MONTPELIER — The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) announces grants totaling $299,350 for seven projects to benefit Vermont fruit, vegetable, and value-added producers and increase consumer access to locally produced food. These grants, funded through the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP), were awarded to six agricultural organizations to undertake a range of research, development, education, business planning, and marketing projects. The grants will leverage an additional $190,026 in matching funds.
“These important investments will grow the Vermont economy” said Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts. “This year’s Specialty Crop Block Grant funding will promote local food markets, increase marketing opportunities for Vermont specialty crops within and beyond Vermont, support the emerging Vermont saffron industry, and invest in research to improve fruit and vegetable production methods and control pests.”
Since the program’s establishment in 2006, the Vermont SCBGP has invested over $3.2 million in projects to benefit Vermont specialty crop producers. The program supports projects led by producers, researchers, and agricultural service providers, including a recently completed project, Increasing the Competitiveness of Vermont Wine through Vermont Restaurant and Agritourism Opportunities, directed by the Vermont Fresh Network and the Vermont Grape and Wine Council.
Increasing the Competitiveness of Vermont Wine through Vermont Restaurant and Agritourism Opportunities focused on improving how winemakers and restaurants present Vermont wine to consumers and elevating the overall consumer attitude towards Vermont wine through a broader messaging campaign. As a result of this project, over 100 bar and restaurant staff who attended workshops increased their ability to communicate effectively about Vermont wine, twenty restaurants and distributors expanded their Vermont wine menu offerings, and fourteen wineries were incorporated into culinary trails on Vermont’s food and farm tourism website, DigInVT.com.
VAAFM awards SCBGP funds through a competitive review process guided by industry, nonprofit and government stakeholders. A stakeholder advisory committee identified the development of innovative horticultural production practices and efficiencies, pest and disease management, food safety, value chain enhancement, technical assistance, market access, and producer collaboration as funding priorities for 2020. After receiving detailed recommendations from a proposal review committee, VAAFM selected the following projects out of nineteen applications representing total funding requests of over $721,900:
- Atlantic Corporation to deliver critical market assessment and business planning tools to benefit the Vermont maple syrup industry ($27,140)
- Elmore Roots Nursery LLC to conduct research and outreach to help specialty crop growers, nurseries, and landscapers increase transplanting success and reduce costs using an innovative gravel bed rooting system ($29,017)
- Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont to implement a marketing campaign that illustrates the connection between organic practices and climate change mitigation and resilience ($46,118)
- University of Vermont Extension Vegetable & Berry Team to conduct research and outreach to help vegetable growers manage chickweed (Stellaria media) using soil steaming ($49,641)
- University of Vermont Department of Plant and Soil Science to field test a dairy manure compost solution to control fungal soilborne pathogens and assess adoptability by vegetable growers ($33,193)
- University of Vermont Entomology Research Laboratory to strengthen and expand the emerging Vermont saffron industry through outreach, education, grower cost/revenue assessments, and consumer demand research ($40,000)
- Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets to implement a community-oriented approach to food access and market development that will increase consumption of local specialty crops ($74,241)
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service awards Specialty Crop Block Grants to the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and U.S. Territories. In Vermont, VAAFM administers these funds to enhance the competitiveness of Vermont and regionally-grown specialty crops, defined as “fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops (including floriculture).”
To view the USDA press release announcing SCBGP awards nationally, visit go.usa.gov/xG6Hz (case-sensitive URL).
To learn more about the Vermont SCBGP, visit agriculture.vermont.gov/
–Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets
For more articles out of New England, click here.