The Wisconsin Sustainable Agriculture Professional Development Program offers mini-grants to Agricultural Educators for professional development in sustainable agriculture.

Who can apply?  UW Extension agriculture educators may apply for a grant.  Applications are also accepted from local and state agencies and non-governmental organizations that work with farmers. Collaborative projects with multiple partners  are encouraged.

What is the maximum grant amount?  You can apply for up to $3,000 through the SARE mini-grant program.  Applications for smaller amounts are encouraged.

What is the application process?  Fill out the Mini-grant Application Form and e-mail it to Diane Mayerfeld at  Applications are due by Sunday, February 4th, 2024, and funding decisions will be made by March 8th, 2024.

We may also accept rolling mini-grant applications later in the year, if there are still SARE funds available.  However, we often fully allocate our mini-grant funds in the initial call.  Please allow at least 30 days for a decision on your application.

What kinds of project are eligible?  The project must

  • address the environmental, economic, and social sustainability of an aspect of Wisconsin agriculture and
  • promote the professional development of agricultural educators.

Examples of possible project types include

  • developing resources for educators to use to advance sustainable agriculture,
  • organizing a workshop or field day focused on a sustainable agriculture topic,
  • setting up a demonstration of a sustainable agriculture practice,
  • establishing a new network of educators and farmers to explore or promote an aspect of sustainable agriculture.

If a significant proportion of your project audience will be educators, then the project will satisfy the professional development requirement.  If your primary audience will be farmers, then the project should address a program focus that will be new for you, and you must have a plan for sharing the results with your colleagues or other agricultural educators in order to satisfy the professional development requirement.

In 2024 our funding priorities are: climate change, innovative resilient conservation cropping systems, beginning farmer needs, and racial equity in agriculture.  Sustainable agriculture topic areas include (but are not limited to) social dimensions of sustainable agriculture (including equity), cover crops and soil health, agroforestry, grazing, alternative crops, energy conservation, sustainable responses to climate change, pollinator conservation, organic agriculture, and local foods.

What is the review process?  Your application form will be reviewed by the Wisconsin Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Advisory Committee. You may be contacted by the SARE coordinator for more information or clarification before a final decision is made on funding.  The following criteria will be used in the review:

  • Does the project promote environmental, economic, and social sustainability in agriculture?
  • Will the project result in new knowledge or skills for educators?
  • Is the project well thought out and feasible?
  • Will the project measure its impact?
  • Will the project be completed within a year of receiving the grant?

How will the money be given out?  The money will be provided on a reimbursement basis or invoices will be paid directly from the SARE account in Extension.  Some mini-grants will require a formal sub-contract.

What is required after you receive a mini-grant? You will be required to complete the project and provide a mini-grant final report. SARE Mini-Grant Final Report

Questions?  Comments?  Please contact Diane Mayerfeld at (608) 262-8188 or

Examples of completed mini-grants:

Title: Supporting culturally relevant education for HMoob growers
Project leader: Sarah Janes Ugoretz
Summary: This mini-grant supported supported 16 HMoob farmers to attend the Organic Vegetable Production Conference (OVPC) – many of whom are currently based at Fondy Farm. By providing transportation, registration, and lodging support, we were able to remove key barriers that had made it difficult for many HMoob farmers to attend in the past. Additionally, farmers Ser Thao and Chue Lor – along with Martice Scales, a beginning Black farmer also based at Fondy Farm – delivered an interactive roundtable on weed management that was conducted in both HMoob and English.Attendance was almost double what we typically see at OVPC roundtables, and the conference planning team is hoping to replicate this format in future years.  This project connected HMoob growers to a great deal of peer-to-peer production information through conference sessions – while also ensuring there was space for two-way communication and sharing, given the deep expertise HMoob farmers bring.

Title: Making the Connection: Supporting Farmers and the Agriculture Community During Challenging Times Project leader:  Tina Kohlman
Summary: “Farmers are the best caregivers in the world. They care for crops, they care for land, and they care for animals, but they’re not always the best caregivers of themselves.” — Adrienne Desutter, Illinois farm wife, mom, and behavioral health specialist, Dairy Herd Management.
Agriculture is a hardworking, resilient, and supportive community. However, challenges with low commodity prices, unpredictable weather, cropping challenges have taken a toll on farmers’ mental health. Because rural agricultural communities have limited access to health and mental health care services, it may be difficult for farm families to receive support and/or resources when they are experiencing extreme stress, anxiety, depression, or another mental health crisis. This project focused on increasing awareness of mental health resources for farmers and providing agribusinesses soft skills required to support their clientele in a topic area often not familiar to them. The funding for this project allowed 425 individuals to be reached, in addition to the already 1,000+ reached with the resource guides and 2,800 reached with the mental health pocket guides in 6 other areas in Wisconsin through a generous grant from WI DATCP and a county farm safety grant.

