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Grazing for Appalachian Sustainability (GRASS)

Serving small and underserved farmers in Central Appalachia with a goal of 135 participating farms in West Virginia and Virginia in five years.

West Virginia University Extension is leading the five-year GRazing for Appalachian SuStainability (GRASS) grant project. The goal of the GRASS project is to improve knowledge and management practices for 135 small and underserved farmers in Central Appalachia, including 55 farmers from all of West Virginia and 80 farmers in 25 western counties in Virginia, to expand markets for climate-smart cattle and beef. Individuals may receive compensation for their participation in the GRASS project, which was awarded by the USDA Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities. The GRASS project has over $3,500,000 available to incentive producer participation.

The GRASS project provides farmers with educational and technical assistance, as well as financial incentives, to support the transition from conventional management to sustainable, climate-smart conservation practices on working lands. Transitioning to conservation management practices for cattle and beef production will improve soil health, reduce greenhouse gases and support carbon sequestration rates while boosting economic outcomes for small and underserved farmers in Appalachia.

Participating farmers may qualify to receive an annual cash incentive, training and marketing assistance. Implementation incentives will be awarded when farmers adopt climate-smart practices on working land. Approved climate-smart USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) practices include:

  • Silvopasture (Code 381)
  • Fencing (Code 382)
  • Pasture and hay planting (Code 512)
  • Prescribed grazing (Code 528)
  • Nutrient management (Code 590)
  • Watering facility (Code 614)

Types of producer incentives available

Adoption & Implementation of Conservation Practices: Most of the funding available (~$2,700,000 total, ~$20,000 per producer) will be used to help producers adopt and implement conservation practices. This includes funding for supplies and equipment as well as incentives on a per acre basis that are determined by the practices implemented. Producers are particularly encouraged to consider implementing Silvopasture and Prescribed Grazing.

Reporting: Participants implementing conservation practices will also receive incentives ($675,000 total, ~$5,000 per producer) to assist with reporting requirements. The GRASS team will collect soil samples to long-term to determine soil health benefits and participants will  be compensated for their time cost associated with collecting data for the project.

Mentoring: Additional producer incentives will be used to compensate farmers for time and use of their farm to host producer-led, on-farm field days, which will allow for peer-to-peer learning, networking and informational mentoring relationships.

Grazing School Participation: Producer incentives will be used to compensate farmers for their time, travel and enrollment to bring the latest climate-smart grazing management production practices to participants through two-day grazing schools. These training events will educate producers on the supported conservation practices, as well as basic training in soil health, plant species, growth patterns and responses to grazing, and animal nutrition and management required to successfully grow cattle and beef for climate-smart markets.

Project Partners

  • WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design; WVU Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources; WVU Extension Small Farm Center
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
  • Virginia State University Cooperative Extension Small Farm Outreach Program
  • West Virginia Conservation Agency
  • West Virginia Association of Conservation Districts
  • Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation
  • Hickory Nut Gap
  • Farmers United Cattle Company

Working with our partners on this project, our goal is to have 135 participating farms in West Virginia and Virginia. If you are interested in participating, apply now. Underserved and socially disadvantaged producers are especially encouraged to participate, including beginning farmers, veteran producers, and operators of small family farms.

 Express Your Interest Here

For more information on the GRASS project, reach out to Lisa Jones, WVU Extension Small Farm Center.