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Microgrant Recipients Announced! What are these Local Farmers Doing to Grow their Operations This Year?

by Avery Driscoll

In February, the City announced a microgrant program for local farmers in partnership with Urban Food Connections of Utah (UFCU). The fund will offer the majority of funding to local farmers over a two year period who want to expand their operations with sustainability in mind. (UFCU will receive a small portion of the funds to administer and help grow the program).

The grants will help farmers access technology, education, tools, and equipment to grow more produce and do so more sustainably.

“We’re delighted to partner with Urban Food Connections of Utah to give farmers the critical boost they need to invest back in their operations,” said Mayor Biskupski.

The first of three grant cycles has just concluded. The program was competitive with 33 applicants requesting a total of $131,668.93 in microgrant funding. So while only a handful of awardees were chosen for this round, we know there is sizable demand for continued microgrant opportunities to support local farmers and the local food market. We hope to continue to work with UFCU to expand the program in the coming years to meet more of that demand.

So without further adieu . . . 

The first round of grant recipients include:

Carly Gillespie of BUG Farm, Tamara Hed of Blue Spring Farm, Kevin Nash of Earth First Organix, and Kent Pyne of Pyne Farms. Congratulations! 

Co-owners Carly Gillespie and Coleman Riedesel of BUG Farms have been producing a variety of organic fruits and vegetables for the Salt Lake community since 2010. They currently distribute produce at the Downtown Farmers Market and through a CSA, which sold out of shares last season. They plan to meet growing demand by expanding their cultivated land by 15% for the 2017 season. They’re also hiring a summer apprentice, for which they were awarded $5,000 through the microgrant program to partially fund wages. With the extra space and extra help, BUG Farms plans to increase produce production by 15%, while also developing a more sustainable crop rotation system with new cover crops.

Tamara Hed of Blue Spring Farms was granted $3,275 to build a hoop house that will help extend their growing season and protect crops from pests. This will allow Blue Spring Farms to extend their CSA delivery season and provide greens and herbs at local markets throughout the winter. Currently, much of their broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and winter squash is damaged by bugs and cannot be sold. By growing these crops under insect mesh in a hoop house, they will be able to bring a greater variety of vegetables to the Downtown Farmers Market.

Kevin Nash of Earth First Organix grows all of his produce organically and focuses on minimizing his carbon footprint by hand-tilling and using solar energy. He distributes most of his produce at local farmers markets, and also has a few CSA customers. He was awarded $2,000 to purchase equipment that will help him extend his growing season, including the purchase of solar-powered black water barrels to heat his greenhouses and tunnel hoops to protect early season crops. This equipment will allow him to provide greens and root crops all winter, and produce summer crops much earlier in the season.

Kent Pyne of Pyne Farms runs an orchard that produces cherries, grapes, peaches, award-winning apples, and more– all of which are sold at their farm stand and many local markets. Pyne Farms was granted over $4,220 to invest in new fruit trees and additional apple storage bins. The new fruit trees will allow Pyne Farms to provide a greater variety of fruits to local markets, including pluots, plums, peacotums, and Kaweah peaches. The apple storage bins will allow him to increase the number of apples he can store and sell throughout the winter.

We’re looking forward to seeing what these farmers bring to the markets this year!

In the meantime, if you’re a local farmer interested in applying, the next cycle of microgrant applications will open in July.

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