Oct 8, 2019
Over $305,929 in grants to benefit Vermont specialty crop producers

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) announces grants totaling $305,929 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 technology development, research, education, marketing, and program-building projects. The grants will leverage an additional $203,468 in matching funds.

“Specialty Crop Block Grant funds are critical to enhancing the long-term viability of agriculture in Vermont,” said Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts. “This year’s funding will help protect Vermont’s pollinators, strengthen local food markets, and invest in research to improve production methods and control pests. We are thankful for our Congressional delegation’s continued commitment to the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, which works to strengthen Vermont’s agricultural economy and maintain our working landscape.”

Since the program’s establishment in 2006, the Vermont SCBGP has invested over $2.9 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, Maximizing Nitrogen from Cover Crops on Vermont Vegetable Farms, directed by Vern Grubinger and Rebecca Maden at University of Vermont Extension.

Maximizing Nitrogen from Cover Crops on Vermont Vegetable Farms focused on research to quantify nitrate availability from legume cover crops. This research found that vegetable growers who utilized legume cover crops could reduce manure and fertilizer applications and still maintain optimal levels of soil nitrogen in their fields. Over forty percent of the 196 growers reached through the project reported a decrease in annual fertilizer applications, which helps to minimize phosphorus runoff from farm fields.

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, market access, and producer collaboration as funding priorities for 2019. A proposal review committee selected the following projects out of nineteen applications representing total funding requests of over $621,000:

  • Food Connects to develop new wholesale customers, supply chain relationships, and marketing materials to serve markets in the Upper Valley ($45,000)
  • University of Vermont College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to improve available resources for pest and disease monitoring, diagnosis, and education for Vermont beekeepers and the Vermont Apiary Inspection Program ($52,000)
  • University of Vermont Extension Vegetable & Berry Team to develop comprehensive fertilizer recommendations for high tunnel vegetable crops, with a focus on tomatoes ($32,785)
  • University of Vermont Department of Plant and Soil Science to survey heirloom and feral hops varieties for resistance to fungal and insect pests ($20,000)
  • University of Vermont Extension Vegetable & Berry Team to evaluate the benefits and challenges of implementing brassica cover crops in vegetable production systems ($47,584)
  • University of Vermont Department of Plant and Soil Science to control the spread of Asian earthworm pests (Amynthas species) and disseminate results to the horticultural industry ($23,805)
  • Vermont Quince Company to support commercial and backyard quince (Cydonia oblonga) growers in the region with field research, historical data aggregation, and outreach to existing and prospective quince growers ($10,000)
  • Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets to incorporate local specialty crop market opportunities into community development and revitalization projects ($74,755)

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).”

Photo: Full Plate Farm bees.


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