Grant-writing training for extension agents and service providers to support underserved farmers

Progress report for SPDP22-12

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2022: $79,996.00
Projected End Date: 06/30/2024
Grant Recipients: North Carolina A&T State University; NC State University
Region: Southern
State: North Carolina
Principal Investigator:
Kathleen Liang
North Carolina A&T State University
Dr. Kenrett Jefferson-Moore
NC A&T State University
Robyn Stout
NC 10% Campaign
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Project Information


Recent events like wildfire, flood, and COVID-19 put farmers in vulnerable situations, particularly for small, socially disadvantaged, and underserved farmers in rural communities. Farm operators often struggle to identify and secure resources to survive or strive for success. Learning to write successful grant applications takes significant time and effort. Many farmers give up on grant applications because of the intimidating process and confusing paperwork. Furthermore, it is difficult to find someone with experiences in grant-writing to provide effective strategies to build confidence in grant application, because many service providers have never written or submitted grant applications, or some may have experienced unsuccessful outcomes and feeling discouraged. This proposed project focuses on training the people who work with farmers (e.g., extension agents, government agents, nonprofit organizations) to enhance their knowledge, skills, and competency by working with experienced grant applicants (e.g., mentor farmers) and grantors (e.g., USDA program leaders, foundations, companies sponsors interested to support farmers) across several disciplines, with particular guidance for interdisciplinary collaboration to achieve economic viability and sustainable practices. Hands-on training will be delivered in person or via web-based format. Video clips will be produced and recorded to showcase best practices and lessons learned targeting on grant programs of building sustainable field practices, new market opportunities, and interdisciplinary collaboration. Racial equity training will be offered to bridge the gaps of understanding the culture, history, and communication to improve support and assistance while working with underserved farmers between grantors and service providers.

Project Objectives:

The target audiences of this proposed project include extension agents, government technical support staff, NGOs, and staff from companies and foundations who want to sponsor and support farmers. Our goal is to create effective grant writers to help farmers to apply for grants or other types of financial support focusing on building sustainable field practices and creating new market opportunities. The contents of grant-writing training will include understanding various types of projects, the nature of the grant programs, purposes of collaboration, team building, expected contributions, anticipated benefits, and valuation of collaborative efforts before embarking on new opportunities. For farmers, leading and participating in a grant-writing process also requires mentorship, patience, professionalism, and excellent communication beyond the day-to-day farming activities. For grantors and sponsors, it is important to understand issues, challenges, and diverse audiences working in agriculture. There are two objectives in this proposed project:

Objective 1. To fulfill collaborative efficacy and to equip extension agents, other service providers, and potential grantors/sponsors with knowledge and training materials of the historical context of race and equity in agriculture and in access to land and funding for agriculture.

Objective 2. To fulfill technical competency and to equip extension agents and other service providers with the knowledge and training materials to help farmers to write effective grants. 

To achieve Objective 1, annual racial equity training will be offered to grantors, funders, extension agents, and community-based organizations to develop a shared appreciation of the roles of history and culture playing in resource access and disparities. Professional facilitators will lead this training and the process analysis with project participants to help farmers access land and resources (e.g., how be inclusive in identifying partners for Farmers Market Development grant proposals, how to communicate effectively with diverse audiences, etc.)

Behavior Change under Objective 1: The expected learning outcomes would lead to: (1) increased understanding of our role in the historical construction of the racial hierarchy through higher education, agricultural and food systems; (2) increased understanding and acknowledgement our role in being an ally to communities most impacted by food systems disparity; and (3) increased willingness to apply guided tool to examine policies, practices and procedures to alleviate barriers.

To achieve Objective 2, we will work with professional grant-writing trainers to offer monthly in-person or online hands-on training for 30 extension agents and community-based organizations in Year 1. This cohort will lead the training for other extension agents and service providers in Year 2. Grantors/sponsors and mentor farmers with successful grant-writing experiences will also teach project participants where to find proper grants for farmers, how to write narratives, how to fill out required forms, how to put a budget together, key factors for success, and how reviewers evaluate grant applications. A professional photographer will be contracted to create short videos of interviews from people who have been successful or not successful in grant applications – storytelling from the applicants and farmers.

