Six northwest Indiana counties have been chosen for a first-of-its-kind process developed in the Hoosier State to help rural communities create economic development opportunities for farmers. The Kankakee-Iroquois Regional Planning Commission says the U.S. Economic Development Administration awarded a nearly $35,000 grant to help farmers in Benton, Jasper, Newton, Pulaski, Starke and White Counties.

The grant will fund the launch of the Rural Economic Development Model, which will allow the counties to inspect regional agricultural output to find new market opportunities, applications or facilities to enhance the output. KIRC says new markets and income would be created from the gathered information, along with more agricultural jobs and a larger regional revenue source. 

The model was created through a collaboration between the Indiana Economic Development Association, Indiana State Department of Agriculture and the Purdue Center for Regional Development.

Jasper County Commissioner Kendell Culp says the model has grown excitement for highlighting agriculture in his county.

“As the leading agricultural county in Indiana, I’m pleased to see Jasper County taking the lead in developing an agriculture strategy that will add value to the commodities our farmers grow here. As we work to sustain our local communities, we need to build upon our strength. Agriculture provides that opportunity for us locally and regionally,” said Culp.

The KIRC says the model uses a proprietary technology developed by the PCRD to allow the counties to specifically examine output unique to their location, and then permit a local economic development planning team to implement a strategy to leverage local expand existing agribusiness and attract new opportunities. 

The Commission says the 18-month process began in the third quarter of this year and will be finished in the fall of next year.