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Thursday, October 19, 2017

Dustin Vande Hoef
515/281-3375 or 515/326-1616 (cell)


USDA funds will help groups promoting fruits, vegetables, nuts, and flowers

DES MOINES – The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship today announced that eleven projects in Iowa have been selected to receive grant funding to help enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops.  The Department received $282,032 through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program from the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service to support the program.

“The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program has supported a wide variety of projects here in Iowa in the past several years to promote locally grown products and we are excited to get another round of funding that will support food safety, research and marketing efforts.  Specialty crops are a very important part of Iowa agriculture as they allow farmers to diversify and give customers access to local foods and other products,” said Iowa Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig.

Iowa agricultural non-profit organizations, cooperatives, specialty crop industry associations or organizations, and producer groups were eligible to apply for funding.

The Department also invited public comment from specialty crop stakeholders to help identify priorities for the program and established a Review Committee to help review, evaluate, and make recommendations on which grant proposals submitted to the Department should receive funding.

The maximum grant award from the Department to sub-grantees is $24,000 and administrative and indirect costs are not allowed.

Grant funds shall be used for projects that benefit and enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops industry as a whole, and cannot be for projects that directly benefit a particular product or provide a profit to a single organization, institution, or individual.

“Specialty Crops” that are eligible under this program are fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture.  The funds not passed through to Iowa organizations will be used by the Department to administer the grant.

The full list of the 11 funded projects follows here:

Lutheran Services in Iowa - $24,000
This project will provide refugees specialty crop producer training with a focus on food safety, organic production, and crop planning. Lutheran Services in Iowa will provide classroom, in-field, and experiential trainings for farmers to improve their skills and knowledge in these fields.
Iowa State University of Science and Technology - $23,750
Iowa State University will work to improve productivity and expand production of specialty leafy greens in hydroponic systems by developing species-specific requirements for fertilizing during seedling production and nutrient solution for production in hydroponic system through scientifically based quantification of mineral nutrient requirements.

Iowa State University of Science and Technology- $23,968
Iowa State University will conduct research on evaluating season extension strategies for production of spring vegetable crops. The research will study different row cover materials that can be utilized: 1) to extend growing season and 2) as a sustainable pest management tool. Broccoli will be used as a test crop and data will be collected on several crop growth parameters and environmental factors such as temperature, relative humidity, etc.

Allamakee New Beginnings, Inc. dba Iowa Food Hub - $21,198
Iowa fruit and vegetable growers are facing pressure to comply with food safety standards, known as Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs), and wholesale buyers are increasingly requiring a third-party GAPs certification. Allamakee New Beginning, doing business as the Iowa Food Hub, will manage funding for a state-wide GAP/GHP Cost-Share Program to defray the cost of these voluntary audits for any Iowa specialty crop farmer.

Golden Hills Resource, Conservation & Development - $23,991
Golden Hills Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D), working with New Tree School, local growers, and other partners, will create new markets for sales of locally-sourced and locally–propagated native oak trees.  They will first identify public and private lands with old-growth oak trees from which to harvest acorns. Project partners such as farmers and landowners with an interest in propagating oaks will be identified and trained in proper growing practices.

The James Gang dba Iowa Valley Global Food Project - $23,331
Iowa Valley Global Food Project (IVGFP) is committed to creating an agricultural model where local residents and “New Iowans” (families that have recently immigrated to Iowa) can work hand-in-hand to grow specialty crops, communicate and exchange ways to improve local food quality, support families that lack access to food, provide training and working opportunities, and host community events that focus on agricultural education and cross-cultural exchange.
Members from all corners of the Johnson County will have the opportunity to access community garden plots, gain new gardening skills, and grow food for the community.

University of Northern Iowa - $17,186
The Greens-to-Go program and partners (Northeast Iowa Food Bank, Jesse Cosby Center, several churches, several local farms, UNI students and neighborhood youth, and AmeriCorps members) will operate in more neighborhoods, reach more families, increase the volume of local products sold at these neighborhood stands, and assist recent refugees in developing marketing skills to sell their vegetables at local markets. Greens-to-Go is a mobile produce stand organized by University of Northern Iowa’s Local Food Program. Teams of youth go to local farms on a weekly basis (June-Oct) and harvest a wide variety of fruits and vegetables with their own labor, purchase them at very reasonable prices, and then resell at no profit through Greens-to-Go in several low-income neighborhoods in Waterloo, Iowa not served by farmers markets or grocers.

Practical Farmers of Iowa - $24,000
Many specialty crop farmers in Practical Farmers’ membership are asking for training on machinery and equipment for specialty crop production, and see this knowledge gap as a barrier to scaling up their production. The central objective of this grant is to improve the competitiveness of specialty crops in Iowa through farmer-to-farmer education on machinery and equipment.

Southern Iowa Resource, Conservation & Development - $23,968
This project is aimed to draw the millennial demographic to farmers markets. Southern Iowa Resource, Conservation & Development will use text message marketing and Facebook advertising, to exclusively promote specialty crop farmers’ market vendors at area farmers’ markets, in addition to radio and newspaper ads.

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach - Johnson County Extension- $20,764
Iowa State University Extension and Outreach will partner with, the Native Fruit Association, Levi’s Indigenous Fruit Enterprises (“LIFE”), and Red Fern Farm, to develop a website with a series of professionally produced videos to promote the cultivation and consumption of three native Iowa Fruits: American persimmon Diospyros virginiana, pawpaw Asimina triloba, and Aronia berry Aronia melanocarpa.

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Local Foods Program - $24,000
This program will explore barriers that are restricting food access, and provide guidance, partnerships, technical assistance, support and incentives to help educate area Iowa schools on how to find solutions. Not only will this result in increased purchases from specialty crop growers, but the evaluation component will provide a Toolkit that can be a model for other schools in their efforts to purchase healthy, local foods.


Mailing Address: IDALS,  Wallace State Office Building,   502 E. 9th Street,  Des Moines, IA 50319:     PH: 515-281-5321
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