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
|The Minnesota 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
“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
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 website,
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