Montana will use 2021 WSARE PDP grant funding to continue our professional development mini-grant program. These mini-grants, usually $2,500 or less are offered to Cooperative Extension professionals, university researchers and staff, non-profit agricultural advocacy organizations, agricultural producers and producer associations, and other entities and organizations involved in sustainable agricultural practices. In 2021 we expect to fund 8 to 10 mini-grant opportunities for professional development.
Of the grants funds distributed to Montana through the state implementation grant, we plan to utilize approximately $24,000, or 83% of funds to directly fund professional development opportunities to the mini-grant recipients. These mini-grant funds will be used as support funds to organize and hold professional development conferences and trainings for crops and livestock systems, host educational farm field days to present sustainable practices on the farm, host in-depth trainings to provide new information and additional knowledge and skills to producers, educators, and consultants, provide travel scholarships to conferences, and create opportunities for producers and communities to engage in economic growth and development possibilities to support agricultural enterprises.
Project objectives from proposal:
Montana’s short term objective through the PDP mini-grant program is to increase the knowledge, skills, and understanding of sustainable agricultural agriculture professionals and producers, with the ultimate objective of documented implementation of that new knowledge at the producer and agribusiness level. With the mini-grant system, the Montana PDP program supports multiple projects in different fields of agriculture, and increases the overall impact of funding through offering a wide variety of project types. In 2020, seed potato producers, beef cattle ranchers, berry growers, certified organic growers, cereal grain producers, and many other groups of constituents all applied to receive funding for professional development programming. The diversity of opportunity to gain new knowledge and information directly related to the specialty field the agricultural producers and professionals work in helps to inform and encourage a change in practice when presented with new and innovative approaches to agriculture and sustainability.