ISDA announces specialty crop projects received funding

The Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) announced four Indiana specialty crop projects received a total sum of $414,051.89 through funding provided by the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP).

“Agriculture is big business in Indiana and encompasses more than traditional row crops and livestock,” said Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, who also serves as the state’s Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development. “Indiana is home to a robust specialty crop industry that is a critical piece of our agricultural economy. I look forward to seeing the good work these projects accomplish.”

Specialty crops include fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and horticulture and nursery crops. For a full list of specialty crops please visit

Annually, Specialty Crop Block Grants are available to non-profit and for-profit organizations, governments, public or private colleges and universities for up to a three-year project term and will fund specialty crop research, education and market development. To qualify, projects must aim to benefit the industry as a whole, rather than one product, individual or organization. Applications undergo a competitive scoring process, including review by an external scoring committee.

Some of the projects awarded this grant cycle include City of Indianapolis Seed to Store, which is a farm-to-retail program that fosters connections between local minority-led urban farms and small businesses in Indianapolis and Marion County. A honey education trailer for youth education and a new method for growing and protecting strawberries in Indiana also received grants. 

“This funding from USDA is critical to advancing our specialty crop sector, and each year many different research areas are supported,” said Bruce Kettler, Director, Indiana State Department of Agriculture. “Everything from sourcing local food and aquaponics research and from youth development to increasing farmer involvement, these awards will go far in enhancing our Hoosier specialty crop industry.”

Indiana’s funding is part of a total $72.9 million in non-competitive fiscal year 2022 SCBGP funding awarded to 55 states, territories and the District of Columbia. The SCBGP funding supports farmers growing specialty crops, including fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, and nursery crops. USDA’s support strengthens U.S. specialty crop production and markets, ensuring an abundant, affordable supply of highly nutritious fruits, vegetables, and other specialty crops, which are vital to the health and well-being of all Americans.

“USDA applauds Indiana’s continued commitment to supporting our nation’s producers of fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, and nursery crops through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program,” said USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jenny Lester Moffitt. “The projects funded will foster innovative research and new market opportunities within the specialty crop sector, while furthering USDA’s goals of creating a more fair and equitable food system and supporting local and regional producers.”

The following list includes the organizations that received funding for the 2022-2025 grant cycle:

Local Food Ecosystem Project + Seed to Store

Award: $129,846

Project: The City of Indianapolis requested funding for its Local Food Ecosystem project, Seed to Store, which is a farm to retail program that fosters connections between local minority-led urban farms and small businesses in Indianapolis and Marion County. Indianapolis’ Division of Community Nutrition and Food Policy will act as the lead agency in administering this project in partnership with farmers, grocers and other business owners. Seed to Store aims to boost specialty crops sales, build capacity for the local food economy and improve access to and awareness of healthy specialty crops through direct-to-consumer marketing. Seed to Store partner farms grow specialty crops such as collards, watermelon, tomatoes, lettuce, peppers and eggplant. Now in its second year, Seed to Store will implement infrastructure improvements through cold storage, farm labor support and software for inventory management and ecommerce. Targeted marketing and promotions initiatives will also help develop connections between consumers and the specialty crop industry and provide education for increased accessibility.

Honey Education Trailer

Award: $69,335.32

Project: At Ease Orchard will develop an education plan across the State of Indiana utilizing a Bee Demonstration Trailer and experience beekeepers. The demonstration trailer will consist of live bees in an enclosed demo box, harvesting equipment, hive equipment and the ability to demonstrate harvesting honey from the hives as well as multiple other beekeeping techniques such as sanitizing a hive and queen rearing. The trailer will be manned and attend events at 4H clubs, Farm Shows, Bee Club events and schools. The goal is to attend a minimum of one event per month. Similarly, the Bee Trailer will meet Indiana Health Department standards for honey harvesting and be available to support on-site training at residences to teach beekeepers how to properly harvest and bottle honey. The intended outcome of this grant is to increase education on honey food safety, to support beginning farmers and beekeepers and to increase the popularity and knowledge of honey as a specialty crop.

Leveraging Farm to ECE Partnerships to Increase Demand and Access for Specialty Crops

Award: $87,413.90

Project: Green Bridge Growers will increase demand for locally grown produce through a Farm to Early Care and Education (ECE) initiative that incorporates local food sourcing, food and agricultural education and family engagement to promote healthy eating practices right from the start for young children and their caregivers. ECEs are an important market for small farmers because of relatively low barriers to entry and have the added benefit of promoting household nutrition knowledge and the consumption of specialty crops. By partnering with ECEs to better understand and influence the role farmers can play in this market, our project will develop replicable models, outreach on best practices for other farmers entering the ECE market and expand food access for under-resourced families throughout the state.

Purdue University – Developing a Novel Multi-Year Production System for Strawberries Grown on Plastic Mulch in Indiana

Award: $127,456.67

Project: Purdue University will address two of the greatest barriers to the profitability and sustainability of multi-year plasticulture strawberry production in Indiana by improving runner management through cultivar selection and chemical runner suppression and establishing safe and effective weed management strategies. There is increased demand for local pick-your-own strawberries and decreased access to the timely and abundant labor required to grow the crop. This project represents the first meaningful research effort into a multi-year plastic mulch production system for strawberries in Indiana and directly addresses the most pressing concerns identified by stakeholders. Recommendations generated from this project will be used to ensure that growers adopting multi-year plasticulture production have the greatest likelihood of sustainable success through cultivar selection and chemical control of runners and effective weed management strategies.

Visit for more information about the Specialty Crop Block Grant program. To view the full announcement from USDA click here.

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