Why a Graduate Student Grant Program

Grad student discussing research in a field

Collaborative, On-Farm Solutions

The cornerstone of the SARE program is the idea that sustainable solutions to complex challenges in farming and ranching arise when scientists, educators and producers work together to test theories in real-world, on-farm situations. For this approach itself to be sustainable, there must always be a strong pool of agricultural scientists rising through the ranks who believe in it too—professionals who know how to use collaborative, applied research to address the real-world needs of farmers and ranchers.

This is why SARE offers research grants through its unique Graduate Student Grant program.

Impacts and Milestones

We are proud to say we hit a major milestone in 2016 when we awarded our 600th Graduate Student grant. Since 2000, the four SARE regions have awarded a total of $7.2 million to 600 graduate students (see details).

Through the stories of individual grantees, you will begin to see the impact of this investment. It is a clear reflection of the program’s primary objective, which is to foster the next generation of agricultural scientists and their interest in sustainable systems.

What the Students Gain

For the majority of master’s and Ph.D. students who received a SARE grant, it was their first experience applying for and managing a grant of any kind. This, of course, represents a fundamental learning opportunity for anybody planning a career in agricultural research, education or Extension. Taken a step further, the SARE application process challenges students to consider how their research interests can be framed to be meaningful to farmers and ranchers, and to advance sustainable agriculture. As a result, this grant program gets students out of the lab, into the field and talking to farmers.

From this foundation—managing a grant, conducting applied research, contributing to the body of agricultural knowledge—SARE graduate student grantees are equipped to launch their careers in research, Extension and teaching, and the majority do. Many use their experience to leverage larger grants, both from SARE and other sources. Shoshanah Inwood, now a faculty member at the University of Vermont, took the seed of her graduate student project and grew it into $1 million in USDA and state funding, which she now uses to address the unique health insurance needs of farm and ranch families.

Finally, and perhaps most significantly, the SARE Graduate Student grant program encourages students to address agricultural challenges using the principles of sustainability. As you will see from reading this report, the next generation of agricultural scientists is already engaged, passionately and creatively, in this very pursuit.

"I have found this to be a very effective program, for many reasons. The students learn to write a proposal, manage funds to get the research done and create a final report. The SARE funding is often seed money for further research. And very importantly, the students gain experience in communicating with the end user (producer) by giving presentations. Altogether this is a very valuable program."

Mohammad Babadoost, University of Illinois