INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana State Department of Agriculture awarded more than $475,000 to seven projects designed to grow the state’s specialty crop sector, funded by USDA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant program.
Specialty crops include fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, and horticulture and nursery crops.
“Indiana has a diverse agricultural industry with dozens of major fruits and vegetables being grown every year,” said Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch, Indiana’s Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development. “We were proud to help support these projects, as they work to enhance the competitiveness of this important sector.”
The grants were awarded to non-profit organizations, academic institutions and government agencies on a three year cycle and will be used for specialty crop research, education and market development. In order to qualify, projects had to benefit the industry as a whole, rather than one product, individual or organization.
Some of the projects awarded this grant cycle include Purdue Extension Lake County working with Munster High School to create a school orchard, researchers at Indiana University studying the use of moveable high tunnels and Purdue University addressing demand for high quality specialty melons, not commercially grown in Indiana.
“This research could lead to more efficient production methods or new markets for specialty crops, which can have a lasting impact on the industry,” said Bruce Kettler, ISDA director. “I look forward to seeing these projects come to fruition in the years ahead.”
The following list includes the organizations that received funding for the 2019-2021 grant cycle:
Organization: Growing Places Indy
Project: Growing places Indy will work to solidify the organization model for maximally efficient production of specialty crops by utilizing robust planning, targeted and timely plantings and stacked agricultural systems to then train other small farming operations focusing on efficient production and diverse distribution.
Organization: Purdue University
Project: Purdue University will address the demand for high quality specialty melons by evaluating a selection of melon types currently not commercially grown in Indiana as well as test production technologies that have not been used before for melon production in Indiana and are expected to increase yield and enhance product quality.
Organization: Indiana University
Project: Researchers at Indiana University will investigate the use of moveable high tunnels as an improvement on stationary high tunnels and open field production practices for specialty crops in Indiana.
Organization: Indiana Winery and Vineyard Association
Project: The Indiana Winery and Vineyard Association will launch a Good Neighbors program to foster increased communication and cooperation among farmers to reduce the growing problem of drift damage among specialty crops, thus protecting yields and increasing economic returns.
Organization: Purdue Extension – Lake County
Project: Purdue Extension – Lake County will partner with Munster High School to create a school orchard that will increase student involvement in growing and harvesting produce as well as increase the consumption of specialty crops.
Organization: Indiana Grown
Project: Through the Indiana Grown initiative, this program will work to educate Hoosier consumers, connect with specialty crop growers, gather information about who is growing what products and support growers statewide.
Organization: Purdue University
Project: Purdue University will utilize qualitative and quantitative research approaches to develop and evaluate a value-adding educational program enhancing food safety for fruit and vegetable specialty crop growers addressing their unique barriers.
Visit www.isda.in.gov for more information about the Specialty Crop Block Grant program.
Click here for audio from Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch.
Click here for audio from ISDA Director Bruce Kettler.
— Indiana State Department of Agriculture
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