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Home > Grants, Loans & Financing > Grant Opportunities > AGRI Sustainable Agriculture Demonstration Grant Program > Sustainable Agriculture Grant FAQ

Sustainable Agriculture Demonstration Grant Program Frequently Asked Questions


  • Q: I am working on starting a cricket farming operation in the twin cities, raising them for human consumption. Compared to traditional livestock crickets require less water, feed, and space; produce less waste, and almost no greenhouse gas emissions; and they provide better and more complete nutrition. With such a multitude of opportunities for cricket farming to improve sustainability, it seems like it would be a really great candidate for this grant. The only thing for my situation is that it looks like business startup costs are ineligible, and since I don't yet have a farm started, I am looking for startup money. Can you confirm if I would or would not be eligible to apply for this grant? Please also let me know if you have any additional questions for me or about my business or operational plans for raising crickets.

    A: Reviewers would have to be convinced that this was testing feasibility of a new enterprise as opposed to farm or farm business startup money. Also, this person does not currently meet the program’s definition of a farmer.
  • Q: I am considering applying for the Sustainable Agriculture Demonstration Grant but have a few questions and would be grateful if you could answer them.
    First I would like to know if my idea would be eligible. I believe it would be as I am trying to develop a very sustainable low input system for growing apples. I am considering planting a small apple orchard in the Woman Lake area, about an hour north of Brainerd. Mainly, I want to try to determine the viability of a low/no pruning and low/no spray small scale organic orchard.

    A: Reviewers would be looking to see that you had done some preliminary research that led you to believe that these could be sound horticultural techniques.
  • Q: I think there can be many secondary learning opportunities from this as well, such as cold hardiness of rootstock (G 11) and scion varieties (disease resistant early season varieties: Pristine, Williams Pride, Discovery, Akane, and maybe Liberty for later season apple). Also, effectiveness of no tillage and wood chips for weed suppression, commercial viability of small orchard, etc.
    If my idea is indeed eligible other questions arise. I am not currently a farmer in Minnesota, but I work on an orchard in Minnesota, and I own a small hop farm in Iowa with a business partner. Therefore would I apply as a farmer or something else?

    A: Recipient has to be a Minnesota resident or organization located in MN. We would take a dim view of someone applying on his behalf only to meet this qualification.
  • Q: I am planning on grafting the trees myself this winter and growing them out for one year at the farm I currently work at and then transplant them to my site in Northern Minnesota. Could I use this grant to purchase my rootstock and rent nursery space at the farm I work at or will it most likely take much longer to be approved and for the money to be allocated? 

    A: If project were funded, it would be for a sample number of trees and not a whole orchard. This is a demonstration grant.
  • Q: I had an eligibility question for the Sustainable Agriculture Demonstration grant. A farmer is defined as “A farmer is someone who cultivates, operates, or manages a farm for profit, and who grows or raises at least $1,000 of agricultural products for sale annually.” However, I work with a community garden in Fergus Falls that donates all produce to local food shelves. Does this make us ineligible for this grant? If it does, are there similar opportunities for community gardens?

    A: The community garden is not producing food with the intent to sell so it does not meet our definition of a farmer as written.

    One suggestion would be to Google “community garden grants”.
  • Q: I am working with an individual raising goats for meat as well as for the purpose of grazing terrestrial invasive plants. We have some areas that we would like to demonstrate various grazing scenarios, but have a couple of questions.

    First is a question regarding the definition of farmer as “having grown or raised at least $1,000 of ag products.” The key farmer I am working with now has raised $1,000 of product - in that he has grown his herd to about 80 goats, he can put a weight and dollar value on what was raised to substantiate this. But, since he is working to increase his herd size, he may not have marketed that amount as meat product. As his herd grows to the size he desires he will market meat products, but for now his primary income is from payments for grazing to control invasive plants. I’d like to be sure what is considered “farmer”. No problem with the “growing or raising” definition, but we don’t want to mislead anyone if it requires marketing/sales.

    A. Based on the information provided, he would qualify as a farmer.
  • Q: Could you give me an idea of when selections will be announced, and when we should plan for an earliest start date?

    A. Announcement will be made in Mid-February. Successful Applicants will be required to attend a New Grantee Meeting in early March, with projects starting Late March/Early April.
  • Q: We are looking to develop an eco-system of local farmers in MN and connect these farmers and their produce (vegetables, livestock) to grocery stores, co - ops, end restaurants and end consumers using our technology. The end goal is farmers use our system to get online visibility and the use of reviews and ratings promotes them to have market access to other consuming participants at a fraction of the cost.

