Illinois receives nearly $650,000 to enhance specialty crops

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

                      Illinois has been awarded nearly

                     $650,000 through the United States Department of

                     Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.

                     Thirteen projects will split the funds, which are

                     intended to expand the availability of fresh,

                     locally-grown produce and strengthen the state’s

                     specialty crop industry.

                     “Illinois’ fertile soil and favorable climate are

                     good for growing a wide variety of crops,”

                     Agriculture Director Tom Jennings said.  “The purpose

                     of these grants is to encourage additional local food

                     production by creating markets for fresh fruits and

                     vegetables.  This, in turn, will help ensure a viable

                     industry for our specialty growers.”

                     While best known for growing corn and soybeans,

                     Illinois is the largest producer of pumpkins in the

                     nation and ranks among the top ten states in the

                     production of other specialty crops such as

                     asparagus, cauliflower, green peas and lima beans.

                     The state devotes more than 117,000 acres of farmland

                     to growing specialty crops, which produces nearly

                     $137 million in sales for Illinois farmers.

                     A list of the grant recipients, projects and the

                     amount of their award follows:

                     Illinois Specialty Crops, Agritourism, and Organic

                     Conference                $26,500

                     • Partner with the Illinois Specialty Growers

                     Association to organize the Illinois Specialty Crops,

                     Agritourism, and Organic Conference, which is

                     designed to assist 500 specialty crop producers in

                     managing their production and price risk; educate

                     specialty crop producers in developing “Good

                     Agricultural Practices,” “Good Manufacturing

                     Practices,” and “Good Handling Practices”; increase

                     consumer knowledge of the nutritional advantages of

                     consuming specialty crops; assist specialty crop

                     producers in incorporating agritourism as a

                     value–added opportunity.  Matching funds will be

                     utilized to cover expenditures for non–specialty crop


                     Good Food: Local


                     • Partner with the Carbondale Convention & Tourism

                     Bureau (CCTB) to improve the sale of locally-grown

                     specialty crops by increasing consumer knowledge and

                     use of produce through a series of educational

                     workshops. Matching funds will be used to offset the

                     costs of the inclusion of any non–specialty crops.

                     Enhancing Safety of Specialty Food Crops in Illinois


                     • Partner with the University of Illinois Extension

                     to offer training in Good Agricultural Practices and

                     Good Handling Practices; provide technical assistance

                     in writing food safety plans; and subsidize

                     third–party audit costs for specialty crop producers.

                     Encouraging Use of Specialty Crops Among Food Stamp

                     Clients             $10,000

                     • Partner with the 61st Street Farmers’ Market to

                     develop marketing materials to draw South Side

                     residents to the market to purchase specialty crops,

                     provide education on specialty crops to youth and

                     school children, and provide specialty crop-focused

                     cooking classes in the community.

                     Determining Filed–Survival and Host–Range of

                     Xanthomonas cucurbitae    $55,967

                     • Partner with the University of Illinois to study

                     Xanthomonas cucurbitae as the cause of bacterial spot

                     in pumpkin, providing data necessary for the

                     development of effective methods of managing the

                     disease, including survival factors of Xanthomonas

                     cucurbitae in the field, pathogenic variation among

                     isolates of Xanthomonas cucurbitae and the host–range

                     of Xanthomonas cucurbitae.

                     Researching Options for Sterilizing Planting Beds in

                     High Tunnels              $49,158

                     • Partner with the University of Illinois to conduct

                     research and deliver educational programs on the use

                     of a portable steam generator to sterilize soils in

                     high tunnels to prevent tomato and pepper losses to

                     soil–borne diseases where high tunnels are used


                     Apples Ag Mag


                     • Partner with the Illinois Farm Bureau’s Illinois

                     Agriculture in the Classroom program to develop and

                     print a new Apples Ag Mag to increase awareness of

                     the specialty crop in Illinois and to introduce more

                     students and consumers to the ideas of locally-grown

                     foods and the farmers that grow them.

                     Pest and Disease Control Workshops for Illinois’

                     Grape Growers             $20,061

                     • Partner with the Illinois Grape Growers and

                     Vintners Association to educate Illinois grape

                     growers on the best practices for vineyard management

                     to ultimately increase their yield and the quality of

                     Illinois–grown grapes by offering educational

                     workshops that address pest management and disease

                     control in Illinois vineyards.

                     “Illinois…Where Fresh Is” Multi–Media Campaign


                     • Partner with WBBM TV, a subsidiary of CBS Inc., to

                     launch an integrated, multi- media campaign,

                     “Illinois Where Fresh Is!” designed to bring

                     “Specialty Crops” to the forefront of consumers’

                     minds and promote healthier eating habits, ultimately

                     boosting industry sales and keeping Illinois dollars

                     in the state. Only eligible specialty crops will be

                     included in the promotions.

                     Preparing Illinois’ Specialty Crop Producers for

                     Drift                     $20,757

                     • Partner with the University of Illinois Department

                     of Crop Sciences, Illinois Specialty Crop Growers

                     Association and Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners

                     Association to support an outreach and research

                     program designed to define the risk of damaging

                     pesticide drift to specialty crops producers and

                     assist specialty crop growers in managing such risk

                     by providing them with a series of outreach

                     presentations, special tools and guidelines for

                     properly addressing a drift incident, and access to

                     existing resources, including the Driftwatch program.

                     Documenting Nutritional Value of Local Produce


                     • Partner with Southern Illinois University’s

                     Department of Plant, Soil and Agricultural Systems to

                     study the impact of variety selection, harvest timing

                     and storage duration on the nutritional and

                     antioxidant content of fruits and vegetables and to

                     provide grower outreach through pre–educational

                     project surveys, field production and sample

                     collection, fruit and vegetable tissue assays,

                     development of specialty crop fact sheets and

                     post–educational outreach surveys.

                     Establish and disseminate vine balance strategies for

                     Illinois wine grapes      $63,351

                     • Partner with the Southern Illinois University and

                     the Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Association

                     to develop management guidelines for crop level,

                     nitrogen fertilization rate and canopy and vineyard

                     floor management strategies that will significantly

                     improve the marketability of Illinois grapes and


                     Growing the Specialty Crop Industry:

                     Farm–to–Restaurant and Beyond   $40,997

                     • Partner with the Illinois Stewardship Alliance to

                     increase specialty crop sales to restaurants; develop

                     new resources to connect farms to restaurants by

                     educating restaurants and farmers; promote local

                     foods through the “Buy Fresh Buy Local” campaign;

                     provide technical training to chefs and facilitate a

                     farm–to–restaurant series. Matching funds will be

                     used to cover the costs of

                     any non–specialty crops.

                     Grant Administration


                     • Perform pre–award and post–award activities to

                     administrate the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program

                     funding and ensure that the State Agency and

                     sub–awardees abide by Federal and State requirements

                     and regulations.