Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Adrian Polansky Nov. 12 announced three projects that will be funded using specialty crop block grant money the state received from USDA for federal fiscal year 2008.

Kansas received $106,240 as a result of a special provision in this year's farm bill, the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008, to fund projects that enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops, which are defined as horticulture, including turf grass sod and turf grass sod seed, fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, nursery crops and floriculture.

The projects funded by the grant are:

--21st Century Farmers Markets: Profitability Through Awareness, Access and Education. This project is funded at $41,751. It is a joint effort involving Kansas Rural Center and the Kansas Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Alternative Crops to provide education through a statewide farmers' market conference. It includes website development and blogs to promote markets and educate consumers, market growers and market managers. The goal is to increase consumption of Kansas-grown fruits and vegetables.

--Kansas Wine Quality Certification and Marketing. This project is funded at $30,000. The Kansas Grape Growers and Winemakers Association will design and implement this program to evaluate and certify Kansas wines. Certification will be a branding or mark consumers can look to as an indication the wine is of high quality. The goal is to increase sales of Kansas wines.

--Educational Program for Kansas Grape Growers and Winemakers. This project is funded at $33,500. Kansas had 320 acres of grapes in 2006, 147 acres more than it had in 2000, and interest in grape production continues to grow. The state is now home to 15 wineries. This project will enhance the competitiveness of Kansas wines by helping educate grape growers and wine makers. Kansas State University will coordinate the project and subcontract with the Institute for Continental Climate Viticulture and Enology at the University of Missouri and other states to deliver educational services to Kansas grape growers and winemakers.

Grants were open to projects involving research, nutrition, trade enhancement, food safety and security, pest and disease, education, "buy local" programs, promotion, marketing, more efficient and cost-effective distribution systems, environmental and conservational concerns, product development and developing cooperatives.

The Kansas Department of Agriculture is currently accepting applications for grant projects to fund using a federal fiscal year 2009 allocation. More about that grant is available online at www.ksda.gov/kansas_agriculture/content/281.

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