    A. This project doesn’t fit the Sustainable Agriculture Program. One of the key aspects is on-farm, demonstration grants with an emphasis on farmer leadership.

    There are a few other Grant Programs within the Agriculture Marketing and Development Division they may be a better fit.

    • Specialty Crop Block Grant Program: Goal is to increase the competitiveness of specialty crops in Minnesota
    • Value-Added Grant Program: Supports Minnesota agricultural producers and processers to increase sales of Minnesota agricultural products by expanding markets.
  • Q: I purpose to develop, at a minimum, a five year study detailing the benefits of Ridge Till farming practices as it relates to: profitability per acre, soil health and structure, organic farming implications, conservation benefits. The project involves start-up capital to purchase equipment that will be then available throughout the course of the project.

    Ridge Till has been around since the mid-seventies, but as acreages have increased per farm and the advancement of chemical use in weed control, the practice has dwindled due to mechanical cultivation demands as the leading cause. In a climate of ever increasing costs/acre and soil structure/health concerns, Ridge Till can be a viable option to help alleviate these concerns while increasing yields with reduced expenditures. The impact will be immediate and felt rapidly, especially from a time saving perspective. But given the five year period of time the project envisions, the financial and soil health benefits will become more focused and realized. I expect that all Certified Organic farmers and those in Transition will be greatly interested and impacted as Ridge Till can fit quite well into a mechanical weed suppression method needed in that environment. Through partnership with the AgCentric Center here in Staples, MN information and education can be disseminated quickly and efficiently to reach a very broad area. As a part of the greater MnSCU system of Farm Management Education, education materials and information can be offered to all interested.

    My primary purpose is education. To educate people associated with production agriculture to the benefits of Ridge Till farming practices; financial and agronomical. The project has the potential for reaching an audience world-wide as data collected will be shared on the Center for Farm Financial Managements website-FinBin. The immediate audience will be area farmers as well as those state wide students enrolled in the Farm Business Management Program. The project is open to all people of interest, of course. Objectives are: 1) Promote the education of best-management practices using Ridge Till methods related to crop production 2) Provide on-site education in equipment use, soil health and conservation measures and production techniques 3) To analyze data on a per acre basis to evaluate income/expenses and benchmark against other practices being used in this areaas well as other parts of the state.

    A. A few key items to note: 1) Farmers must be meaningfully involved in the project and have demonstrated an interest in the results. In addition, explain why the farmers are interested, not why they should be interested. 2) Projects must take place on a working farm. 3)”Startup capital to purchase equipment” may be a tough sell for the Review Panel. 4) Project maximum duration under this program is 3 years.
  • Q: If our project is selected and awarded how are the budgeted award dollars distributed.
    According to the amount designated in each year, at the beginning of the year?
    At the beginning of the project or at the end of the project?

    A. An initial payment is made upon execution (all parties have signed) of the grant agreement. Additional payments are made upon receipt and approval of a progress report due in December of each year. These payments are based on the amounts you list in the budget table as total per year.
  • Q: If I currently have a grant, am I eligible to apply for another project?

    A. Yes, you are eligible to apply for another project.
  • Q: We are currently commercially producing microgreens on a small scale and have been looking at various hydroponic methods of growing. We are interested in evaluating the feasibility of a small-scale, indoor vertical hydroponic system.

    Who would be the 'best' people to choose as Technical Cooperators? We have been speaking with current hydroponic producers to help us with the technical aspects of operating the system, as well as produce buyers to assist in evaluating our produce and advise on quality.

    A. We recommend contacting the Chief of the Horticulture Department at the University of Minnesota, as they may be able to recommend faculty with expertise in this area. Or Kathy Draeger of Regional Partnerships (also a U of M faculty member).
  • Q: I understand you can only receive one Sustainable Demonstration Grant at a time, but can I submit more than one application (multiple project ideas) knowing it is only possible for one to be funded?

    A. Yes.
  • Q: Can I spend grant money on equipment rental or use of my own equipment?

    A. Yes, you can charge reasonable per acre or per hour charge (e.g., woodchipper, skidsteer use).
  • Q: Do I need a technical cooperator? What if I don’t have a technical cooperator?

    A. The Request for Proposal requires that farmers involve at least one technical cooperator and that any/all include a letter of commitment.
  • Q: Can submit the same project to another funder besides MDA?

    A. Yes, you can apply to multiple funders for the same (or a similar/related project.) You are required to include that information in the last question of the application.

Updated: December 14, 2015

MDA Contact

Julianne LaClair, J.D., Grant Specialist
julianne.laclair@state.mn.us, 651-201-6135

Ag Marketing & Development Division