Free water - minus most of the electricity costs needed to pump it - will be a huge boost to organic farmer Dan Kuebler's profits.
The Ashland, Mo., grower was one of 11 farmers and ranchers in the state to be awarded a Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education grant in the producer category this spring.
Kuebler plans to install a solar cell powered water pump to move water from his pond to one of the vegetable fields on his 30-acre farm. He estimates the pump will save thousands of dollars on his water bill during the growing season. The grant requires Kuebler to document the success or failure of his project and present the findings publicly.
Kuebler won a $5,600 grant. He estimated the total project will cost $7,000. His plans are to pump pond water, via the solar pump, about 20 feet up a hill to a 3,000- to 5,000-gallon cistern or holding tank. Another pump, powered by traditional electricity, will push the water through his irrigation lines in the acre-and-a-half field.
Kuebler also will attempt to recover rainwater runoff from the roof of a nearby building.
The farmer estimated it would cost him $100 monthly, during growing season, for the traditional electricity used for his drip and small overhead irrigation systems. But he expects to save thousands on his summer water bill.
Don Day, University of Missouri Extension natural resource engineer, visited Kuebler's farm in April to help assess his irrigation needs.
"I haven't seen a solar pump used for this application. I have seen it with some livestock watering operations," Day said. "I'm hoping it will create energy savings and allow for less reliance on power generated from coal or other means."
Show-Me the Grant
Missouri farmers dominated the 12-state North Central Region of SARE in the farmer and rancher category this year. There were 47 grants awarded to a pool of 180 applicants.
Jose Garcia, University of Missouri Extension coordinator of the Community Food Systems and Sustainable Agriculture Program, has led the charge to increase the number of grant proposals coming out of Missouri. He sits on the 18- to 20-member grant committee. He also presents workshops around the state on general grant-writing techniques.
"We have put an extra effort into making farmers more aware of the grant program and we offer assistance in teaching how to prepare applications," Garcia says. "A grant gives them enough money for an idea they want to try out on their farm."
In the coming year, he hopes to expand the number of SARE grant proposals and awards for Missouri in the other three SARE categories: research and education, professional development, and graduate student programs.SARE grants are funded through USDA. A call for new grant proposals is expected in early fall, with applications due in late November or early December. For more information, call (573) 884-3794, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.