The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) announces grants totaling $254,117 for seven projects to benefit Vermont producers of fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices, maple, wine grapes, and value-added products and to 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 five agricultural organizations to undertake a range of research, technology development, education, marketing, and program-building projects. The grants will leverage over $161,000 in additional matching funds in support of Vermont specialty crop production.
“Vermont’s Specialty Crop grants provide critical industry support for growing viable businesses and also fund research to help producers overcome persistent challenges, innovate, and diversify,” said Ag Secretary Anson Tebbetts. “We are thankful for our Congressional delegation’s continued commitment to the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, which works to strengthen Vermont’s agricultural economy and maintain our working landscape.”
Since the program’s establishment in 2006, the Vermont SCBGP has invested over $2.3 million in projects to benefit Vermont specialty crop producers. The program supports projects led by both producers and agricultural service providers, including a recently-completed project, Vermont Maple Business Benchmark ($33,717.00 awarded in 2014), directed by Mark Cannella at University of Vermont Extension.
The Vermont Maple Business Benchmark project provided meaningful business management education for maple producers and developed a body of applied research to facilitate development across the entire Vermont maple sector. Cannella worked with both new and established maple enterprises and reached 430 attendees at maple workshops as well as 41 agricultural lenders and business providers who received special trainings. Learn more about the Vermont Maple Business Benchmark Project at http://bit.ly/2yyC39T.
Program participants have demonstrated an improved understanding of maple business management and converted this education into positive changes for their businesses. The project’s results include planned or proposed capital investments in the maple sector totaling $1.34 million. In addition, ten producers have identified and managed costs representing total cost savings of $69,366 and adopted cost-based pricing and market strategies leading to over $45,665 in increased sales.
VAAFM awards SCBGP funds through a competitive review process guided by industry, nonprofit and government stakeholders. An independent stakeholder advisory committee identified the development of innovative horticultural production practices to enhance farm viability, pest and disease management, food safety, value chain enhancement, market access, and producer collaboration as funding priorities for 2017. A proposal review committee selected the winning projects out of twenty-two applications representing total funding requests of over $673,000:
- University of Vermont Entomology Research Laboratory to develop techniques for field production of saffron in Vermont ($30,000)
- Salvation Farms to provide institutional access to Vermont's surplus crops ($24,542)
- University of Vermont Department of Plant & Soil Science to research regionally adapted entomopathogenic nematodes as a biological control for Colorado potato beetle ($40,563)
- The Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont for organic specialty crop costs of production research and technical assistance to enhance farm viability ($39,673)
- University of Vermont Fruit Program to evaluate wine grape cultivars and conduct virus screenings to support the Vermont grape industry ($33,680)
- Green Mountain Farm to School to expand the Vermont Harvest of the Month program through production planning with schools to increase specialty crop sales ($32,660)
- The Vermont Agency of Agriculture to develop a direct to consumer marketing program ($53,000)
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 all fiscal year 2017 SCBGP awards, visit https://www.ams.usda.gov/services/grants/scbgp/awards. To learn more about the Vermont SCBGP, visit http://bit.ly/vtscbgp.