Iowa Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Professional Development Program

Welcome to the Iowa Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) website! The purpose of this website is to help you find information on SARE local, regional and national programs, grants and resources. It also provides updates on relevant news and events going on in Iowa and affecting Iowa agriculture. Since 1988, the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program has advanced profitable and environmentally sound farming systems that are good for communities through a nationwide research and education grants program.

Iowa SARE PDP Program State Initiatives

  • Building Leadership, Communication, and Capacity in Sustainable Agriculture
  • Implementing Diversified Production and Marketing Systems
  • Scaling up and Strengthening Local Foods Systems
  • Addressing Issues in Soil Health, Water Quality, Energy and Climate

Iowans Received NCR SARE Grant Funding in 2017

Professional Development:

  • Training Extension Educators and Local Food Professionals on Sustainable Vegetable Pest Management Tools and Techniques., (Iowa State University) 2017.


  • Decreasing Energy Use and Cost of Grain Drying by Extending Drying Period Using Ground-Stored Heat.(Jellum Farm, Osage, IA) 2017.

Graduate Student:

  • Integration of Poultry and Cover Crops for Soil Health in Vegetable Production. (Iowa State University) 2017.

Research and Education:

  • Growing Profitable, Sustainable Farming Businesses with Beginning Refugee Farmers in Central Iowa (Lutheran Services in Iowa) 2016.


  • Collaborative Food Supply Chains for Iowa's Farmers (Iowa Valley Resource Conservation and Development) 2016.
  • Agronomy in the Field: A Women's Cohort for Increasing Capacity of Agronomic and Conservation Principles. (Iowa State University Extension and Outreach) 2017.

Youth Educator:

  • Fun with Food Summer Camp for 9-12 year olds at Central College in Pella, Iowa. (Central College) 2017.

You can learn more about the progress of these projects later this year and previous projects funded through SARE by searching the SARE data base at:

NCR-SARE Announces 2018 Professional Development Sustainable Agriculture Grants Call for Proposals

February 1, 2018

The 2018 North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program’s (NCR-SARE) Professional Development Program call for proposals is now available online at

NCR-SARE’s Professional Development Program (PDP) provides funds for professional development projects that provide sustainable agriculture training to agricultural professionals and educators in the Cooperative Extension Service (CES), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), other governmental agencies, and educators in the profit and non-profit sector serving the food and fiber system.

Projects can be up to three years in duration, and funding level is capped at $75,000 for each project, but projects requesting less than full amount are encouraged. Approximately $450,000 will be available for funding projects. NCR-SARE will be accepting online proposal submissions using our online submission system. More information about the online submission system can be found in the call for proposals. Proposals are due at 4pm CDT on March 22, 2018.

New Organic Management Resource Available

SARE’s new Organic Production topic room assists organic producers who are struggling to manage pests, fertility and tillage in compliance with stringent organic standards. Including a wide range of free materials developed by SARE, SARE grant recipients and experts in the field, Organic Production addresses:

●   Pest Management: Use pest life cycles and biological factors to influence pest growth and management.
●   Whole Systems: Manage your organic operation as an integrated, whole system.
●   Seeds: Grow and save your own organic seeds.
●   Fertility Management: Optimize fertility using cover crops, manure, crop rotation and organic fertilizers.
●   Certification: Understand USDA certification, agencies, regulations and cost.
●   ...and more!

Please note: Organic Production includes some resources containing practices and suggestions that may not align with USDA organic certification requirements. Users should read carefully and always check with their organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials.

Seed Mix for Monarchs and Bees Developed by Iowa State

High diversity Monarch on flowerseed mix provides habitat that blooms throughout the growing season

AMES, Iowa – Determining the right mix of perennials to use as habitat for monarch butterflies and bees can be challenging. Researchers with Iowa State University Extension and O have worked to provide a mix that provides a diversity of flowers that bloom throughout the growing season.

“We hope this seed mix will be used by people in Iowa to provide habitat for monarch butterflies and bees,” said Blodgett, professor and chair of the Department of Entomology at Iowa State. “The seed mix includes a diversity of flowers which bloom through all months of the growing season to provide nectar and pollen sources from early spring to late fall.”

All perennials in the mix are native to Iowa, including three species of milkweed, which is the monarch caterpillar’s only host plant. The mix also contains nectar-producing species that benefit butterflies as well as many pollinators, such as bees.

