Wisconsin farmers receive sustainable agriculture grants


The North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (NCR SARE) awarded seven Wisconsin farmers grants ranging from $921 to $20,526 for sustainable agriculture projects in 2015.   Wisconsin also received NCR SARE grants for four partnership projects where researchers and educators will work with farmers on various aspects of cover cropping and integrating trees and shrubs into agricultural systems. Support for the cover crop partnership grants was provided by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation through their Harvesting the Potential initiative.

Farmer grants:

  • Janet Marsh of Morning Sun Farms, Inc. in Frederic, WI was awarded  $20,526 for the project, “Commercial Sustainable Micro-green Production in a Northern Climate.” Marsh’s SARE project will examine whether soilless, organic micro-green production in a hydroponic system can be a profitable, year-round farm enterprise in Northern climates.
  • Ingrid West of Misty Dawn Farm LLC in Stoughton, WI was awarded  $7,500 for the project, “Comparison of Shiitake Yield on Red Maple (Acer rubrum) on Timing of Cut and Rate of Wood Moisture Loss Prior to Inoculation.” Foresters consider red maple to be a weedy species. West’s SARE project will examine whether red maple could be a useful substrate for shiitake growers and if adjusting the timing of cut and wood drying rates prior to mushroom inoculation can overcome issues with bark retention.
  • Rodrigo Cala of Cala Farms in Turtle Lake, WI was awarded  $5,680 for the project, “Immigrant Farmer High Tunnel Project.”       With this SARE grant, four farm members of the Shared Ground Farmers Cooperative will evaluate the potential for high tunnels on their farms to improve sales by extending their growing season, increasing their vegetable yield, improving quality and percentage of marketable produce, reducing pest control requirements, and improving soil quality.
  • Lucas Dixon of The Good Stuff Gardens in Milwaukee, WI was awarded  $7,469 for the project, “Vacant Lots to Abundant Farms: Water Collecting, Composting, and Seed Saving to Turn Vacant Lots into Self-Sustaining Community Gardens and Businesses.” The grant will use vacant lots to serve local community needs for fresh produce and healthy food emphasizing passive water collection systems, composting, and seed saving as ways to achieve self- sufficiency and low cost food production.
  • Jeff Endres of Endres Berryridge Farms in Waunakee, WI was awarded  $7,476 for the project, “Evaluating the Environmental Benefits and Economic Opportunities of In-Vessel Composting Solid Dairy Manure.” Three dairy farms in an area with high concentrations of livestock will use the SARE grant to evaluate and demonstrate how in-vessel composting of bedded pack manure could potentially improve the long-term sustainability of their farms through the marketing of a value-added soil amendment and moving nutrients out of a phosphorus impaired watershed.
  • Peter Fritsch of Rushing Waters in Palmyra, WI was awarded  $921 for the project, “Rushing Waters Aquaponics Feasibility Study.” With this SARE grant, Fritsch will add a cold water aquaponics system to Rushing Waters Trout Farm to provide organic plant production and reduce phosphorous effluent.
  • Lisa Kivirist of Inn Serendipity Farm and B&B in Browntown, WI was awarded  $7,500 for the project, “Increasing Value-Added Product Sales through Improved Labeling & Packaging.” Kivirist’s SARE project creates a toolkit of free or low-cost ideas for farmers to improve packaging, labeling, and overall display marketing to increase sales of value-added products, with an emphasis on high- acid, canned items such as jams, pickles and salsas proccessed in home kitchens under the cottage food law.

Partnership grants:

  • Lisa Kivirist of Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) in Spring Valley, WI was awarded $28,426 for the project, “Enhancing Women Farmers’ Understanding of Cover Crops.” This NCR-SARE grant project will highlight diverse cover crop uses and benefits through four day-long on-farm field days for women. Written articles and recordings available via podcast will expand the educational reach of the project.
  • Julia Olmstead of University of Wisconsin-Extension in River Falls, WI was awarded $25,000 for the project, “Farmer-Led Research for Increased Cover Crop and No-Till Adoption in Northwest Wisconsin.” This project hopes to develop four research fields managed by existing farmer-led watershed councils for local testing of cover crop varieties and seeding methods, as well as side-by-side tillage comparisons. Olmstead’s goal is that locally-based, farmer-led research and outreach will increase on-farm adoption of these management practices.
  • Claire Strader of FairShare CSA Coalition in Madison, WI was awarded $29,997 for the project, “Cover Crops as Living Mulch under Organic Vegetables.” Strader says that while the benefits of leguminous cover crops are well known, small-scale vegetables growers can struggle both to establish covers after late-season vegetables and to incorporate long-standing legumes in their systems.  This NCR-SARE grant project explores using living clover mulches as a way to address both challenges while maintaining vegetable yields.
  • Keefe Keeley of Savanna Institute in Urbana, IL and the Nelson Institute at UW-Madison was awarded $29,957 for the project, “Crop Performance, Pests, and Pollinators in Diverse Agroforestry Systems.”

Finally, Sunny Knutson of Riveredge Nature Center in Newburg, WI was awarded $2,000 for the Youth Educator project, “Sustainable Agriculture Summer Camp at Riveredge Nature Center.” Knutson will use the grant to develop new curriculum for ” Woodland Harvest: A Community Based Permaculture and Local Foods Project,” located on acreage next to Riveredge Nature Center. They will pilot the new curriculum with youth enrolled in a week-long Sustainable Agriculture Summer Camp at Riveredge Nature Center.

All together, SARE funded 70 research and education projects proposed by farmers and educators in the 12-state North Central Region.

You can learn more about the SARE program online at http://www.northcentralsare.org. The next call for Farmer-Rancher grant proposals will come out in August 2015, and the proposals will be due in November 2015. SARE grants can fund research or education in sustainable agriculture. SARE does not provide grants for regular farming expenses or for starting a farm. This is a competitive program, and usually about a quarter of the Farmer-Rancher proposals are awarded funding. Wisconsin farmers can contact Andrew Bernhardt (andrew.bernhardt@ces.uwex.edu) or Deirdre Birmingham (deirdreb4@gmail.com) for information about the SARE grant application process.