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Specialty Crop Block Grant Program Awards Announced

October 2, 2018

Over $332K Directed to Nine Agricultural Organizations

October 2, 2018 / Montpelier VT - The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) announces grants totaling $332,632.61 for twelve projects to benefit Vermont producers of fruits, vegetables, nursery stock, 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 nine agricultural organizations to undertake a range of research, technology development, education, marketing, and program-building projects. The grants will leverage over $183,000 in additional matching funds.

“Specialty Crop Block Grants are growing the agriculture economy in Vermont,” said Anson Tebbetts, Secretary of Agriculture, Food and Markets. “These investments are critical for the development of new crops, promoting Vermont brands and expanding markets for farmers and food companies. “

Since 2006, the Vermont SCBGP has invested over $2.6 million in projects to benefit Vermont specialty crop producers, including the awards announced today. The program supports projects led by both producers and agricultural service providers, including a recently-completed project, Building the Demand for Fruits and Vegetables in Vermont Schools ($35,499 awarded in 2015), directed by Abbie Nelson of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT). 

The Building the Demand for Fruits and Vegetables in Vermont Schools project focused on schools in two counties, promoting the USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable program by increasing the effectiveness of incorporating Vermont produce into school food programs. NOFA-VT connected schools and producers through co-hosting farmer-food service forums, provided technical assistance and training to food service providers and teachers, and launched a statewide marketing campaign to promote local foods in schools.

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 2018. A proposal review committee selected the winning projects out of twenty-two applications representing total funding requests of over $570,000:

  • Ardelia Farm & Co. to develop a laboratory for the micro-propagation of specialty ranunculus cultivars ($20,274)
  • High Mowing Organic Seeds to prevent the spread of seed borne plant pathogens through steam treatment of organic specialty crops ($10,400)
  • University of Vermont Extension Vegetable & Berry Team to provide technical assistance to vegetable growers for nutrient management ($29,798)
  • University of Vermont Fruit Program to provide experiential-based technical support trainings for new and prospective apple and grape growers ($25,963)
  • Vermont Fresh Network to increase the competitiveness of Vermont wine through restaurants and agritourism opportunities ($13,947)
  • Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association to establish a Vermont maple sugar house food safety certification program ($35,000)
  • Vermont Fruit Tree Growers Association to increase the marketing capability of Vermont’s apple industry ($7,995)
  • Vital Communities to plan and execute an Upper Valley producer-buyer forum ($11,595)
  • Walking Onion Nursery to assess the commercial opportunities for new perennial food crops ($18,915)
  • Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, & Markets to assess conditions, trends, opportunities and constraints for expanding maple syrup consumption in export markets ($31,000)
  • Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, & Markets to provide grants to Vermont produce growers to implement on-farm improvements that reduce produce safety risks ($50,000)
  • Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, & Markets to strengthen local direct-to-consumer marketing ($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 the USDA-AMS press release announcing SCBGP awards nationally, visit

To learn more about the Vermont SCBGP, visit

For questions about this announcement or the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, please contact:

Kathryn Donovan
Agriculture Development Coordinator
Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, & Markets
(802) 585-4571