Title: Revitalizing Wisconsin’s Grazing Team Network
Project leader: Jacob Grace
Summary: This SARE mini-grant served as a catalyst to revive a network of grazing educators in Wisconsin (the G-Team). Funds were used to provide stipends for non-profit and agency staff to attend quarterly meetings throughout 2019. Many grazing technical service positions within the state are grant-funded with no budget for professional development. The first G-Team meeting, held in August, had over thirty attendees, while the second, held in November, had nearly fifty. Thanks to the significant positive response, the G-Team plans to continue meeting through 2019 and 2020. The success of the meetings demonstrates the widespread interest in managed grazing among agency staff and technical service providers throughout the state, particularly among young and incoming agency staff. This expanded awareness and professional development for grazing professionals is sure to support more profitable and sustainable grazing practices in Wisconsin. 

Title:  Industrial Hemp Research Trial in Western Wisconsin
Project leader: Carl Duley
Summary: 2019 industrial hemp production was more of a year to learn lessons than have successes. Extremely wet and cool conditions at the Buffalo County location taught us several important lessons. 

  • Don’t be in a rush to plant! Industrial hemp likes warm temperatures with lots of sun and does not do well in cool, cloudy, and wet conditions. Weeds on the other hand continue to grow in those conditions. 
  • Waiting until warm temperatures are in the forecast is even more important with no-till planting. Chippewa County location was lighter soils and was tilled the day before planting and the hemp competed much better in those conditions. 
  • Industrial hemp will compete well against weeds if conditions are right and the plants get off to a good start. 
  • Nitrogen is essential to good plant growth and yields for industrial hemp. 120 pounds of nitrogen per acre yielded significantly higher than lower nitrogen rates. 
  • Industrial hemp seed is not uniform. There are huge differences in plant growth and yield between varieties for grain and fiber production. There is also a lot of variation within varieties of industrial hemp. Most likely to the fact that this is a very new industry in North America and that cross pollination in hemp seed production is difficult to control. 
  • We can obtain high yields of grain and fiber in western Wisconsin. 

Title:  Developing County UW-Extension Agent Small Ruminant Knowledge
Project leader:  Lyssa Seefeldt
Summary:  A small ruminant professional development day was held with a primary focus of increasing the knowledge of UW-Extension and agribusiness professionals with an interest in learning more about sheep and goats. As a result of the workshop educators are better prepared to help farmers address environmental concerns like pasture management, help farmers evaluate their flock economics, and help new small ruminant farmers get started in a more efficient manner. Wisconsin now has 24 agricultural educators that are more familiar with sheep and goat farming practices and are answering farmer questions about the basics of getting started with sheep or goats, grazing management, feeding and nutrition, and budgeting. Since the professional development day, four educators have hosted sheep and goat related meetings reaching 123 farmers, youth, and small ruminant enthusiasts.

Title:  Field testing social media marketing messages and calculating return on investment to benefit direct market [CSA] farmers in Wisconsin
Project leaders:  Bret Shaw, Kristin Runge, Erin Peot
Summary:  This project tested four distinct theoretically informed messages for four Community Supported Agricultural (CSA) farms from geographically distinct areas of Wisconsin. Selection criteria included 1) different geographic areas of the state, 2) potential member base serves diverse audiences (e.g. rural/urban/suburban, ethnicity, different stages of business cycle), and 3) a functioning Facebook page and website.
Four concepts were tested. The advertisement titled “Our Farm to Your Table,” which emphasized the personal connection between the farmer and CSA member, performed better than other advertisements in the experiment. The “Locally Grown” in Wisconsin performed second best on average, with the remaining two advertisements (fresh and tasty & social norms) performing similarly and not as well as the other advertisements.

Title:  Access for Hmong and Latino Farmers at the Inaugural Organic Vegetable Production Conference

Project leader:  Claire Strader
Summary:  This SARE mini grant allowed us to undertake a focused effort to attract and serve Hmong and Latino growers at the inaugural Organic Vegetable Production Conference in 2017. The main components of this effort were 1) strategic outreach to bolster attendance and participation among Hmong and Latino growers and 2) integrating appropriate language accommodations to ensure full conference accessibility for growers with limited English proficiency.
Through this effort, 18 Hmong growers and 6 Latino growers attended the conference.  We received 13 written evaluations from the 24 growers in attendance. Their average rating for overall conference accessibility was 4.45 out of a possible top rating of 5.

