Innovative farmers and ranchers who want to implement a new, sustainable idea to improve their operation can attend a grant-writing workshop in Russell, Kan., Oct. 30 to learn more about the Farmer/Rancher Grant Program.

Sponsor of the grant program, the North Central Regional Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NCR-SARE) Program, awards grants to farmers and ranchers for on-farm research, demonstrations, and educational projects.

Last year in Kansas, NCR-SARE awarded 52 grants totaling $400,037, which included five projects valued at $38,215, said Jana Beckman, Kansas State University Research and Extension coordinator of the Kansas Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Alternative Crops, which is facilitating the grant-writing session.

About $400,000 is expected to be available for grant funding this year, Beckman said.

While the grant program focuses on ag research and development, projects vary, she said. Previous projects have included on-farm research, demonstrations and educational projects on such topics as pest and disease management, soil conservation, local marketing, waste management, agri-tourism, crop diversity, and aqua-culture.

For example, Beverly Pender, an urban farmer in Kansas City, was awarded a Farmer/ Rancher grant to expand her Soul and Soil Rainbow Gardens, through which she helps local youth, seniors and others learn about gardening and food production.

Farmer/Rancher grants typically range from $6,000 per individual grant to up to $18,000 for grants awarded to groups of three or more, Beckman said.

Farmer/Rancher grant applications are evaluated on applicants´ ability to describe how their project will be sustainable in terms of having long-term profitability, being good for the environment, producing healthy foods, being socially responsible and/or supporting their community.

Grant writing need not be intimidating, said Beckman, who recommended outlining a project idea and seeking cost estimates before attending the grant-writing workshop.

She also recommends reviewing previous project reports, available on the national SARE Web site at www.sare.org. and printing off a Call for Proposals (available on the NCR-SARE Web site at http://ncr.sare.org/prod.htm) and penciling in project information.

More information on the grant-writing workshop is available on the Kansas Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Alternative Crops Web site: www.kansassustainableag.org.

Grant proposals are due in the NCR-SARE office by Dec. 3, 2007.

More information about the Farmer/Rancher grant program itself is available from Kansas SARE Coordinator Jana Beckman at 785-532-1440 or Beckman@ksu.edu and from NCR-SARE Farmer Rancher Grant Program Coordinator Joan Benjamin at 402-472-0809 or ncrsare@umn.edu.