October 26, 2009
Acting Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Josh Svaty says specialty crops will gain a stronger foothold in Kansas markets as a result of several projects that will be funded using federal grant dollars the state received from USDA.
Kansas received $214,055.68 as a result of a special provision in the farm bill, the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008, to fund projects that enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops, which are defined as horticulture, including turf grass sod and turf grass sod seed, fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, nursery crops and floriculture.
“We’re in an era where there is greater interest in locally grown products, so I’m thrilled Kansas was able to fund eight worthy projects from the grant we received,” said Svaty.
The projects funded by the grant are:
The Kansas Rural Center was awarded $24,853.95 to provide a more consistent and intentional framework for food safety training in good agricultural practices for specialty crop producers through updated educational materials and increased training opportunities.
The Washington County Chapter of the Kansas Farm Bureau was awarded $45,049.91 to partner with five other county Farm Bureau chapters to create farmers’ markets where none exist, to identify new growers and to build a cooperative grower effort to explore new opportunities involving institutional markets, creating retail opportunities and contract grower arrangements.
The Kansas Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom was awarded $14,225 to create resource lesson plans with factual information about Kansas specialty crops to increase student knowledge about and consumption of local fruits and vegetables.
The Kansas State University Cooperative Extension was awarded $34,000 to share information about high tunnel technology to specialty crop growers across Kansas through a series of workshops, farm tours and field days, and to support research involving high tunnel production and cultivar evaluation of heirloom and commercial tomatoes, mini cucumbers, onion plants and raspberries.
The Kansas Grape Growers and Winemakers Association was awarded $39,250 to lease a mechanical grape harvester and to collect data regarding labor savings, harvested crop quality and any noteworthy anecdotal information that will help establish baseline cost information related to mechanically harvesting grapes for wine production.
Kansas State University was awarded $44,688 to establish a research and evaluation planting to examine several alternate conifer species that may be adapted to the region and used as Christmas trees or in the nursery and landscaping industry.
The Kansas Department of Agriculture was awarded $11,045.34 for a survey of the grape and wine industry to gather valuable data about the different grape varieties grown in the state, the different fruits used to make wine, the type and amount of wine produced, the level of tourism tied to grape and wine production, and other economic data. The department also received $943.48 for work tied to administering the specialty crop block grants, including making sure that grant recipients abide by state and federal requirements and regulations.
Grants were open to projects involving research, nutrition, trade enhancement, food safety and security, pest and disease, education, "buy local" programs, promotion, marketing, more efficient and cost-effective distribution systems, environmental and conservational concerns, product development and developing cooperatives.
To learn more about Kansas’ Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, visit www.ksda.gov/kansas_agriculture/?cid=1319.