“A robust seed mix that contains a variety of species is important because it allows for establishment in a wide variety of environments,” said Appelgate, agricultural specialist with Iowa State. The species included in the mix were selected to perform in well and moderately well-drained soils. The mix has been planted at ISU Research and Demonstration Farms, as well as on private land in cooperation with farmers and landowners throughout the state.

This information is available through a new ISU Extension and Outreach publication titled “Monarch Seed Mix High Diversity” (ENT 0047) and is available through the Extension Store. The publication and seed mix were developed by Seth Appelgate, Sue Blodgett, Steven Bradbury, Diane Debinski, Robert Hartzler, John Pleasants and Dana Schweitzer with Iowa State and Richard Hellmich with USDA-ARS. The publication also includes a chart showing the months when specific grasses and forbs from the mix will bloom, as well as forb flower color.

Iowa State University is not directly selling this seed mix but the list of species can be purchased from native seed suppliers in Iowa.  

Iowa Water Conference: Our Watershed, Our Community

March 21-22, 2018

Scheman Building, Iowa State Center
Ames, Iowa

The Iowa Water Conference is the largest outreach and collaboration effort of the Iowa Water Center and is designed to bring together multi-disciplinary organizations and institutions to discuss relevant water issues across Iowa. The inaugural event in 2006 combined several existing conferences with the purpose of coordinating research and management efforts. Since then, the conference has grown and draws nearly 400 attendees. The conference encompasses the whole of Iowa’s water landscape including expanding into realms of education and outreach, conservation, policy and regulations.

Through general and concurrent sessions, conference goers will explore current trends across water resource management in both urban and rural landscapes, with a particular emphasis on the interconnected nature of our water resources, and the opportunities this offers for collaboration.

The conference also offers sessions for research and educational posters from water professionals, as well as a poster competition for students.

Register here.

Our Farms, Our Future:
The Next 30 Years of Sustainable Agriculture

National SARE Conference

April 3-5, 2018
Hyatt Regency at the Arch
Downtown St. Louis, Missouri

Mark your calendars for an important national sustainable agriculture event one year from now, the Our Farms, Our Future conference, hosted by SARE and NCAT/ATTRA. This national event will bring together our diverse agricultural community: farmers and ranchers, agricultural professionals, agribusiness, students, researchers, scientists, agency representatives, and nonprofit leaders. Every decade, SARE hosts a conference to look at the progress of sustainability in agriculture, and to understand our trajectory for the future.

You can look forward to:

●  Dynamic keynote speakers
●  Engaging panel sessions featuring new and established farmers and ranchers
●  Farm tours
●  Project posters by SARE grant recipients
●  Breakout sessions on such topics as cover crops and soil health, grazing for beef and dairy, urban agriculture, success stories in farming and ranching, and water
●  A pre-conference session led by NCAT/ATTRA for military veterans featuring previous Armed to Farm program participant
●  And more!

For more information go to:


Upcoming Conferences in Iowa:

February 10, 2018  Iowa Small Farms Conference, Ames, IA

Click the Calendar tab for more information on these events and other Sustainable agriculture workshops, field days, and conferences in and around Iowa.

2016-17 Cover Crop Survey Report is Available

Since SARE and the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) began their annual cover crop survey in 2012, there has been a steady increase in cover crop acreage among participants. In this year’s survey, farmers said they committed an average of 400 acres each to cover crops in 2016, up from 217 acres per farm in 2012. They expected to increase their cover crop planting in 2017 to an average of 451 acres. 

This marks the fifth consecutive year in which the survey reported yield increases in corn and soybeans following cover crops. It is the first year the survey team was able to calculate the impact of cover crops on wheat yields.

Following the use of cover crops, farmers reported increased yields of corn, soybeans and wheat, and improvement in the control of herbicide-resistant weeds, according to a nationwide survey. In addition, the survey of 2,012 farmers showed acreage planted in cover crops has nearly doubled over the past five years.

Survey participants—88 percent of whom use cover crops—reported that after cover crops:

  • Corn yields increased an average of 2.3 bushels per acre, or 1.3 percent;
  • Soybean yields increased 2.1 bushels per acre, or 3.8 percent;
  • Wheat yields  increased 1.9 bushels per acre, or 2.8 percent.

        Download the full report.