The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Monday announced $52 million in grants to promote organic foods, farmers’ markets and local distribution networks.
Northwest recipients ranged from research universities to neighborhood farmers’ markets.
Oregon State University and Washington State University landed grants to study organic foods, soil conservation and climate change mitigation.
The largest Northwest grant, $1.99 million, will go to OSU’s Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative. The research project started five years ago to develop commercial organic crops that grow well in the northern United States.
OSU heads up the project and works with Cornell University in New York, the University of Wisconsin and the Organic Seed Alliance in Port Townsend, Wash.
The collaborative’s director, OSU professor Jim Myers, said he learned in August the project would receive another grant, ensuring the program’s survival for another four years. He was pledged to secrecy until Monday’s announcement.
“I was elated. Our whole project team was elated,” he said. “Breeding is a long-term endeavor.”
Other grants, most of which were authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill, will go to dozens of other projects, including marketing quinoa, promoting hard cider and running farmers’ markets in downtown Seattle.
For one project, WSU researchers will conduct a three-year study on whether dung beetles can protect human health. Scientists will conduct experiments on 45 farms in Washington, Oregon and California to see whether the feces-eating beetles can suppress harmful foodborne pathogens in droppings left by wildlife, domestic animals and birds.
“You can think of dung beetles as an ecologically based cleanup crew,” doctoral student Matt Jones said in a university press release.
Many grants went to expand farmers’ markets. The Willamette Farm and Food Coalition received a grant to advertise Lane Local Foods, an online farmers’ market open year-round. About 35 farmers within 100 miles of Eugene sell online, the coalition’s executive director, Lynne Fessenden, said.
The market has been around for a few years and relied mostly on word of mouth to become known, she said. By advertising, the market hopes to increase gross sales from about $70,000 a year to $200,000, she said.
“We feel it will be easy to do with a little advertising,” Fessenden said.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the grants at the Virginia State Fair.
“Consumers are increasingly demanding more local and organic options,” Vilsack said in a press release. “Investing in local and regional food systems supports the livelihoods of farmers and ranchers, especially smaller operations, while strengthening economies in communities across the country. Today’s announcements also improve access to fresh, healthy food for millions of Americans.”
Here are grant recipients in Oregon, Washington and Northern California. No grants were awarded to groups in Idaho.
Federal State Marketing Improvement Program
• $89,058, University of Washington in partnership with Native American tribes to develop strategies to market agriculture products packaged in tribal wooden gift boxes made from sustainably managed timber for the Japanese market.
• $80,444, Washington State University in partnership with the Northwest Agriculture Business Center to market quinoa.
• $48,508, WSU in partnership with WSU Extension Service to study the market for apple cider.
Farmers Market Promotion
• $99,994, Chico State University Research Foundation to provide cooking demonstrations and food tastings at farm stands in Colusa County, Calif.
• $98,372, WSU Small Farms Program to help more than 100 farmers’ markets grow in Puget Sound and rural areas of Central and Eastern Washington.
• $95,704, Northwest California Resource Conservation and Development Council, Weaverville, Calif., to market two Trinity County farmers’ markets.
• $95,880, Willamette Farm and Food Coalition, Eugene, to advertise Lane Local Foods, an online farmers’ market, and expand Lane County Farmers’ Market.
• $93,985, Janus Youth Programs, Portland, to expand Village Gardens Farmers’ Market in New Columbia, Ore.
• $87,643, Sustainable Connections, Bellingham, Wash., to collaborate with Bellingham Farmers’ Market to promote producer-to-consumer sales.
• $83,128, Sunnyside Transformation Yakima Valley, Sunnyside, Wash., to develop Lower Yakima Sunnyside Farmers’ Market.
• $73,667, Tigard Area Chamber of Commerce to increase customers and vendors at Tigard Area Farmers’ Market.
• $68,735, Jefferson Economic Development Institute, Mount Shasta, Calif., to expand the Mt. Shasta Farmers’ Market.
• $66,022, Gorge Grown Food Network, Hood River, Ore., to market locally grown food and train farmers’ market managers.
• $43,500, Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority, Seattle, to operate small farmers’ markets in five downtown neighborhoods.
• $16,966, Bremerton Farmers’ Market to organize the Kitsap Farmers’ Market Coalition, train managers and equip eight farmers’ markets with machines to accept food stamps.
Local Food Promotion
• $100,000, Northwest Agriculture Business Center, Mount Vernon, Wash., to improve two Puget Sound Food Hub sites and add a third.
• $100,000, Tilth Association, Seattle, to support 30 incubator farms and assist 20 King and Pierce County farmers with marketing and distribution.
• $99,966, Friends of Zenger Farm to support micro-food enterprises in southeast Portland.
• $98,628, North 40 Farm Food SPC, Camano Island, Wash., to develop training for small farms in Western Washington.
• $88,500, Institute for Washington’s Future, Lynnwood, Wash., to expand direct marketing initiative with the Real Food Buying Club and the Washington Latino Farmers Network.
• $25,193, Farmstead Meatsmith, Vashon, Wash., for a mobile slaughter truck to train student farmers.
• $25,000, Community Action of Skagit County, Mount Vernon, Wash., to create business plan to store and distribute produce for Skagit farmers.
• $25,000, Ecotrust of Portland to analyze Oregon’s supply of and demand for regionally produced antibiotic-free chickens.
• $25,000, King Conservation District, Renton, Wash., to study how to improve regional food storage, processing and distribution systems.
• $11,744, Great Northern Corporation, Weed, Calif., to study establishing a local food center in Siskiyou County.
Organic Research and Extension Initiative
• $1.99 million, Oregon State University to fund the Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative.
• $49,881, Oregon Tilth
• $42,951, Organic Seed Alliance, Port Townsend, Wash.
Organic Transitions Program
• $499,991, Washington State University to study whether dung beetles suppress foodborne pathogens harmful to humans.
• $498,073, Washington State University to study how to promote healthy bee communities in Western Washington.
• $496,557, Oregon State University
Community Food Projects
• $25,000, Community Action of Skagit County, Mount Vernon, Wash., to research how to supply low-income residents with more nutritious food.