ST. PAUL, Minnesota,
October 27, 2003: For organic growers, practical
information can sometimes be difficult to find. That’s
why the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is offering
a new organic demonstration grant program designed to help
farmers try out new organic practices on their own farms.
The MDA’s Agricultural Resources Management and Development
Division will award up to $50,000 for organic demonstration
projects this year. According to Agricultural Diversification
Specialist Meg Moynihan, the grant program fills a need for
the organic community.
your own organic research initiatives
Organic Demonstration Grants program is being made
possible through a joint effort between the Minnesota
Department of Agriculture (MDA) and the USDA Risk
Management Agency (RMA). According to Meg Moynihan,
MDA’s Diversification Specialist, the partnership
allows the MDA to provide the state’s organic
sector with a way to investigate and hopefully eliminate
some of the uncertainties that still surround organic
farming while the Risk Management Office provides
the finances necessary.
Minnesota got the funding by applying to the
Risk Management agency’s open call for grant
proposals but it got the idea from a grant program
it was already running. The MDA operates a grant
program that supports research in sustainable
agriculture. The Department found that, despite
no specific requirement, farmers were eager to
share their results with each other. It was this
idea of information dissemination that gave the
new organic program its most innovative component.
The organic program would learn from the sustainable
program’s successes. The demonstration portion
would now be a requirement and in many ways the
most important aspect of the new program. According
to Moynihan, the demonstrations make the program
unique because they put the farmer in charge instead
of relying on outside organizations to push new
developments and research.
For other states looking to develop a similar
project Moynihan recommends contacting your regional
Risk Management Out-reach person and establishing
a relationship. “Risk Management is usually
associated with insurance but they have a lot
of programs that seek to reduce risks in a number
of ways,” said Moynihan.
For contact information for your regional office
go to: http://www.rma.usda.gov/
“We are partnering with the USDA Risk Management agency
to make this special program possible,” Moynihan said.
“These grants can reduce the risk associated with trying
a new practice, especially something as intricate as organic
production. By sharing what they learn from the demonstrations,
participants also help other Minnesota organic farmers create
success for their own operations.”
In what is probably the most unique aspect of the grant program,
all recipients must present their findings in a public forum
to other farmers. Field days are probably the most popular
option according to Moynihan but she said the department would
be open to a variety of presentation methods, “Whatever
the farmer is comfortable with as long as long as the information
gets out there.” She also suggested an educational session,
conference presentation or an article for a local newspaper.
Individual grants up to $5,000 are available for one-year
projects that demonstrate organic crop, livestock, or vegetable
production practices. Joint applications from groups of farmers
will also be considered.
The MDA has offered the following list of eligible projects
but stresses that farmers are in no way limited to these suggestions.
Instead they are encouraging farmers to come to them with
the problems they feel are in most need of solutions.
• Weed management;
• Cover-cropping and inter-seeding strategies;
• Pest and disease management;
• Soil issues, including fertility management, biological
health, and conservation;
• Alternative grains for livestock feed;
• Organic livestock management, including parasite control
• Improving cosmetics of fruits and vegetables to increase
• Issues related to transitioning from conventional,
including agronomics and economics;
• Reducing cost of production to increase profit margins.
Projects must be on Minnesota farms to qualify. Farms need
to be organic but they do not need to be certified. In addition
to the presentations, results of the demonstrations will also
be available in the Greenbook, a free annual publication produced
by the MDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Program. Completed
applications must be received by December 12, 2003.
Applications and more information are available on the MDA
or by contacting Meg Moynihan at 651-297-7686 or by mail at
90 West Plato Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55107. An independent panel
will review applications.