Colorado’s specialty crop industry receives $850,000 in USDA grant funds |

Colorado’s specialty crop industry receives $850,000 in USDA grant funds

BROOMFIELD, Colo. — The Colorado Department of Agriculture is pleased to announce the recipients of more than $850,000 in grant funding to support Colorado’s specialty crop industry.

Specialty crops include fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, and horticulture, greenhouse, and nursery plants. This year’s recipients are diverse in crop, location, and project scope, and include ongoing projects as well as multiple first-time applicants.

First-time awardee GoFarm, a not-for-profit organization in Golden, who will use the funding to create a farmer-to-farmer mentorship network to help train the next generation of specialty crop producers. “This funding will allow us to expand our mentorship and educational support for beginning farmers as they build sustainable farming businesses,” said Katie Huszcza of GoFarm.

Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project in Cortez, has received multiple SCBGP grants in the past, and with this year’s funding will continue to build on the work of previous projects. “Support from SCBGP has been instrumental in MORP’s achievements to locate, identify, and preserve hundreds of heritage apple varieties found in Colorado’s historic orchards,” said Addie Schuenemeyer, MORP co-director. “This includes work to bring back the rediscovered Colorado Orange apple to make it available to consumers who are requesting it.”

The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program is a federal grant program housed within the U.S. Department of Agriculture and administered by state departments of agriculture. The amount awarded to each state is based on the previous year’s cash receipts for specialty crops in the state.

Through a competitive review by an outside panel of experts, 12 of the 29 applications submitted were selected for funding this year. “Interest in the program this year was strong, and the applicant pool was highly competitive,” said Jennifer Benson, grants specialist at CDA who oversees the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.

The following awarded projects will begin in early 2021:

Colorado State Univ., Fort Collins

• $90,327 for continuing research on Cytospora canker, the most prevalent peach disease affecting Colorado peach producers. This project will establish a chemical management plan for the management of Cytospora, measure spread under different watering methods, and measure effects of mulched infected pruned branches.

• $81,148 to oversee and conduct research and supply technical support and outreach to Colorado specialty crop producers to stimulate innovation, competitiveness, and success. This project pays a part of the salary of the CSU specialty crops coordinator and convenes grant recipients to share information and learn from each other.

• $37,635 to evaluate the cold hardiness of different peach cultivars across the five most important peach growing regions of Colorado and to share results with growers.

• $30,475 to evaluate different sweet cherry tree canopy architectures that optimize orchard productivity and fruit quality, and to share results with producers.

Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project, Cortez

• $87,000 to preserve Colorado’s rare and endangered apple genetics and to diversify the selection of varieties which have varying genetic traits such as drought tolerance and insect and disease resistance.

Fort Lewis

College, Hesperus

• $78,745 to create 12 grower guides for growing a variety of specialty crops at elevation, addressing the unique challenges of short growing season, arid conditions, water scarcity, clay soils, cool nights, early frosts, and widely variable weed and pest pressure.

Colorado Potato Administrative Committee, Monte Vista

• $72, 238 for two efforts: to explore the use of seven different biopesticides by potato growers in the San Luis Valley as a means to promote environmental stewardship, and to provide Colorado public schools with access to and education on Colorado potatoes.

Colorado Dept of Agriculture, Broomfield

• $71,000 to promote Colorado produce to 19,000 attendees from more than 60 countries at the Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit Expo in 2021 through the development of a Colorado Pavilion.

Colo. Farmers Market Assoc., Denver

• $62,127 to provide business development training for farmer vendors and year-long, coordinated marketing support for farmers and market managers.

CSU, Fruita

• $58,914 to help farmers grow high-value organic chickpeas by determining which varieties are most successful, when to plant, and how to manage weeds.

Colorado Fruit and Vegetable Growers Assoc., Longmont

• $53,424 for marketing and promotion of Colorado specialty crops through consumer tours, youth education, and social media outreach, as well as to develop educational opportunities for beginning and small-scale producers.

GoFarm, Golden

• $39,351 to assist young and beginning farmers by developing a robust network of experienced farmer mentors and a regional alliance for farmer training. ❖