Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship Awards Grants to Fourteen Partners

DES MOINES, Iowa – Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig today announced the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship has awarded over $300,000 in grants to help grow demand for Iowa’s specialty crops. The money will be distributed to 14 partners to support programs that raise awareness about, drive demand or create new markets for Iowa’s specialty crops.

“As locally grown and produced foods remain in great demand, it is important we continue to invest and strengthen our local food systems,” said Secretary Naig. “The Department is pleased to offer grants that help specialty crop producers diversify their product offerings, expand their distribution channels and improve marketing and promotion methods to make it easier for consumers to purchase foods grown right here in Iowa.”

The specialty crop block grants will be awarded to the following organizations:

Des Moines Public Schools – Central Campus Environmental and Agricultural Sciences Academy – To build a formal fruit orchard and 10-hive apiary to teach students and supply local food banks.

Field to Family – Local for Lunch 365: Connecting Iowa Students to Local Produce Year-Round – To establish and implement a marketing and education program for food service directors and chefs highlighting local produce available year-round, with resources to be shared with Farm to School professionals statewide.

Golden Hills Resource Conservation and Development – Perennial Native Seed Production for Rural Resilience – To train growers to develop seed plots of native plant species to be used for local restoration projects.

Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation – Teaching About Christmas Trees – To raise awareness and understanding of Christmas trees as a specialty crop in Iowa through the development of lesson plans, hands-on activities and virtual field trips for educators and students.

Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship – Farm to Summer Campaign – To partner with the Iowa Department of Education, FoodCorps and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach to increase the support of the specialty crop industry by expanding access and demand for Iowa’s specialty crops during the summer months.

Iowa Farmers Union – Assist Iowa Schools and Childcare Centers with Local Food Procurement Plans – To help Iowa schools set local food procurement goals and create a procurement plan, as well as certify more individuals as Farm to School and Early Care Network coaches.

Iowa Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association and Iowa Wine Growers Association – Specialty Producers Conference – To provide networking and education opportunities to specialty producers at a combined specialty producers conference.

Iowa Nut Growers Association and Iowa State University – Develop Infrared Radiation Processing Technology to Produce High Quality and Safe Hazelnuts – To develop an infrared radiation drying technology to dry in-shell hazelnuts, evaluate its benefits and produce hazelnuts free from allergens.

Iowa State University – Addressing Product Development and Food Safety Needs for Value-Added Producers in Iowa – To adopt a short course and interactive curriculum for food product development and food safety practices in specialty crop products.

Iowa State University – Development of Best Production Practices for Improving Quality of Cold-Hardy Red Wines Over Time – To evaluate the quality of red wines produced over the past five years in Iowa to develop and deliver best practices to the Iowa grape and wine industry for the preservation of cold-hardy red wine quality during aging.

Iowa State University – Expanding Production and Markets for Specialty Melons – To identify, introduce and evaluate new and novel specialty melon cultivars under Iowa growing conditions.

Lutheran Services in Iowa – Visual Education Resources for New American Specialty Crop Farmers – To adapt key components of production, marketing and record keeping training for refugee farmers into virtual formats in a variety of languages and make them more accessible.

Practical Farmers of Iowa – Farmer-Led Research and Outreach on Honeyberry: A New Specialty Crop Opportunity for Iowa – To lead a farmer-led research trial on honeyberry varieties and shade-tolerance and share the results through farmer-to-farmer education events, publications and media.

University of Northern Iowa – Expanding Grow.Eat.Play Awareness Campaign – To boost demand for and consumption of specialty crop products and promote local farmers by expanding on the Grow.Eat.Play campaign created by Healthy Harvest of North Iowa.

The annual Iowa Specialty Producers Conference, organized by the Iowa Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association and the Iowa Wine Growers Association, will be Feb. 9-10, 2022 in Ankeny. This event helps elevate the specialty crop industry, attract new partners and share ideas to help farmers develop more markets for their products.

These initiatives are funded through a Specialty Crop Block Grant provided by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

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