SPECA Challenge Grants Program

USDA's National Institute for Food and Agriculture is now accepting applications for the Secondary Education, Two-Year Post-Secondary Education, and Ag in the K-12 Classroom (SPECA) Challenge Grants Programs. The goals of this program are (1) to enhance the quality of K-14 instruction in order to help meet current and future national food, agricultural, natural resources, and human (FANH) sciences workplace needs; and (2) to increase the number and diversity of students who will pursue and complete a 2 or 4 year degree in the food, agricultural, natural resources and human (FANH) sciences. An estimated $858,500 in funding is available to fund projects that promote and strengthen education in agricultural sciences and business in K-12 and associate degree educational settings. Approximately 21% of all proposals receive funding.

Program Requirements and Eligibility
Applicants must be public secondary schools, non-profit junior or community colleges, institutions of higher education, or non-profit organizations. Proposals must support for-credit, academic instruction for a state Agriculture in the Classroom program (with an accompanying letter from the relevant state Ag in the Classroom organization), a specific focus on academic grades 9-12 (secondary school), or a specific focus on the junior or community college (post-secondary education). Projects must provide rationale for how it will support students to pursue higher degrees in FAHN sciences or enter the FANH sciences workforce. The SPECA Challenge Grants Program requires 100% funding match with some exceptions. The deadline to submit applications is March 18, 2016.

Funding in the Northeast
Since 2003, the SPECA Challenge Grants Program has funded 72 projects, only 11 of which are in the NESAWG 12-state region. Some of the projects funded in our region include:

  • A four acre Center for Sustainability Outdoor Classroom with an orchard, vegetable garden, and bio-fuels production in Central New York
  • Sustainable agriculture curriculum in secondary education settings in West Virginia
  • An initiative that provides curriculum, mentoring opportunities, professional development focused on sustainable agriculture in Western Massachusetts.

More Info
USDA Program Webpage Opportunity