NSAC's Blog

2011 Specialty Crop Block Grants Announced

October 5, 2011

On Wednesday, October 5, USDA Deputy Secretary Merrigan announced the 2011 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program awards, the sixth year of awards for this program.  In total, 55 grants are being awarded for 740 initiatives totaling about $55 million.

On a press call announcing the awards, Merrigan noted that “this year, similar to last year, there is a huge interest in local.”  She specified that 54 of the 55 States and Territories requested funding for efforts related to local or regional food systems: “They are sending a strong message that support is needed.”

On the press call, Merrigan gave a few specific examples of newly awarded initiatives related to local and regional food:

  • In Oklahoma, funds to partner with Copper Bear Farms to offer free salad bar options to children grades Pre-K through fifth grade and produce a business model for local farmers to grow reliable and quality salad bar crops for distribution to local schools
  • In Utah, funds to partner with Bear Lake Raspberry Company to increase accessibility of raspberry storage to rural farmers through the provision of a grower-shared commercial freezer that will be used to store raspberries as well as a refrigerated trailer to transport those berries to major population centers areas throughout the intermountain west
  • In South Dakota, funds to partner with the Value Added Agriculture Development Center to develop a statewide Online Marketplace to connect specialty crop growers and buyers
  • In Massachusetts and New Hampshire, funds to partner with the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources and the New England Apple Association to develop profitable long-term food service markets for fresh-sliced apples and build the region’s capacity to meet the increased demand

Merrigan also highlighted farm to school programs as another of this year’s “themes.”  Funded initiatives this year for farm to school efforts include:

  • In Iowa, funds to promote the purchase of State’s specialty crops through the establishment of additional chapters and other initiatives established within the Iowa Farm to School program
  • In Oregon, funds to pilot a new national service program, FoodCorps, through the coordination of the Oregon Farm to School and School Garden Program with the Oregon Department of Education and extensive public-private partnerships around the state; support specialty crop agriculture, food and environmental literacy in the state, and foster new career entrants into farming and food processing of specialty crops
  • Also in Oregon, funds to partner with Corvallis Environmental Center to increase purchases of Oregon specialty crops by school districts, promote Oregon fruits and vegetable to children and their families, and serve as a model for emerging farm to school programs in Oregon

Merrigan was joined on the call by Bruce Grim, Executive Director of the Washington State Horticultural Association, who spoke about the utility of previously participating in the program to create a food safety program including a guidance manual that allows orchards to be “audit ready,” which he added is “a huge cost saving for growers.”  Also on the call was Bill Brim, President of Lewis Taylor Farms in Georgia.  Brim discussed the use of program funds to launch in spring 2010 a locally grown program, GeorgiaGrownFun.com, which he said “created an avenue for small growers.”

Following up on these examples, Merrigan pointed out that Specialty Crop Block Grants promote the development of new markets and that “new markets equal new revenue and new jobs.”

NSAC advocates for the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and supports the use of program funds for the development of local and regional food systems, recognizing that these systems increase farm income and stimulate economic development.

Congratulations to the NSAC members receiving 2011 funds from the program:

  • Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (ACEnet) to assist specialty crop producers to increase wholesale market access and profitability for fresh and processed specialty crops to restaurants, grocery retailers and educational institutions by providing Market Ready, Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Point (HACCP) training, regional brand promotions, and improved processing and packaging technologies
  • Carolina Farm Stewardship Association to publish a report documenting the wholesale demand for organic produce grown in North Carolina, to provide organic transition support services to specialty crop producers, and to work with North Carolina Fresh Produce Safety Task Force small-farm workgroup on the Local Produce Safety Initiative to identify pathogen control best management practices for small farmers
  • Carolina Farm Stewardship Association to improve outreach to South Carolina specialty crop producers about resource conservation programs and increase adoption of conservation practices; allow them to reduce the cost of implementing organic pest and disease control practices; and provide organic/transitioning producers with the tools they need in order to be in compliance with the National Organic Program
  • CitySeed in Connecticut to deliver a creative, buy local marketing campaign via free space on BuyCT Grown and through  point of sale materials that target maple syrup, nursery products, summer berries, pick-your-own apples, tree fruit, pumpkins and Christmas trees
  • Community Alliance with Family Farmers in California to create a food safety extension program targeting small and minority farmers through workshops and one-on-one assistance
  • Fay-Penn Economic Council in Pennsylvania to establish a Local Economy Initiative that focuses efforts to rebuild a local sustainable food system and promote direct farm-to-consumer sales, farmers markets, and other sustainable agriculture marketing practices.
  • Illinois Stewardship Alliance to increase specialty crop sales to restaurants and developing new resources to connect farms to restaurants by educating restaurants and farmers, promoting local foods through the “Buy Fresh Buy Local” campaign, providing technical training to chefs and facilitating a farm-to-restaurant series.
  • Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy to create new selling opportunities for Minnesota growers of fresh fruits and vegetable by addressing key barriers in the burgeoning K-12 school marketplace
  • Kansas Rural Center to develop new relationships between specialty crop growers, food businesses, and consumers and provide technical assistance to specialty crop farmers and buyers
  • Michigan Food and Farming System to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crop producers by providing food safety education on traceability, develop a group audit process that allows smaller scaled specialty crop growers to pool their resources to create a cooperative on-farm food safety plan and audit process for field and hoop house growers, and to assist farmers in expanding into new and existing specialty crop markets by providing them with opportunities to meet the buyers for retail and wholesale institutions
  • Northeast Organic Farming Association of Connecticut to increase the sales and consumption of specialty crops by increasing the number, success, season length and size of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) projects
  • Northeast Organic Farming Association of Massachusetts to provide specialty crop producers with classes and workshops on methods to forgo pesticides and take advantage of organic growing methods for specialty crops
  • Northeast Organic Farming Association of Rhode Island to provide training and establish an advisor program for farmers interested in the use of organic specialty crop production techniques
  • Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont to develop a strategic marketing and outreach campaign to increase consumer awareness and purchases of certified organic fruits and vegetables in the marketplace and increase the value of the certified organic brand to both new and veteran organic farmers
  • Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture to plan and implement the development of a Northeast Pennsylvania “Food Hub”to increase the production and sales of Pennsylvania grown specialty crops
  • Rural Advancement Foundation International to complete an assessment of crop insurance that is needed to protect and encourage growth of North Carolina specialty crops industry
  • Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG) to educate small and beginning farmers via DVDs on the planning, production, and marketing of specialty crops

Categories: Food Safety, Grants and Programs, Local & Regional Food Systems, Nutrition & Food Access, Organic

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