer Grants Webinar

October 10, 2018
12:30 to 1:30 p.m. ET
Register at:
In this free webinar, Carol Delaney, Farmer Grant program coordinator, will provide information on program eligibility, how to apply, types of projects SARE funds, allowable expenses, and more. Bring your questions!

Farmer Grant Snapshot: Finding Balance Between Farm Viability and Fresh Food for Low-Income Families

Leah Penniman and the team at Soul Fire Farm in Grafton NY are recognized nationally as leaders in food justice—getting fresh food and farming opportunities to those who are usually left out. Many Northeast farmers are interested in getting their food to low-income customers, but are unable to accept a lower price point for their products. So Leah used her Northeast SARE Farmer Grant to to identify and promote best practices for farmers seeking to reach low-income consumers and communities, while maintaining a financially viable farm business. She and her farm team conducted multiple customer surveys and listening sessions in several greater Albany neighborhoods as well as interviewed fellow farmers who are also serving low-income communities. They found that the largest barriers to food access for low-income consumers include cost, lack of transportation and lack of accessible markets selling local, fresh, nutritious food. They also learned that farmers can overcome these barriers using a variety of strategies including community outreach and relationship building, community and nonprofit partnerships, government programs, and accessible distribution approaches. These lessons learned are compiled in the project's guide,  “Sowing the Seeds of Justice Food Manual.” 
Photo credit: Steven Harnish, Central Manor Dairy

Farmer Grant Snapshot: Miscanthus as a Homegrown Livestock Bedding Source

Kiln-dried shavings and sand have been the traditional bedding materials of choice for Northeast dairy producers. However, their cost and availability led Steven Harnish of Central Manor Dairy in Washington Boro PA to conduct his Northeast SARE Farmer Grant to look at alternatives. His project tested miscanthus, a high-yielding perennial grass, for its feasibility as bedding for his compost bedded pack barn when compared to wood shavings. By measuring percent moisture and temperature of the two bedding materials, Steven concluded that miscanthus is a comparable replacement for wood shavings for pack barn use. He did not test its use in a freestall dairy barn and thought miscanthus would likely not work well in that setting. A drawback of using miscanthus as a homegrown bedding source is the cost of establishment, especially on prime, high value acreage. A new stand is established with rhizomes and it takes three years for miscanthus to reach maximum yields. However, once established, Steven found that the crop needs no tillage, replanting, fertilizer or herbicides. As the availability and cost of wood shaving continues to fluctuate, Steven appreciates the security of having a homegrown bedding supply; he said that miscanthus may make sense for other dairy farms, especially if the crop can be utilized for other uses, i.e., a biofuel source, as well as for bedding.

Farmer Grant Snapshot: Using tidal energy to clean and tumble oysters

The removal of epiphytic pests (called “fouling”) is one of the most labor, time and cost-intensive tasks in oyster farming. Current methods to reduce fouling often require specialized motorized equipment that is expensive to procure and maintain and it can be loud, creating potential conflicts with nearby landowners and disturbance of wildlife. Therefore, Jordan Kramer of Winnegance Oyster Farm in Portland ME used his Northeast SARE Farmer Grant to test two novel oyster cage designs that use tidal movement to passively clean and tumble oysters. Results showed that one of the cage designs—the “tipping cage”—exhibited slightly slower growth than the control, suffered heavy fouling, and were difficult to use in the field. But the second cage design—the “barrel cage”—proved very effective at deterring fouling (with less than 2% of surface area fouled in each reading). Though oyster growth rates in the barrel design were slower than the control, these cages were low-maintenance and extremely effective at preventing fouling. Jordan concluded that if further refinement of the barrel design could match the growth rates seen in the control group, barrel design cages could provide great labor savings to oyster farmers, especially for larger farming operations.
Photo credit: David Holm, Northeast SARE

Farmer Grant Snapshot: West Virginia Pollen Project

To better understand nutritional resources available to honey bees in West Virginia’s forested landscape, beekeeper Michael Staddon of Honey Glen in Salem WV conducted his Northeast SARE Farmer Grant to study pollen intake of bees through the beginning of the production season. He worked with seven other collaborating beekeepers to collect and submit pollen samples from eight WV locations over a 6-month period. From the data collected, the project was able to graph an accurate picture of pollen intake for each location. The study revealed a common occurrence of low pollen intake in June, helping beekeepers better understand colony dynamics and improve colony management. The project also identified key plant species for promoting bee health and productivity; for example, Red Maple (Acer rubrum) was a particularly valuable early season pollen source. The project laid a foundation for helping beekeepers can gain a better understanding of how to optimize the health of their stock through local pollen sources.

Partnership Grant Deadline Moves to Spring

As a reminder, the deadline for Northeast SARE’s Partnership Grant Program has moved to April 2019; the call for proposals will be released in February. In addition, the cap on Partnership Grant proposals will be increased to $30,000 to better accommodate multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional, and multi-year projects. 

Seeking Grant Reviewers

Want to get an inside look at what makes a successful grant proposal? Want to help make decisions about the best projects to fund? Northeast SARE is seeking proposal reviewers who serve on  the Technical Committee (TC). There is no better way to learn how to write a proposal than serving as a reviewer. We invite farmers and agricultural service providers--including researchers, educators, nonprofit and agency personnel, and others who regularly work in the farm and food system communities--who would like to help bring to life a more sustainable agriculture in the Northeast. Learn more about Northeast SARE's TC at: Interested candidates should contact for more information.
Northeast SARE offers competitive grants and sustainable agriculture education in Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

Our programs are offered to all without regard to race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, and marital or familial status. SARE is funded by USDA NIFA. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

Northeast SARE

140 Kennedy Drive, Suite 201
South Burlington, Vermont 05403

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