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Advancing Iowa specialty crops

Photo Courtesy of Des Moines' Downtown Farmers' Market

Iowa is well-known for row crops and production livestock. But what about specialty crops?

Below, we discuss what one Iowa organization is doing to promote the competitiveness of specialty crops in Iowa.

AUDIO: Mike Naig, Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship

The Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship (IDALS) recently announced that it will be awarding grants to 11 Iowa organizations to help enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops. Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig says the monies will help support farmers working to diversify Iowa agriculture, such as young and beginning farmers.

“This is an opportunity for us to invest in and provide support to folks who are working to diversify Iowa agriculture and supply locally grown produce and other products,” Naig said. “We administer a program, the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, on behalf of the USDA, and we were thrilled to be able to facilitate over $300,000 of grant money to 11 different projects in the state. Again, to enhance locally grown (products) and diversity in Iowa agriculture.”

Those receiving funding include: Iowa State University of Science and Technology, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Practical Farmers of Iowa, Lutheran Services of Iowa, Iowa Valley Resource Conservation and Development, The Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation and Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. Naig says the Department of Agriculture will use its funding to increase awareness of specialty crops in Iowa, as well as encourage consumption of homegrown products.

“Our intention is to promote Iowa-grown, Iowa-produced products – things that show up in farmers markets, things we can market from the farm to fork and farm to schools, Naig said. “We’re going to put some effort behind raising the awareness of what we produce in Iowa and see if we can’t connect a few more consumers with our good Iowa farmers.”

Through this effort, Naig hopes to help consumers better understand where their food comes from. He also wants consumers to learn to appreciate and enjoy Iowa-sourced products.