A Minneapolis nonprofit working with Douglas County and eight other counties has received a grant from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

It was one of nine Agricultural Growth, Research, and Innovation Sustainable Agriculture Demonstration grants totaling $241,009 that went to farmers and researchers across the state. In its 29-year history, more than $4.2 million has been granted to farmers by the program.

The projects, which last two to three years, will explore sustainable agriculture practices and systems that could make farming more profitable, resource efficient and personally satisfying. They involve innovative topics such as cover cropping, soil fertility, fruits and vegetables, alternative markets or specialty crops, livestock and energy.

Environmental Initiative received a $50,000 two-year grant, with $25,000 in matching funds, to investigate and create case studies for farming practices that benefit both cost of production for farmers and natural resource conservation, especially water quality. The project will also demonstrate the benefits of these practices to dairy and row crop farmers, and engage and support farmers in making changes through a public-private-nonprofit collaboration.

Partners will assist dairy and crop farmers in quantifying the economic and environmental benefits of, for example, conservation tillage, crop rotations and improved nutrient management.

In addition to Douglas, the project also involves Stearns, Todd, Morrison, Benton, Wright, Meeker, Kandiyohi and Pope counties.

Applications for the next round of SustAg grants are being accepted through Dec. 17, with projects from farmers receiving priority. For full details and the online application, go to mda.state.mn.us.