The West Virginia State Fair had special significance for a dozen farm-related organizations and associations this year. Agriculture Commissioner Gus R. Douglass used the forum to make presentations of Specialty Crop Block Grant awards to them. The program rewards efforts to integrate technology and improve marketing at the farm level.
Specialty crops include the fruits, vegetables, herbs, horticulture goods, nursery stock and value-added products.
"The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program has significantly impacted both the quantity and availability of fruits, vegetables and value-added agricultural products in West Virginia," said Commissioner Douglass. "The 2010 grant cycle reflects a commitment on behalf of the farming community to research, grow and market these products and we are pleased to make these grant awards as part of the Program."
The following organizations, as described by WVDA, were slated to receive the grants, dependent on final approval by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C.:
1. Marion County Beekeepers Association, "Beekeeper Education"
The Marion County Beekeepers Association will use funds to purchase materials to educate association members and the general public about the importance of the honeybee, both in pollination and producing the honey crop.
2. East Wheeling Community Gardens, "Urban Farm Training Center"
In partnership with a variety of social service and agriculture entities, East Wheeling Community Gardens will demonstrate the viability of innovative urban agriculture. The garden, originally established as a teaching garden for young children, will expand its educational outreach to a community of potential agriculture entrepreneurs while simultaneously promoting community spirit and a healthy diet.
3. Friends of Milam Creek (FOMC), "Friends of Milam Creek Specialty Crop Project"
This award will enable FOMC to promote the use of native West Virginia specialty crops in Wyoming County through the distribution of 100 specialty crop seedlings for use in home gardens, the planting of 100 native specialty crop seedlings in the community garden, a media campaign to educate community members on the home use and growing of these crops, and the initiation of a FOMC Gardening Association. The project will lead to the introduction of a local food economy, which will positively impact the economy and health of FOMC communities.
4. West Virginia State University, "Specialty Lettuce and Greens Production by Youth in Aeroponic System for Local Distribution"
This project utilizes an aeroponic growing system to produce specialty lettuce and greens to be managed by youth involved in the Junior Master Gardener program at the Barnett Center in Huntington, W.Va. Along with volunteers from the Huntington Community Gardens Organization, the youth are responsible for developing a market for the lettuce and greens. Youth will learn to be more self-sufficient and the project will test the strength of the local market.
5. E and K Enterprises, LLC (Morgan Orchard), "Morgan Orchard's Apple Cider Project"
Morgan Orchard's project will provide a practical example of how a small to medium-sized specialty crop producer can research a potential market niche to upgrade a commodity priced product; implement effective, low cost food safety practices; produce a quality product; and market the product in the local rural area.
6. Gilmer County Economic Development Association, "Farmers' Market Collaborative"
The Gilmer County Economic Development Association (GCEDA) is partnering with the Future Farmers of America at Gilmer County High School, the Calhoun-Gilmer Career Center Environmental Studies Class, the Culinary Arts Class, and Beekeepers from Last Resort Farm in Ritchie County to target additional youth in the area to enhance the need for agriculture, proper nutrition and the importance of Beekeeping to maximize pollination for a better harvest.
7. Mineral County Farmers' Market Association, "Mineral County Farmers' Market Marketing Campaign"
This project will focus on an intense marketing campaign to increase the sustainability of three farmers' markets in Mineral County by continuing to grow a customer base, increasing the number of vendors selling specialty crops and increasing consumer knowledge on farmers' markets and the fresh produce they provide.
8. The Center for Sustainability Studies of Davis & Elkins College, "Randolph County Community Gardens"
This award will be used to develop and apply a viable model for community gardens and truck gardens in small West Virginia towns via the establishment of community gardens at the Kump House Education Center and a second site within an economically challenged neighborhood, also in the city of Elkins. Eventually, the project will provide an inexpensive nutritional supplement for low-income residents who would not otherwise have access to garden plots.
9. Little Patch on the Lane Farms, "From Farm to Family"
This project will utilize a program with the assistance of Putnam County West Virginia University Extension agent following the high tunnel season extension program designed by Dr. Lewis Jett, WVU Extension Specialist. The program will serve the residents of Putnam County by educating them in five core fields: plant based education, health and wellness, environmental stewardship, community development and the ease of home gardening.
10.Wood County Development Authority, "Parkersburg Downtown Farmers' Marketplace"
In 2008, the Downtown Farmers' Marketplace was established in Parkersburg and has since established a loyal customer base. This award will help increase the number and variety of specialty crops at the Market, as well as increase the sales and the number of patrons.
11. Dr. Donald E. Trisel, Ph.D, "Nosema Education and Testing Services for Beekeepers"
Nosema apis and N. ceranae are being implicated as potentially important contributors to the Colony Collapse Disorder. Beekeepers from across WV will be able to send in samples of bees for a free microscopic analysis to determine the degree of infestation. This community service research project will allow individual beekeepers to make informed decisions regarding the management of their colonies to maximize honey production.
12. Monroe Farm Market, "Monroe Farm Market: Increasing Production and Distribution of Value-Added Products"
This project will allow Monroe Farm Market (MFM), a group of producers whose goal is to provide farm-fresh specialty products to customers in Monroe County, Charleston and Beckley, to increase demand for value-added products through enhanced access to production facilities, marketing and distribution that ensures quality products reaching the consumer.