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Specialty Crop Grants Awarded to Grow Missouri
Missouri Ag Connection - 10/10/2018

The Missouri Department of Agriculture announced Tuesday that twelve projects across Missouri will receive grant funding from the USDA's Specialty Crop Block Grant program to strengthen the market for Missouri grown specialty crops. Nearly $450,000 in federal funding will be used to invest in specialty crop production training, research to develop new markets for melons, elderberry, pawpaws and green tomatoes, and develop low-cost irrigation system designs for specialty crop producers.

"Missouri agriculture is extremely diverse and supporting our specialty crops is essential to continuing that tradition," Director of Agriculture Chris Chinn said. "This year's grant recipients will use their funding to reach more consumers through outreach and advocacy and empower more farmers to expand or diversify their operations."

The following projects were awarded grant funding for 2018:

Building on Success -- Statewide Training for Specialty Crop Farmers -- (Webb City Farmers Market, $50,000): Provide three winter production conferences and two tomato production schools during 2019 and 2020. Each conference and school will be held in a different region of the state providing easier access to farmers.

Fostering Missouri Specialty Crop Competitiveness through Industry Collaboration -- (University of Missouri, $39,556): Identify the potential to foster industry-wide collaboration that strengthens Missouri's specialty crop industry, enhances its competitiveness and enables it to grow its contribution to Missouri's economy by determining opportunities for collaboration aimed at industry growth.

Expanding the Novelty Melon Market in Missouri -- (University of Missouri, $7,973): Conduct production trials for novelty melons to determine yield and quality in central, southwest and southeast Missouri, and organize taste testing opportunities to gauge consumer interest at multiple locations around the state.

Investigating the Impacts of Molybdenum Deficiency on Grapevine Productivity -- (University of Missouri, $36,181): Study the effects of molybdenum applications on grapevine fruit development, phytohormones and wine quality. This project will also determine the molybdenum requirements of grapevines and develop management strategies for grape growers.

Increasing Market Access for West Central Region Specialty Crop Farmers -- (Osage Farmers Alliance, $50,000): Enhance the wholesale market for locally grown specialty crops in west central Missouri with a focus on institutional buyers. This project will also demonstrate two examples of specialty crop farms certified for Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) compliance and Good Agricultural Practices (GAP).

Irrigation Systems Design and Management -- (University of Missouri, $40,000): Develop and distribute low cost irrigation system designs for vegetable, berry, fruit, nut production and small horticultural producers. Irrigation workshops will also be held throughout the state.

Explore the Economic Opportunities and Health Benefits of the Elderberry in Missouri -- (University of Missouri, $29,500): Examine the novel uses of the elderberry (Sambucus Canadensis) and its byproducts in cosmetic, personal care products, nutraceutical and pharmaceutical industries.

Specialty Crop Education for Missouri Producers -- (University of Missouri, $27,624): Develop detailed production information for five specialty crops -- asparagus, honeydew, onion, raspberry and strawberry for Missouri production. Information will be disseminated through Agriculture Opportunities in Missouri, an online educational platform that provides a suite of decision tools that producers can use to evaluate specialty crop production.

Establishing Missouri's Pawpaw Industry: Horticulture, Market Research, and Outreach -- (University of Missouri, $29,751): Research the production and marketing of the North American pawpaw (Asimina Triloba) by conducting production analysis, market research, consumer research and financial analysis. This project will also develop an in-depth production and marketing guide, and financial decision support tool.

Increasing Specialty Crop Sales and Education at Columbia's Agriculture Park -- (Columbia Farmers Market, $50,000): Develop a marketing campaign to promote locally grown specialty crops at the Farmers' Market within Columbia's new Agriculture Park.

The Green Tomato Project -- (Community Action Agency of St. Louis County, Inc., $25,000): Promote the viability of the green tomato as a specialty crop in urban markets. Recipes will be produced, adult preservation classes will be held along with a "Grow It, Try It, Like It" curriculum for kindergartners.

Using Specialty Crops in Community Gardens -- (Kansas City Community Gardens, $20,444): Providing garden tools, soil amendments, construction materials, specialty seeds and plants and ongoing technical assistance to support existing and new community partner gardens in the Kansas City area.

For more information on the Missouri Department of Agriculture and financial assistance available to Missouri producers, visit the Department online at agriculture.mo.gov.

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