Farmers, ranchers and agricultural professionals are eligible for funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Western Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program.

Grant recipients receive up to $15,000 as individuals and up to $30,000 for groups of three or more working together on a project. Funding can be requested for projects related to production practices and marketing alternatives, according to Western SARE representatives at UC Davis.

“Projects to consider might be small research trials, demonstrations, farmer or rancher workshops or market surveys," said David Chaney, education coordinator for the University of California's Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program and the Western Region SARE representative. "We want to alert growers and ranchers in the Western United States that Dec. 7 is the deadline for these very useful grants."

Dec. 7 is also the deadline for "Professional Producer" grant proposals. Under those grants, agricultural professionals such as Cooperative Extension educators or Natural Resources Conservation Service employees, coordinate the projects with farmers or ranchers serving an advisory role. The same funding levels apply depending on the number of producers involved.

Recent grant recipients in California include:

* Brigitte Moran, Marin Farmers Market Association, for a project on “Farm Direct Distribution”

* Sean Swezey, Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, UC Santa Cruz, for a project on “Building on organic knowledge: On-farm transfer of a trap cropping method to control lygus bugs in conventional strawberry production”

* Deborah Giraud, UC Cooperative Extension in Humboldt County, for a project on “Management Challenges for Dairy Goat Sustainability”

Calls for proposals are available on the Web at http://wsare.usu.edu or by calling the Western SARE office at Utah State University, (435) 797-2257.

USDA's SARE program helps advance farming systems that are profitable, environmentally sound and benefit communities through a national research and education grants program. The program, part of USDA's Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, funds projects and conducts outreach designed to improve agricultural systems.