Harrisburg, Pennsylvania – Today, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture announced more than $2.45 million in federal grants awarded to 23 projects that will expand markets and increase the quality, safety and sustainability of specialty vegetable crops, of fruits, nuts and nursery of the State. The funding went to projects in Berks, Center, Chester, Dauphin, Indiana, Lawrence, Perry and Philadelphia counties, all of which benefit growers across the state.
“Pennsylvania’s specialty crops feed our state, our nation and our planet,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “These grants increase profits and sustainability by improving quality, protecting crops from pests, diseases and climate threats, and helping growers attract and train the workforce they need to grow. continue to produce healthy, high-quality crops to feed the world.
Federal Block Grants for Specialty Crops are funded by the federal Farm Bill and awarded through a competitive process administered by the ministry. The federal definition of specialty crops includes horticultural products such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, culinary herbs and spices, medicinal plants, and nursery crops.
The 23 funded projects include those that will help develop the state’s agricultural industry by improving food security; fighting diseases, pests and climate threats; expansion of agricultural markets in urban areas; assess the economics of hop-growing to meet the demands of the state’s burgeoning craft brewing industry; protect the pollinators on which the state’s agricultural industry depends; harness the talents of young people and recruit and retain a culturally and ethnically diverse workforce.
Funded projects, grant amounts and project descriptions follow:
Rodale Institute — $159,800 — To assess the yield and levels of nutrients transported and accumulated in soil, bean and broccoli crops in cropping systems that will include grain crops. Rodale will disseminate the results to stakeholders at grower meetings and field days.
Penn State Extension — $58,472 — Develop and deliver research-based training in English and Spanish for specialty crop growers focused on ways to reduce staff turnover and minimize fresh produce contamination that can cause food-borne illnesses.
Penn State University — $216,943 – To evaluate effective biocontrols as vegetable and tomato crop protection alternatives to the heavy reliance on synthetic pesticides that degrade the environment and threaten worker safety and public health.
Penn State University – $64,360 – In partnership with the AP Department of Agriculture’s Plant Pathology Laboratories – assessing pathogen threats introduced via international trade on crops, including hops.
Penn State University — $70,740 – Develop a technical tool to analyze the economic viability of producing and distributing pelleted hops on farms versus centralized PA sites.
Penn State University — $123,966 – To assess the impacts of spotted lanternfly feeding damage, including the impact on grape yield, vine growth, and wine production.
Penn State University – $63,288 – Heat Resistance and Resilience for PA Potato Crops.
Penn State University — $100,228 — Improving mushroom yield and quality through farm modifications and new pest management strategies.
Penn State University — $147,753 — Preparing Pennsylvania beekeepers to propagate and manage Africanized bees.
Penn State University — $100,274 — To develop an expert online bee identification system that will be used by agricultural researchers, students and government agencies to quantify the community of wild bees pollinating fruit crops and vegetables in the mid-Atlantic.
Penn State University — $89,366 — Investigate the factors that determine the chemical and sensory quality of railings to maximize quality and understand consumer preferences.
County of Chester
The American Mushroom Institute — $55,400 – Develop a new source of casing, the absorbent layer of peat that maintains soil moisture for mushrooms, after the loss of the main North American and Canadian source of product.
Pasa Sustainable Agriculture — $85,575 — Connect specialty crop growers to new and diverse markets by partnering with farmers as peer-to-peer educators to increase access to e-commerce technology, tools market discovery and customer conversion solutions.
Pennsylvania Cooperative Potato Growers – $130,217 – In partnership with Penn State University and Sterman Masser Potatoes, Inc., evaluate and select potato varieties to replace Norwis for better yields and storage capabilities without sacrificing frying quality .
Pennsylvania Vegetable Marketing and Research Program — $50,450 — Other marketing strategies for Pennsylvania vegetables focused on PA Produce Month promotions partnering with restaurants, hosting Q&As with food experts and growers, creating educational and promotional web content for producers.
Good Agricultural Practices, Good Handling Practices and Mushroom Specific GAP Audit Reimbursement – various growers — $129,438 – The PA Department of Agriculture will reimburse growers up to $500 for completing USDA safe handling practices audits to reduce risk of inherited diseases food in specialty crops.
Indiana County Conservation District — $100,491 — Demonstrate how to grow specialty crops by creating demonstration test plots at three locations to expand community knowledge of specialty crops and reduce food deserts .
The LEAF Project, Inc. — $38,124 – Train young people from disadvantaged and diverse social backgrounds to design, build and cultivate garden plots to increase neighborhood access to fresh food in South Central PA.
The LEAF Project, Inc. — $79,130 – Implement the state’s newly registered Diverse Vegetable Pre-Apprenticeship during the 2022 and 2023 growing seasons. Continue to develop educational and training materials for youth in hands-on “earn as you learn” training.
Farm Villa Maria Regenerative Agriculture Center — $151,106 — The project aims to provide education focused on growing organic specialty crops to ten new and beginning farmers per year through in-person learning in demonstration gardens and virtual learning .
Juventud Campesinx del Futuro (Young Farmers of the Future) – $92,700 – Youth-led revitalization of the urban farm of El Batey, through the Norris Square neighborhood project, to increase community access to food celebrating Puerto Rican heritage.
The Food Trust – $50,000 – Lead the Pennsylvania Farm to Retailer initiative to increase access to Pennsylvania produce at convenience stores and school and community farm stands in Philadelphia.
Strategic Contracting, Inc. — $71,209 — Plan and coordinate the 2023 PA Preferred Culinary Connection at the PA Farm Showallowing local farmers and food suppliers to showcase their specialty crops to consumers.
MEDIA CONTACT: Shannon Powers – 717.603.2056, [email protected]