Behavior Change under Objective 2: The expected learning outcomes would lead to: (1) increased knowledge of how to design sound projects, including creating partnerships, timelines, and evaluation plans; (2) increased knowledge on finding funding opportunities, including where to find grant requests for proposals and how to navigate which are appropriate to the proposal; (3) increased ability of writing effective grant proposals, including how to organize the proposal contents, follow requirements, be realistic in budgets and results, and understand the review process; and (4) increased knowledge of how to design and create a draft proposal that meets the needs of the farmers or community-based programs to enhance productivity, profitability, and sustainability.

We are confident to achieve the objectives given our long-term relationships and connectivity with socially disadvantaged farmers and underserved communities. We have access to and will attend the following events to promote and recruit participants: State-wide Cooperative Extension networks, Small Farm Week workshops, Center for Environmental Farming Systems networks, NC Food Resiliency Project, Farm Shows, NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services networks, Farm Bureau, Farm Credit, Chamber of Commerce, etc.


Educational approach:

This project applies three different educational approaches to offer grant writing training that would be equitable and culturally appropriate in supporting socially disadvantaged agricultural producers.

The first approach is to offer racial equity workshops for faculty, staff, and students who are involved in project activities. The racial equity training introduces issues and strategies particularly within agricultural industries and food systems.

The second approach is to offer grant writing training for cooperative extension agents to work with agricultural producers in applying for grants. This is a train-the-trainer model to enhance and improve knowledge, skills, and competency for cooperative extension agents in North Carolina. Many agents working with rural communities and socially disadvantaged agricultural producers/organizations have received requests in grant writing assistance. Our team offers monthly or regular grant writing workshops via Zoom to help extension agents and farmers to work together. 

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Racial equity training

to improve the understanding and appreciation of diversity in agriculture and food systems.
to improve and enhance the competency in working with socially disadvantaged and underserved populations.


The Subaward funds to NC State University was delayed until April 2023; therefore, we were not able to offer the Fall 2022 Racial Equity in the Food System workshops or set up 2023 workshops with the trainers before their schedule filled for the year. However, we did partner with the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) Committee on Racial Equity (CORE) in the Food System and encouraged our food service, Extension, and student partners to attend CORE’s existing trainings. For the Level I trainings, 10 participants attended: 4 food service, 2 Extension, and 4 students. One food service partner also attended a Level II training. While we are not able to report on individual evaluation responses from these 10 specific participants, we can report that generally 1) 85% increased their understanding of historical construction of racial hierarchy through higher education, agriculture, and food systems, 2) 62% increased their understanding of a shared language around race, as a first step to understanding role as an ally, and 3) 96% agreed they would apply this knowledge to their racial equity work. We will continue to work with CORE on Racial Equity in the Food Systems trainings for Fall 2023 and Spring 2024.

Outcomes and impacts:

Since the grant proposal stage, our food system partners have either changed their farmer grant programs or have experienced turnover that has stalled their granting and local farmer procurement. Moving forward, we are not changing the scope of our work but, due to changes within the industry, we will be opening up our focus to additional food system supply chain characters. We will continue to facilitate conversations to better understand the food safety and sustainability requirements of wholesale procurement and any barriers to increasing support for BIPOC farmers.


Regarding our training and facilitation with funders, different groups have recently complained about funders supporting BIPOC farmers specifically - misunderstanding the purpose of the funds - and have forced funders to restructure their funding opportunities to placate those groups resulting in either repurposing or stalling the fund opportunities. We have recently attended two community partner feedback sessions to better understand how our farm and community organizations feel about current funding opportunities and the restructuring that has occurred. Community partners have complained that institutions receive large-scale, non-competitive funding while the community is asked to apply for competitive, small sets of funds. We are working with others at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) to understand our organization’s role in facilitating discussions between community members and funders on how to address community feedback and these disparities within funding streams.

