The Indiana State Department of Agriculture has awarded more than $400,000 to four Indiana projects designed to strengthen the state’s specialty crop sector. The funding was provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.
Specialty crops include fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and horticulture and nursery crops.
“Agriculture is big business in Indiana and encompasses more than traditional row crops and livestock,” said Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch. “Indiana is home to a robust specialty crop industry that is a critical piece of our agricultural economy. I look forward to seeing the good work these projects accomplish.”
The ISDA says the grants are available to nonprofit and for-profit organizations, governments and public or private colleges and universities for up to a three-year term. The program funds specialty crop research, education and market development, and projects must benefit the entire industry.
“This funding from USDA is critical to advancing our specialty crop sector, and each year many different research areas are supported,” said Bruce Kettler, director of the ISDA. “Everything from sourcing local food and aquaponics research and from youth development to increasing farmer involvement, these awards will go far in enhancing our Hoosier specialty crop industry.”
The organizations that have been awarded funding for the 2022-2025 grant cycle are:
Local Food Ecosystem Project + Seed to Store: $129,846
The city of Indianapolis’ Local Food Ecosystem project, Seed to Store, aims to boost specialty crops sales, build capacity for the local food economy and improve access to and awareness of healthy specialty crops through direct-to-consumer marketing. Seed to Store plans to implement infrastructure improvements through cold storage, farm labor support and software for inventory management and ecommerce.
Honey Education Trailer: $69,335
At Ease Orchard will develop an education plan across the state, utilizing a Bee Demonstration Trailer and experience beekeepers. The demonstration trailer will consist of live bees in an enclosed demo box and harvesting equipment. The grant will be used to increase education on honey food safety and support beginning farmers and beekeepers and to increase the popularity and knowledge of honey as a specialty crop.
Leveraging Farm to ECE Partnerships to Increase Demand and Access for Specialty Crops: $87,413
Green Bridge Growers will increase demand for locally grown produce through a Farm to Early Care and Education initiative that incorporates local food sourcing, food and agricultural education and family engagement. By partnering with ECEs, the project aims to develop replicable models, outreach on best practices for other farmers and expand food access for under-resourced families.
Purdue University – Developing a Novel Multi-Year Production System for Strawberries Grown on Plastic Mulch in Indiana: $127,456
Purdue will improve runner management through cultivar selection and chemical runner suppression and establish safe and effective weed management strategies. Recommendations generated from the project will be used to ensure that growers adopting multi-year plasticulture production have the greatest likelihood of sustainable success through cultivar selection and chemical control of runners and effective weed management strategies.