NCR-SARE's 2024 Partnership Grants

May 7, 2024
In 2022, Rural Action received a SARE Partnership grant to explore value-added opportunities for grade B chestnuts.

The North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NCR-SARE) Program is pleased to announce the projects recommended for funding for the 2024 Partnership Grant Program.

For the 2024 Partnership Grant Program, NCR-SARE awarded more than $966,000 to 22 projects. NCR-SARE’s Partnership Grant Program is intended to foster cooperation between agriculture professionals and small groups of farmers and ranchers to catalyze on-farm research, demonstration, and education activities related to sustainable agriculture. Those selected to receive funding included (in order alphabetically by state):

  • Sarah Al-Mazroa Smith with Iowa State University in Ames, IA was awarded $49,988 for the project, “From the Vine to Wine Production: Grape and Wine Producer Antimicrobial Resistance Curriculum.”
  • Jennifer Beltran with Sustainable Iowa Land Trust (SILT) in West Branch, IA was awarded $50,000 for the project, “Insight into Action: A Needs-Based Assessment of Four Sustainable Farms in Iowa.”
  • Phil Forbes with the Kalona Regenerative Network in Wellman, IA was awarded $50,000 for the project, “Ecological Outcome Verification: Could it be the Incentive that Catalyzes Scalable Change Across Midwestern Dairy Farms?”
  • Dave Lawstuen with Northeast Iowa Community College in Calmar, IA was awarded $46,492 for the project, “Increasing Highly Digestible Forage Density per Acre Utilizing No-till, Cover Crops, and Manure Application.”
  • Kenda Templeton with Dalla Terra Ranch Foundation in Earlham, IA was awarded $49,999 for the project, “Improving Viability for Small Farms Operated by Underserved Producers through Scaled Market Connections and Cooperative Sales.”
  • Ruth Burke with Illinois State University in Normal, IL was awarded $49,248 for the project, “Re-Integration of Mixed-Power Systems in Agroecological Intensification.”
  • Megan Ayers with Urban Soil Health in Indianapolis, IN was awarded $15,565 for the project, “Solving the Compost Conundrum: Utilizing Microbial Inoculation to Increase Fertility and Soil Health on Small Farms.”
  • Moriah Bilenky with Purdue University in Lafayette, IN was awarded $46,660 for the project, “Addressing Knowledge Gaps in Animal Traction for Vegetable Production and Forest Management on Midwest Farms.”
  • Kris Heeter with North American Fruit Explorers (NAFEX) in Solsberry, IN was awarded $49,898 for the project, “Partnership to Study Sustainable Methods for Growing Figs in the North Central Region.”
  • Jennifer Blesh with the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI was awarded $49,992 for the project, “Improving Cover Crop Performance with Community Science.”
  • Younsuk Dong with Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI was awarded $49,995 for the project, “Implementing Precision Irrigation Management Tools to Improve the Sustainability of Christmas Tree Production in a Changing Climate.”
  • James Lee with the Sustainable Beekeepers Guild of Michigan in Romulus, MI was awarded $50,000 for the project, “The Northern Queen Initiative: Improving Value, Availability, and Production of Mite-Resistant Honey Bee Queens in Northern Climates.”
  • Jan Joannides with Renewing the Countryside in Hammond, MN was awarded $47,141 for the project, “Building Local Partnerships to Sustain Local Farm Festivals and Relocalize Markets.”
  • Mandy Bish with the University of Missouri in Columbia, MO was awarded $49,991 for the project, “Evaluate the Sustainability of Multiple Fungicide Applications to Corn.”
  • Amy Gerdes with Community Crops in Lincoln, NE was awarded $42,344 for the project, “Exploring the Potential of Cultural Cash Crops and Cover Crops in Specialty Crop Production.”
  • Logan Minter with Ohio State University, South Centers in Piketon, OH was awarded $49,529 for the project, “Expanding Opportunities of Season-Long Row Covers in Cucurbit Production using Native Pollinators.”
  • Alan Sundermeier with Conservation Action Project in Bowling Green, OH was awarded $49,107 for the project, “Soil and Crop Biology Testing - What It Means - Why Do It.”
  • Clare Thorn with Central State University Extension in Wilberforce, OH was awarded $49,999 for the project, “Ohio African Heritage Crop Project.”
  • Jaelyn Whaley with South Dakota State University in Grasston, SD was awarded $19,940 for the project, “Multi-state Safe and Humane Shearing Workshops to Address the Shortage of US Sheep Shearers.”
  • Jaelyn Whaley with South Dakota State University in Lemmon, SD was awarded $21,697 for the project, “Enhancing Sheep Health and Productivity Trainings.”
  • Amaya Atucha with the University of Wisconsin Madison in Madison, WI was awarded $29,716 for the project, “Establishing Honeyberry Collaborative Trials using SeedLinked to Crowdsource Cultivar Performance Data and Inform Grower Selections.”
  • Philip Kauth with REAP Food Group in Madison, WI was awarded $49,608 for the project, “Training and On-Farm Support to Onboard Farmers to the Wholesale Ready Program.”

Read descriptions of these projects online at  

The focus for each of the NCR-SARE grant programs is on research and education. Funding considerations are based on how well the applicant presents the problem being addressed, the project's relevance to sustainable agriculture in the 12-state North Central region, and how well it aligns with NCR-SARE's goals, among other factors specific to each grant program.

NCR-SARE’s Administrative Council (AC) members decide which projects will receive SARE funds. The AC includes a diverse mix of agricultural stakeholders in the region. Council members hail from regional farms and ranches, the Cooperative Extension Service, universities, federal agencies, and nonprofits.

Since 1988, the SARE program has helped advance farming systems that are economically viable, environmentally sound, and good for communities through a nationwide research and education grants program. The program, part of USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture, funds projects and conducts outreach designed to improve agricultural systems.

Related Locations: North Central