Title: Vernon County Roller Crimper Cover Crop Demonstration
Project leader:  Ben Wojahn
Summary:  In July 2016 a very humid 90+ degree day didn’t keep 73 attendees away from an organic no-till demonstration in Vernon County. This project brought people from the area and throughout the state together for a demonstration and an open discussion of how utilizing cover crops and the Roller-Crimper/Organic No-Till technique can have a positive impact on yield, weed control, and soil erosion.   Attendees viewed the demo sites of winter rye crimped over and planted to soybeans. UW Researcher Dr. Erin Silva presented lessons learned over many years of performing the Roller Crimper Technique. Dr. Silva also summarized information on economics and yield potentials based on many trials.
Steve Hornby (the farmer) and Ben Wojahn (Vernon County Land & Water) went over the details of the planting, the challenges, and some key points to ensuring the Roller-Crimpers success. NRCS Soils Specialists Shaunna Repking and Justin Morris performed multiple Soil Health Demonstrations including the very exciting Rainfall Simulator. The Rainfall Simulator compared soil samples taken from Roller-Crimped soybeans and “conventionally farmed” organic soybeans, as well as a sample from corn on corn from a similar soil type. The result was a clear demonstration of the value in reduced soil loss when utilizing the Roller-Crimper technique.

Title: Understanding Crop Irrigation Website Content Upgrade 

Project leader:  John Panuska
Summary: In 2015 increased interest in irrigation resulted in increased Extension programing and outreach in this area.  The Understanding Crop Irrigation site was created to address this need, but the initial site was insufficient to meet the needs of agricultural educators.  SARE mini-grant funds allowed Extension to add significant new content and improve the layout, making the site easier to navigate. Extension educators are now using the site to train themselves as well as referring clients. In addition, new content is added as questions come in.

Title: Understanding the Groundwater Resources of Central Wisconsin
Project leader: Kenneth R. Schroeder 
Summary: In 2011 SARE funding enabled the Central Sands Water Initiative to bring together a diverse assemblage of area residents including farmers, citizens, and experts who had one common connecting feature – they all depend on and share the same water resources. The program allowed all participants to hear the views, opinions, observations and beliefs of all participants in a civil discourse. The discussions ended with a unanimous vote to continue this process at further meetings and 3 such meetings occurred in December 2011 and February 2012, and May 2013. A key request arising from these gatherings was to repeat and expand the 2011 field tour “the science of water and agriculture”. In 2012, a second field tour was held, visiting the water stressed Little Plover River, two Central Wisconsin irrigated vegetable producers, and the water stressed Long Lake in Plainfield, Wisconsin. Walking on Water: Essays for the Central Sands (UW-Extension publication A3961) was distributed at these gatherings. This is a collection of essays representing the opinions of different authors and providing a framework for the presentation of varying points of view about water and agriculture-related issues in Central Wisconsin. Through this process broad goals have been identified:
1. Do no further harm to the ecological recourses of the region
2. Where feasible, remediate past harm
3. Preserve and promote a vibrant agriculture as the economic backbone of the region

Title: New Forage Crop Rotations
Grantee: Keith Vandervelde
Summary: Cover crop demonstration. This project clearly demonstrated the ability to grow a fall cover crop of winter rye and hairy vetch and harvest the crop as hay in early June. The forage yield was 1.85 tons per acre. Part of this project was to measure the nitrogen contributions of the vetch to following crop. The yields of the pearl millet crop that followed closely match the 60 lbs per acre nitrogen fertilizer application areas that yielded 3.2 tons per acre of pearl millet hay with a protein value of 12% and a RFV of 121.

Title: Sustaining Our Food, Our Health, Our Livelihoods
Grantee: Aerica Opatik
Summary: Public workshop on local and sustainable food and nutrition. Project highlights included a diverse group of agriculture producers and nutrition educators who were able to share their experiences, knowledge, and ideas to help attendees learn more about sustainability. Our program focused on supporting local food systems, availability and access, and nutrition of sustainable foods. Our intention with broad topics was to draw in people of various interests within sustainability. The intention was good, but ended up being a downfall because we felt that we were too broad and not focused enough to appeal to more people. 43 people attended, including presenters.

Title: Publication of NPM  bulletin entitled “Frost Seeding Red Clover in Winter Wheat”
Grantee: Jim Stute
Summary: We printed 300 glossy copies of the 4 page color bulletin, which is available from the NPM program and will be used at educational events. The electronic version is available either at the NPM website: or the UWEX soybean/ small grains website:
Copies will be mailed to clients without high-speed internet access upon request.