INDIANAPOLIS — In August 2021, the Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) announced that Indiana received additional grant funding for the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, which is allocated through the United States Department of Agriculture – Agriculture Marketing Service (USDA-AMS). This funding was to provide additional specialty crop grants to address COVID-19 impacts to the food system through congressional COVID-19 stimulus funding via House Bill 133. ISDA has announces that the special COVID-19 funded specialty crop block grant projects totaled $594,037.24 and have been allocated to four projects.
“I commend our federal delegation for recognizing the impact COVID-19 had on our farmers and producers and for setting aside additional funding for specialty crop growers,” said Lt. Gov. Suzanne Couch, Indiana’s Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development. “These four projects awarded are sure to make great strides with this funding, and I look forward to seeing their visions, programs and marketing expertise come to life.”
This round of specialty crop block grant funding was in addition to the annual specialty crop block grant funding provided from USDA-AMS. Specialty crops for Indiana are defined as fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, horticulture and nursery crops.
“Our department is proud to administer and support these specialty crop projects through the generous funding of our congressional leaders,” said Bruce Kettler, director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture. “Specialty crops are a vital piece of our agriculture industry in Indiana, and we were excited to see so many unique projects apply this funding round. Congratulations to each of the selected projects, I look forward to working with you all.”
Specialty Crop Block Grants are available to nonprofit and for-profit organizations, governments, public or private colleges and universities for up to a three-year project term and will fund specialty crop research, education and market development. To qualify, projects must aim to benefit the industry as a whole, rather than one product, individual or organization. Applications undergo a competitive scoring process, including review by an external scoring committee.
Some of the projects awarded for this additional funding cycle include ready to eat food research and development, a youth mentorship program, a community garden and funding for past military service men and women to produce and market honey.
The following list includes the organizations that received funding for the special COVID-19 stimulus funding:
National Young Farmer’s Coalition: Hoosier Young Farmers Coalition Specialty Crop Mentorship Program
Project: The Hoosier Chapter of the National Young Farmers Coalition will create a statewide mentorship program to connect experienced specialty crop farmers with beginning and under-represented farmers. Their mentorship program pairs mentors and mentees to learn, share knowledge and build community with other specialty crop growers. The 10-week program starts with an on-farm kick-off event. Farmers will meet their mentor/mentee and build connections with their fellow mentors and mentees. Over the next ten weeks, each mentor/mentee pair will visit each other’s farms and communicate weekly as they work through a specialty crop grower mentorship handbook. The 10 mentor/mentee pairs will gather one last time at a wrap up gathering to share what they’ve learned from one another and what new skills and ideas they plan to implement on their farms in the coming year.
Wild Pansy Farm: Snacks, Dips, and Salsas: Ready-to-Eat Veggies from Beginning Farmers’
Project: Wild Pansy Farm will create a Southern Indiana brand for ready-to-eat foods, derived from local specialty crops. During the project period, Wild Pansy Farm will coordinate with area regenerative farmers to create a line of locally sourced value-added products, such as sauces and dips, to be sold in Southern Indiana grocery stores. The success of this project will demonstrate the viability for future investment in a local vegetable processing facility, and the ability of such a business to rely on local farms to meet their production needs.
Flanner House: Building Equitable Local Food Systems and Increasing Access to Healthy Food and Neighborhood Ownership
Project: Flanner House of Indianapolis is a 123-year-old social services agency located in NW Indianapolis. They operate a community center with a nonprofit farm and food hub that addresses identified needs of the surrounding distressed community by providing sustainable, local food products to a range of buyers; building markets for local food; building a local food ecosystem; and creating family-sustaining jobs in the process. Flanner House needs access to three important tools: increased capacity, knowledge and capital. To close gaps in our value chain, we will drive local- to-regional connections and scale our current food production. With this funding Flanner House will grow specialty crops in three greenhouses in the Northwest Neighborhood of Indianapolis. They plan to grow collard greens, mustard greens, salad greens and heritage and heirloom tomatoes. They will purchase hydroponic and aquaponic systems to allow them to plant, produce and maintain the crops year-round. The SCBG funding will be utilized to purchase the equipment and curriculum for training individuals to grow the specialty crops for residents and customers for healthy living. Funding will be applied to necessary infrastructure for selling and distribution farm produce, including a Wash-Pack Station, Greenhouse Technology and Workforce Training in Emerging Greenhouse Technologies.
At Ease Orchard: Specialty Crop Block Grant
Project: At Ease Orchard is a nonprofit 501C3 that supports equipping, training and marketing assistance for veterans, military, first responders and their family in order for them to produce and market honey. This grant will focus on supporting beneficiary beekeepers that were impacted by lack of hands-on training due to COVID-19 and will highlight the safe production of honey for sale in the market. During the pandemic At Ease Orchard outfitted 11 beneficiaries with bees, equipment and virtual training. This grant will provide hands on visits, additional training, add beneficiaries, refresh honeybees that were lost due to lack of training and grow better beekeepers. The desired outcome is over 40 beneficiaries capable of producing a regular supply of honey who then sell their product through farmers markets or military commissaries. Military Deli and Bakery Services INC has agreed to provide a venue for At Ease Orchard beekeepers to sell their honey at some of the 103 commissaries they support. With 11 beneficiaries already established this 2022 season, we anticipate a large opportunity for sales in 2023 and beyond. But those beneficiaries will need classes in beekeeping, harvesting honey, equipment for harvesting and food safety training.
— Indiana State Department of Agriculture