Over the years, SARE has provided millions of dollars for research into sustainable agriculture practices through competitive awards to university researchers, non-profit organizations, extension agents, and directly to farmers and ranchers.
The grant recipients conduct their research, develops education and outreach activities, and write up their results. SARE publicizes those results, through reports and newsletters like this, in the hope that others will learn about and adopt successful practices, spreading sustainable farming and ranching approaches across the country.
To jump-start adoption, Western SARE launched a new type of grant, called Research to Grass Roots. It awarded its first grants in the category in 2019.
“The circle wasn’t complete,” explained Larry Cundall, former chair of the Western SARE Administrative Council and proponent of the new grants. “We were investing money on research and edcuaiton programs with an emphasis on farmer and ranchers problems, but never really got an answer back on whether it could work beyond their operation.”
The goal of the Research to Grass Roots grants was to encourage individual farmers or ranchers – or better yet a group of them – to identify two or three specific practices from earlier SARE-funded research and implement them on their land.
“Farmers and ranchers have to think holistically to make their operations work,” Cundall said. “The idea is that these grants could allow them to put that system together – some soil enhancement and pollinator protections in a rangeland project, for example. That’d be pretty cool stuff.”
Another potential benefit of the new grants is improving Western SARE’s existing grants. One goal of the Research to Grass Roots program is to have the recipients evaluate the earlier grants and implement their results.
“It would be like a score card for the Administrative Council,” Cundall said. “Did it work or not? Was the previous research useful or applicable or not? We can use that information to improve how we write the call for proposals to make our grants better and more useful for producers throughout the West.”
Here are brief overviews of the first Research to Grass Roots Grants awarded in 2019:
Land and Water Stewardship Training for Livestock Owners
A workshop series utilizing best management practices and research to empower livestock manager stewardship actions, improving soil health and protecting water quality.
The project will convene a multi-disciplinary panel of conservation education staff, agency partners and private landowners to review current research, identify key learning objectives related to livestock management and incorporate those objectives into new curriculum materials. The workshop content and resources will be made available to other Puget Sound Conservation Districts for implementation.
On-Farm Cover Crop Use, Evaluation, and Data Sharing with the Western Cover Crop Council
This project extends cover crop research through on-farm demonstrations and develops tools allowing farmers to evaluate cover crops, share information, improve ecosystem services and reduce risk.
The project will support on-farm cover crop demonstrations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho to highlight success from previous SARE cover crop projects; develop simple and systematic cover crop evaluation criteria for farmers, introduce producers to the recently developed NRCS Pacific Northwest Cover Crop Selection Tool, and provide feedback on improving the tool content and accessibility.
Regenerative Agriculture: Connecting Soil Health, Native Bee Habitat, and Climate Resilience through On-Farm Management Strategies
This project promotes agricultural practices, relevant to Oregon producers, that connect climate resilience, soil building, and native bee nesting habitat.
This project will provide a clear path from research to education and outreach throughout Oregon. By supporting farmers with peer-to-peer learning opportunities, educational events and user-friendly resources, farmers will be better equipped to make informed decisions about how to plan for climate resilience. The goal is to show that by stacking functions, farmers are able to support native bees and other insects, improve soil health, sequester carbon in the soil, and better prepare their farm for weather extremes that may include floods and drought.
The Peri-urban Agriculture Network: Strategies for Agricultural Viability in Urbanizing and High Land-Use-Pressure Regions
This project proposes developing a formalized network focused on farm viability in urbanizing regions, an associated annual conference and network website.
Results from a myriad of relevant SARE projects will be highlighted in the project deliverables and will inform the project trajectory. Importantly, the Network will be developed to be ongoing, expandable, adaptable, evolving platform to move agriculture forward as a vital, contemporary economic enterprise and occupation in the peri-urban context with nationwide impact.