Frankfort, Ky. – The Kentucky Department of Agriculture was awarded a Specialty Crop Block Grant for $291,564.95 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to work with Kentucky institutions and organizations to strengthen markets for specialty crops in Kentucky.
“This investment in Kentucky’s specialty crop industry will give our agricultural economy a boost,” Agriculture Commissioner James Comer said. “This funding will greatly enhance our efforts to support the marketing and development of our state’s specialty crop production. And it will help us continue to diversify Kentucky’s agriculture industry.”
A USDA news release announced eight Kentucky projects in which the KDA will partner with:
- the University of Kentucky to increase the demand for Kentucky fruits, vegetables, nuts, and herbs by increasing child and adult nutrition knowledge and consumption of specialty crops through workshops, trainings, and targeted marketing material.
- Hickory Lane Farms to increase sales of regional specialty crop producers by bringing together producers and schools and restaurants, teaching farmers about how to use CSAs and other direct sales strategies, and initiating a program of nutritional education and marketing to increase consumer demand for local specialty crops.
- Kentucky Specialty Grains to commercialize Summer Flowering Chia by identifying growth management strategies; working with the food industry to highlight the values of the crop, including its high omega-3 oil content; and raising awareness among consumers of this type of chia in order to build demand.
- the University of Kentucky to develop new, and update existing, resources to help Kentucky growers transitioning away from growing tobacco to begin growing specialty crops, such as how to identify which crops would be best for them, and help them identify marketing and sales opportunities, and specialty crop profiles and budgets.
- the Berry Center to increase the sales of Kentucky specialty crop farmers who are looking to scale up their production. This grant aims to offer a series of conferences and meetings designed to help farmers take advantage of underused resources in terms of capital, certifications, crop budgets, and marketing opportunities in order to help Kentucky specialty crop producers overcome the barriers preventing them from entering agriculture supply chains.
- the University of Kentucky to extend the growing season leading to increased vegetable production by evaluating which varieties and growing strategies Kentucky growers can use for winter vegetable production and disseminating this information to growers through workshops and distributed training materials.
- the Barren Country Beekeepers Association to boost the region’s honey production and sales by giving local growers access to updated harvest strategies and technologies that lower the amount of damage done to honeycombs during the harvest process.
- the University of Kentucky to increase the total yield of Uba Tuba peppers through studying the varieties that grow best in Kentucky’s climate; identifying the best ways to extend the peppers’ shelf life by examining how they stand up to canning, pickling, and dehydrating; and doing a marketing assessment of local demand for these specialty peppers.
The projects were selected through a competitive process prior to being awarded Specialty Crop Block Grant funds. The Kentucky Department of Agriculture works with numerous public and private partners to promote specialty crops and other Kentucky food products and help Kentucky producers find markets for their products.
USDA awarded a total of $63 million in Specialty Crop Block Grants to perform 755 projects in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories. Specialty crops include fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops (including floriculture).
For more information about the Specialty Crop Block Grant awards, go to http://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/2015%20SCBGP-FB%20Awards.pdf.