WVDA Announces $184,000 in USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Funding

Charleston, W.Va. – Three West Virginia agriculture programs will share in more than $184,250 in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Specialty Crop Block Grants for Fiscal Year 2023. These grants will help the West Virginia Department of Agriculture (WVDA) fund projects that enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops in the State and support crop growers through marketing, education, and research.

“West Virginia is known as the Mountain State. While those hills and valleys might seem a barrier to some, our farmers are resourceful with the way they use their land and the crops they grow and produce. Many of our small farmers specifically focus on specialty crops because they take up less space yet are proven to make a handsome profit. The Specialty Crop Block Grants are a way to foster growth within our agriculture industry. I can’t wait to see the impact these projects will have,” said West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt.

Recipients must use the federal funding to enhance the production, processing, and consumption of specialty crops in West Virginia. Specialty crops are defined as fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture. Grant recipients have two years to plan, implement, and gather data on their respective projects.

Those programs receiving awards are:

West Virginia Farmers Market Association – Kanawha County
FARMacy WV: Prescriptions for Produce

The West Virginia Farmers Market Association, through its Healthy Food Initiatives, continues to support FARMacy WV: Prescriptions for Produce. The program is designed to provide access to fresh, locally grown WV specialty crops as well as cooking skills and nutrition education to patients with chronic disease, health disparities, and nutrition insecurities. FARMacy targets patients in communities with limited or no access to fresh, locally grown produce, providing them with the needed resources. It also targets farmers, growers, and aggregators interested in supplying specialty crops, providing them a guaranteed income for the 15-week program. This project will fund Community Champions who will provide on-site supervision and act as a liaison between clinics and farmers. Funding will be used for marketing strategies to promote and recruit farmers and growers of specialty crops, as well as patients and providers to participate. FARMacy WV website updates, a statewide social media blitz, video promotion of individual farmers and specialty crops, and printed pamphlets, banners, and posters are planned.

Sunset Berry Farm – Monroe County
Freeze Dried Products to Access Farm to School and Other Markets

Sunset Berry Farm will freeze dry strawberries, peaches, blueberries, and tomatoes. The grant money will be used to rent a facility and equipment, train employees to freeze dry local fruits from various farms, and assist in selling freeze dried fruits to the Farm to School program and the general public.

West Virginia Military Authority – Nicholas County
Increasing West Virginia Honey Sales

The West Virginia Military Authority will develop a honey extraction and bottling location at its Patriot Apple site in Muddlety, WV with the overall goal of increasing the amount of locally produced honey that is efficiently and consistently packaged for sale throughout the state and region. Through education and outreach to West Virginia beekeepers, particularly those who are veterans or military family members, these individuals will be able to utilize this centralized processing and bottling equipment to reduce processing costs on the farm and to expand market opportunities for local honey.

For more information or questions, contact Beth Southern at 304-558-3708 or bsouthern@wvda.us.

The West Virginia Department of Agriculture protects plant, animal and human health through a variety of scientific, regulatory and consumer protection programs. The Commissioner of Agriculture is one of six statewide elected officials who sits on the Board of Public Works.