Friday, June 12, 2009
ST. PAUL, MN(release) - The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) has awarded $100,000 in sustainable agriculture grants for seven on-farm research and demonstration projects. Available through the MDA's Sustainable Agriculture Grant Demonstration Program, the grants support three-year projects that increase farm net profits, benefit the environment and improve the farm family quality of life.
This year's grantees are experimenting in growing cherries, organic mushrooms and other fruit and vegetable production strategies.
A grant was awarded to the Association for the Advancement of Hmong Women in Minnesota (AAHWM). The organization's goal is to reduce pesticide use by Hmong and other immigrant farmers by training them in Integrated Pest Management (IPM) methods. During the first year of the three-year project, two Hmong farmers will learn IPM strategies for growing cabbage crops and share these methods with other Hmong farmers.
Pat Altrichter and Judy Heiling, Morrison County sisters, are expanding their Saskatoon berry and blueberry growing operation and "fruit u-pick" market to include cherries which are typically not grown in their region.
Jill Jacoby, St. Louis County, is researching the possibility of growing shiitake and oyster mushrooms in a northern climate. She hopes to be able to sell the mushrooms to local restaurants, co-ops and farmers' markets.
Arlene and Robert Jones, Crow Wing County, are investigating the feasibility of producing hops using sustainable and organic growing practices. If successful, they hope to establish a commercially viable hops market for small craft brewers and micro breweries.
Eric Gundacker, Dakota County, is researching the commercial viability of growing organic blackberries and how the use of high tunnels might increase blackberry yields.
At the University of Minnesota - North Central Research and Outreach Center in Grand Rapids, grantee Shengrui Yao will study methods of extending the growing season for blackberries by using high tunnels, thus increasing the market potential for this fruit.
Steven Poppe, at the University of Minnesota - West Central Research and Outreach Center in Morris, will research growing fall-bearing raspberries in high tunnels with an additional goal of eliminating or minimizing the use of fungicides, herbicides and insecticides.
Sustainable agriculture grant projects are highlighted in the MDA's annual Greenbook. To learn more about previous projects, visit http://www.mda.state.mn.us/protecting/sustainable/greenbook2008.htm.