Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Specialty Crop News

The Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA) was recently awarded a specialty crop grant for over $208,578.00 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Marketing Service program to enhance the competitiveness of Missouri specialty crops and to teach FFA youth the importance of specialty crops as a value-added opportunity. In cooperation with the University of Missouri Center for Agroforestry and the Institute for Continental Climate Viticulture and Enology, MDA will educate FFA students and potential growers in the Lexington, Mo. and the surrounding areas and connect them with local leaders and mentors involved in agriculture.

View a complete list of Specialty Crops and read the press release.

Some of the highlights of the project that will impact farmers’ markets include:
More than 5 new farmers’ markets in the Missouri River Hills region will be created over a three year period.

FFA Chapters will have the direct hands-on experience of selling produce and horticultural crops, flowers, and value-added products at their community farmers’ markets. They will assist with the development of the promotional materials such as brochures, banners, signage to help identify the location, hours of operation, and help create special events at the markets, i.e., Corn and Tomato Fest, Opening Day Ceremony, Missouri Farmers’ Market Week.

The Specialty Crop Program will also enhance rural development across the state in many ways providing Missourians with more opportunities to become engaged in or purchase specialty crops. Wireless electronic benefits transfer machines will be placed in 19 eligible farmers’ markets to assist in providing underprivileged citizens the opportunity to purchase fresh produce and horticulture with foods stamps and WIC coupons.

By introducing FFA students to specialty crops in Missouri through classroom education, specialty crop workshops, working with local farmers’ markets and engaging students in the marketing and promotions on specialty crops, students will be more invested in what food they consume and how it is marketed and processed, but will also be introduced to the possibility of a future career in the specialty crop industry in Missouri.

Through educating FFA youth about specialty crops and training on the principals of marketing, FFA youth will acquire knowledge needed to market specialty crop produce directly to the consumer, filling a void for new producers in the pilot area. This project will work with 15 FFA chapters and 10 area farmers’ markets in this pilot area, exposing youth to specialty crops as a value-added opportunity while teaching the fundamental aspect of production, processing, distribution and marketing.

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