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Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets Grants $324K to Vermont Specialty Crop Organizations

October 29, 2021
apple orchard

October 29, 2021 | Montpelier, VT – The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) announces grants totaling $324,467 for eight 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 seven agricultural organizations to undertake a range of research, development, education, and marketing projects. The grants will leverage an additional $162,629 in matching funds.  

“We are thankful for our Congressional delegation’s continued commitment to the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, which funds projects that strengthen Vermont’s agricultural economy,” said Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts. “This year’s Specialty Crop Block Grant funding will promote industry resiliency in the face of rapid market changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, increase wholesale market opportunities for farmers, support the emerging Vermont tree nut industry, sponsor grower-led events and educational opportunities, and invest in research to improve fruit and vegetable production methods and control pests.”  

Since the program’s launch in 2006, the Vermont SCBGP has invested over $3.6 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 Vermont Apple Industry’s Marketing Capabilities, directed by the Vermont Tree Fruit Growers Association.  

In this project, the Vermont Tree Fruit Growers Association hired a contractor to create a long-term marketing and recruitment strategy for the association. The contractor helped the association develop and disseminate a strategic marketing plan and established partnerships with the Vermont Department of Tourism & Marketing, the Vermont Fresh Network, and other organizations. 

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 2021. A proposal review committee representing a diverse set of fields reviewed all applications and convened to make funding decisions through a two-stage review process, including a pre-application and a full-application evaluation. After receiving detailed recommendations from the proposal review committee, VAAFM selected the following projects out of twenty-two applications representing total funding requests of over $768,357: 

  • Addison County Relocalization Network to increase wholesale market opportunities for specialty crop farms in the Addison County region ($58,300) 
  • Eden Ice Cider Company to establish the Vermont Holistic Orchard Management Network, a group of apple producers focused on best practices for growing apples specifically for alcoholic cider production ($4,000) 
  • University of Vermont Department of Plant and Soil Science to host VitiNord 2022: A pivotal opportunity for education, collaboration, and innovation among Vermont grape and wine producers ($20,548) 
  • University of Vermont Department of Plant and Soil Science to develop a plant-based lure for the swede midge, an invasive pest of Brassica crops ($44,310) 
  • Vermont Farmers Food Center to increase specialty crop sales for the Rutland region’s producers through market expansion ($52,000) 
  • Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association to expand Vermont pure maple syrup consumption through a strategic marketing campaign ($35,825) 
  • Vermont Tree Nut Processors to establish a tree nut processing facility in Vermont, to yield cold-pressed culinary nut oils and create a vital value chain for the local tree nut industry ($23,130)
  • Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets to strengthen local and regional specialty crop marketing initiatives ($86,354)   

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

To learn more about the Vermont SCBGP, visit