November 19, 2009

Specialty Crops Awarded Funds to Further Enhance Industry

The Missouri Department of Agriculture today announced that they have selected 13 agricultural projects across Missouri to receive funding provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.  The grant program assists state Departments of Agriculture in enhancing the competitiveness of the specialty crops in their state.  The federal assistance totaling over $269,731 is targeted to specialty crops which USDA defines as fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and horticulture (including floriculture and turf grass sod).  The one-year grants are administered through USDA's Agriculture Marketing Service Specialty Crop Block grant program. 

"Missouri has many innovative specialty crop growers dedicated to education, good management practices and seeking new ways to increase the sustainability of the industry," said Director of Agriculture Dr. Jon Hagler.  "Specialty crops continue to grow in popularity among consumers and we are committed to assisting Missouri farmers in any way we can."

The following projects have received funding:

  • Educating from Seed to Market: Sustainable Heirloom Tomato and Lettuce - Earth Dance, organic farm in St. Louis area - Project: enhance the competitiveness of sustainably-grown heirloom vegetables by increasing the number of producers through an innovative apprenticeship program based in St. Louis.
  • Leveraging Social Media as Farmers' Market Promotional Tools - Curators of University of Missouri - Project: identify and communicate social media strategies and best practices for marketing specialty crops that Missouri farmers' market organizers and vendors can adopt.
  • Introducing High Tunnel Technology and Enhancing Food Safety Practices - Webb City Farmers' Market - Project: to improve the success of the immigrant farmers through workshops that demonstrate high tunnel technology and food safety practices.
  • Assessing the Impact of Canopy Architecture, Microclimate and Cluster Exposure on Norton Grape - Curators of University of Missouri - Project: assess the impacts of row orientation and canopy-management practices on Norton grapes in three regionally district Norton vineyards in Missouri through canopy architecture assessment and point quadrant analysis.
  • Dent County Garden'n Grow Program - University of Missouri Extension - Project: educate and train youth in gardening skills and food entrepreneurship techniques, intro to healthy cooking, nutrition and volunteer service.
  • Economic Analysis of a Paddock Vacuum for Mechanical Harvest of Chestnut Trees - Curators of University of Missouri - Project: help growers make more informed decisions regarding the expansion or establishment of chestnut production operations through the evaluation of a commercially available paddock vacuum and clarify payback periods, labor reduction savings, operational costs and returns to investment.
  • Local Food Systems: General Fruit and Vegetable Production - Curators of University of Missouri - Project: educate current and potential farmers on transition into specialty crop production for local consumption.
  • South Central Ozarks Produce Express - Floating Farms LLC - Project: address the needs of small, independent specialty crop producers in Texas, Ripley, Howell and Oregon counties in Missouri through retail-readiness training and transportation.
  • Optimizing an inexpensive Trap and Lure for Monitoring Green June Beetles - Missouri State University - Project: develop and optimize a prototype of a Green June Beetle monitoring trap for specialty crop producers.
  • High Tunnel Production of Green Beans and Sweet Pea Cut Flowers - Curators of University of Missouri - Project: demonstrate that out-of-season green beans can be grown in Missouri using high tunnels, assess consumer demand for out-of-season locally grown green beans and evaluate the economic viability of inter-cropping sweet peas with green beans to produce out-of-season sweet pea cut flowers for local floral shops.
  • River Hills Elderberry Producers Growers Recruitment Project - Missouri River Hills Elderberry Producers - Project: introduce farmers and agricultural landowners to the benefits of raising elderberries and attract them to educational meetings about the benefits of cooperative membership and elderberry culture.
  • Developing a Strategy for Chestnut Weevil Monitoring - Curators of University of Missouri - Project: determine whether plant volatiles from chestnut can be utilized as effective attractants for the chestnut weevil.
  • Positioning MVGA to lead the Industry in Growth and Competitiveness - Missouri Vegetable Growers Association - Project: continue education and outreach through increased technological capabilities, promotion of workshops and scholarship, increased emphasis on food safety, and further collaboration activities with academic and extension organizations.

For more information about the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program please contact, Tony Anderson at (573) 751-2969 or