Iowa Department of Ag is Helping Drive Demand for Specialty Crops
When you think of crops in Iowa, you probably think of corn and soybeans, not necessarily specialty crops. Specialty crops, as defined by the USDA are “Fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops (including floriculture).”
To increase demand for Iowa specialty crops, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig announced that the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship has awarded $300,000 in grants to partners throughout the state.
Organizations Receiving Funds
Fourteen groups in Iowa will be receiving grants to promote, increase demand, or create new markets for Iowa specialty crops. Some organizations receiving funds include:
- University of Northern Iowa- Expanding Grow.Eat.Play Awareness Campaign;
- Field to Family- Local for Lunch 365: Connecting Iowa Students to Local Produce Year-Round;
- Iowa Farmers Union- Assist Iowa Schools and Childcare Centers with Local Food Procurement Plans;
- Iowa Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association and Iowa Wine Growers Association- Specialty Producers Conference,
- Iowa Nut Growers Association and Iowa State University- Develop Infrared Radiation Processing Technology to Produce High Quality and Safe Hazelnuts,
- Iowa State University- Addressing Product Development and Food Safety Needs for Value-Added Producers in Iowa, and Expanding Production and Markets for Specialty Melons;
- Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation- Teaching About Christmas Trees
Iowa Specialty Crops
According to the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation, specialty crops in Iowa are the same as in Florida or California. Iowa’s short growing season and extreme temperatures limit the number of specialty crops that are grown in the state.
Christmas trees are a common specialty crop you see primarily being sold in December. While they are sold between Thanksgiving and Christmas trees, it typically takes six to twelve years to grow with maintenance year-round.
Vegetables are another specialty crop you will find throughout Iowa. Many small farms thrive off vegetable sales through roadside stands, farmers’ markets, and even just off the farm; while others sell directly to wholesale.
Fruits such as apples and grapes are found throughout the state of Iowa. Many growers have taken a step away from these crops due to extreme weather damaging their crops, however, there are still many growers in Iowa.