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University of California Cooperative Extension

UCCE Small Farm Program in Santa Clara County
Successfully Helps Local Farms with CDFA Grant Applications

QI ZHOU, UCCE Small Farms Specialist, Santa Clara County;
APARNA GAZULA, UCCE Small Farms Advisor, Santa Clara, San Benito and Santa Cruz Counties.

The cost of installing, maintaining, and updating agricultural irrigation systems can be very high, especially for small farmers with very low farmed acres. The California Department of Agriculture (CDFA) provides grant funding through the State Water Efficiency & Enhancement Program (SWEEP) to farmers interested in increasing the water and energy efficiency of their irrigation systems. CDFA also offers farmers grant funding to improve their soil health through the Healthy Soils Program (HSP). The HSP stems from the California Healthy Soils Initiative, a collaboration of state agencies and departments that promote the development of healthy soils on California's farmlands and ranch lands. The HSP Incentives Program provides financial incentives to California growers and ranchers to implement conservation management practices that sequester carbon, reduce atmospheric greenhouse gases, and improve soil health.

These grant opportunities are competitive and submitting a well written grant application with all the needed supporting documents is very challenging for small and limited resource farmers with language barriers. The University of California Cooperative Extension Small Farm Program (UCCE SFP) in Santa Clara County collaborated with technical assistance providers from UC Agriculture and Natural Resources and Santa Clara County Farm Bureau, and presented information about the SWEEP grant opportunity at 3 workshops on Nov 15th and Dec 3rd, 2019 (2 workshops in Mandarin and 1 workshop in English); with 51 total attendees and HSP grant opportunity at 2 workshops on Jan 10th (Mandarin presentations) and Feb 7th (English presentations), 2020; with 57 total attendees.  

UCCE Santa Clara County Small Farm Program are hosting HSP workshop to local growers on Feb 7th at San Martin Lions Club. Photo by Qi Zhou
UCCE Santa Clara County Small Farm Program are hosting HSP workshop to local growers on Feb 7th at San Martin Lions Club. Photo by Qi Zhou

After the workshops, 12 farmers received one-on-one technical assistance to submit SWEEP grant applications and 10 farmers received assistance to submit HSP grant applications. Some of the practices for which growers sought SWEEP funding included replacing inefficient pumps, replacing leaking pipes and sprinklers, installing water monitoring tools such as flow meters to assist with irrigation schedule, and replacing smaller diameter pipes with a bigger size to improve operating pressure in the irrigation system. Some of the practices that growers sought HSP funding for included applying compost, mulch, and sawdust to the soil. All 22 growers that received grant application assistance from UCCE SFP in Santa Clara County were successfully funded, bringing in a total amount of $424,111.90 in CDFA grant funds to local small farmers in Santa Clara County ($337,382.03 for SWEEP and $86,729.87 for HSP).

Currently, the UCCE SFP is assisting the 22 growers with the implementation of these projects on their farms and will continue to do so until the end of their grant funding period (Dec. 15, 2021 for SWEEP and June 23rd, 2023 for HSP).