Sunday, March 6, 2011

Grants for specialty crops

     Grants are available to help promote specialty crops such as aronia.  In most states, grant proposals are due on or before the second week in May.  USDA will announce the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, through the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). This is a flow-through program whereby individual states apply for federal funds, which they will use for grants within their states.

Grant funds are available for aronia projects

      Each year, the Agriculture Department in each state in the United States sends out a Request for Proposals in a news release.  This announcement is usually made in mid-February.  The state's Agriculture Department receives funds from the USDA based on the total dollar value of specialty crops grown in that state.  States typically receive several hundred thousand dollars.

Application forms are available on the website of each state's Agriculture Department.  To find the contacts person in your state, go to the USDA  Agriculture Marketing Service website and enter the name of your state in the state contacts search box.

     Specialty crops are defined as fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops, including floriculture crops. On their website, the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service has lists of plants commonly considered to be fruits and tree nuts, vegetables, culinary herbs and spices, medical plants and nursery, floriculture, and horticultural crops.  These lists are not intended to be all inclusive, but rather to provide examples of the most common specialty crops.

      To be eligible for a grant, the project(s) must solely enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops that benefit the industry within the state as a whole and that do not directly benefit a particular product or provide a profit to a single organization, institution, or individual.  However, projects can indirectly benefit a single organization, institution, or individual.  Grant funds can not be used to purchase starter plants or equipment used to plant, cultivate, and grow a specialty crop for the purpose of making a profit, or to expand production of a single business.  Grant funds can not be used to promote their individual businesses or to train its employees how to make value-added products.

      There are many examples of acceptable projects.  For example, funds may be request for by a specialty crop organization to conduct an advertising campaign that will benefit their specialty crop members.  A single grower may requests funds to demonstrate the viability of organic small fruit production and partners with Extension to publicize the working model of diversification to other regional growers.   In cooperation with a university, funding may be requested to conduct research on the feasibility of planting, cultivating, and growing a specialty crop in a particular area, the results of which can be shared with many growers throughout the State.

     Grant proposals will be accepted from established and "want-to-be" specialty crop producers, agencies, universities, institutions, industry, and community based organizations.  Proposals for Specialty Crop Block Grants are usually are due on or before --

 The 2nd. week in May

      Writing a grant proposal is not easy for most people.  Planning is one of the keys to success.  A grant proposal is the written version of your planning process.  The grant request must be written with clarity and in the required format.  The proposal must make a compelling case that sets it apart from other proposals.  You will not be the only one competing for the same scarce funds. 

      There are several good references books that can help and there are grant writing services that can help you write your proposal.  If you need help writing a grant proposal, Everhart Horticulture Consulting offers that service, in addition to business plan writing, advice about gardening, aronia berries, and herbicide drift.  We also do hands-on workshops, PowerPoint presentations, and on-site or phone consultations.

      As a consulting business, Everhart Horticulture Consulting provides links to resources, businesses, organizations, and people, as well as advice on many horticulture crops including aronia.  This includes recommendations and advice on where to buy small liners and larger aronia plants, what cultivars to plant, upkeep, maintenance, weed and pest control, irrigation, when to plant, site selection, soil testing, plant propagation, pest management, where and how to plant, mechanized planting, plant spacing, mechanized harvesting, along with where to market, budgets, custom business plan writing, what aronia grower group you might want to join, and everything else you need to know.  As a client of our consulting business, you will get help finding answers to any and all of the aronia questions you might have.

      We will also provide follow-up support and assistance for as long as you need us at no additional cost to you.  Even after I have consulted with you, I will continue to help you and share information with you as long as you freely share information and your experiences with me.  We believe in openness, sharing, transparency, and cooperation.

      Commercial aronia consultations take at least 4 to 5 hours plus follow-up time.  Visit our website and contact us for price quotes.  Please recommend our website and this blog to a friend, family member, or anyone who might be interested in aronia.

       Please post a comment in the box below.  To learn more about aronia, visit our website
 Everhart Horticulture Consulting.

      Thank you,
      Dr. Eldon Everhart

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