AGRI Grants help farmers test new ideas to drive sustainability
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is now accepting applications for Agricultural Growth, Research and Innovation (AGRI) Sustainable Agriculture and Demonstration Grants. Approximately $250,000 is available to fund projects that explore new ways of conserving natural resources, enhancing farm profitability, increasing energy efficiency, and improving life in rural communities.
“No one cares more about Minnesota’s rural landscape than farmers and their families,” said Lt. Governor Tina Smith. “The Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Sustainable Agriculture and Demonstration Grant program is available to help farmers improve the sustainability and profitability of their operations. I encourage all farmers interested in making changes to their operations to apply for a grant worth up to $25,000.”
Farmer David Abazs hopes his grant funds will help demonstrate a cost-effective way to increase soil health on the Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center School’s organic farm. Abazs is testing a variety of materials, including lime, wood ash, and biochar, for their ability to affect soil chemistry and increase pH levels of the acidic soils in Lake County.
“These fields have never been farmed before and are providing a great template to help us and other farmers,” said Abazs. “We’re trying to find soil amendments that will help simultaneously meet pH goals and enhance soil health.”
Previous grant rounds have funded projects exploring farm diversification, cover crops and crop rotation, conservation tillage, input reduction strategies, and alternative energies like wind, methane, and biomass.
AGRI Sustainable Agriculture and Demonstration grantees must share their findings. These are published annually in the MDA’s Greenbook, which provides a summary of each project along with results, management tips, and other resources.
Applications from farmers receive priority, but the program also funds Minnesota nonprofit and educational organizations as long as Minnesota farmers are meaningfully involved in the project. Projects may last two to three years.
AGRI Sustainable Agriculture and Demonstration Grant applications are due by 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday, December 13, 2017. For more information and to apply, visit www.mda.state.mn.us/grants/grants/demogrant.aspx.