As noted above, we will continue to encourage our partners to attend the upcoming CORE Racial Equity in the Food System trainings. Level II trainings focus specifically on how participants can apply this understanding to their work in supporting communities and partners impacted by inequities. We are in discussion with our food service partners on how to move forward on contracted racial equity analysis of their food service practices associated with a pipeline for mini-grant funding opportunities for farmers.

Grant writing training

to introduce the grant writing steps and techniques to cooperative extension agents and farmers
to guide grant search process
to share effective strategies in grant writing including project planning, grant budgeting, collaborations, evaluations, and review comments


The grant writing training workshop is 2 hours including the following topics.

  1. grant writing mindset preparation.
  2. project planning and coordination.
  3. goal setting.
  4. objectives and activities.
  5. collaboration and partnership.
  6. outcomes and evaluation.
  7. budget preparation.
  8. review process and responses.
  9. grant sources - government, foundations, and others.
  10. differences between a grant, cooperative agreement, cost share, and others.
  11. how to find grants.
  12. how to sign up to get more information.

Participants engage in interactive activities using internet weblinks, hands-on exercises, and role play.

Outcomes and impacts:

Over 150 farmers, extension agents, and community organizations have participated in our grant writing sessions. The educational materials have been shared with more than 400 farmers across the country. When we do training via Zoom, we open registration for all extension staff and agents across the country. We also share information on our field days (July 12 and July 13 in 2022 and 2023) with more than 200 participants. We will continue to keep records of impacts.

Evaluation training for graduate students

1. to provide information and training for graduate students enrolled in AgriBusiness program at North Carolina A&T State University to participate and conduct project evaluation.
2. to gather information about project impacts.


Students went through a case study training to learn techniques about program evaluation. The case study focused on a proposed Warren County (North Carolina) Research Center on Growing Healthy Food.  Students worked as a multidisciplinary group including students from two of the three concentration areas in the MS Agriculture and Environmental Systems program (i.e., Agribusiness and Food Industry Management and Integrated Animal Health Systems).  Each group was required to conduct a case analysis providing recommendations for sustainably produced livestock products that will contribute to agricultural production systems supported by Warren County and surrounding communities.


The Case Analysis included 5 sections (executive summary, statement of the problem, causes of the problem, decision criteria and alternative solutions, and recommend solution/implementation/justification) be submitted as a minimum of 10 pages double-spaced Word document with one-inch margins (left, right, top, and bottom) and 12-point font size – Times New Roman or Garamond.   

Upon the completion of the analysis, recommendations should include:

  1. Proposed animal production systems for local farmers to increase their income by selling livestock products for local and regional markets and beyond.
  2. Selected livestock products that can be sustainably produced, processed, and marketed this area at sufficient production levels that add to the region’s agricultural revenues.
Outcomes and impacts:

Students should have a general sense of program evaluation, steps needed to complete a program evaluation, and be able to create/design strategies to complete evaluation for our project. 

Educational & Outreach Activities

4 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
4 On-farm demonstrations
10 Online trainings
5 Tours
4 Webinars / talks / presentations

Participation Summary:

38 Extension
15 Nonprofit
100 Farmers/ranchers
300 Others

Learning Outcomes

100 Participants gained or increased knowledge, skills and/or attitudes about sustainable agriculture topics, practices, strategies, approaches
25 Ag professionals intend to use knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness learned

Project Outcomes

1 Grant received that built upon this project
25 New working collaborations
Project outcomes:

The grant writing program significantly enhanced participants' knowledge and skills in preparation, planning, and designing effective projects. All participants agreed that they received new information and become more informed about where to find grants, how to read RFA, who to contact for grant preparation, how to complete paperwork and submission procedures. They also revealed that they would share information with their communities. Our statistics showed that almost 60 percent of the participants were women (farmers and extension agents), they were all socially disadvantaged groups from underserved communities, and most of them were between 45 and 64 years of age. We have shared the workshop contents on our website, and will reach out to more farmers and extension agents to participate in advanced training.

40 Agricultural service provider participants who used knowledge and skills learned through this project (or incorporated project materials) in their educational activities, services, information products and/or tools for farmers
250 Farmers reached through participant's programs
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.