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Funding to Expand Community-Based Agriculture Across NYS
New York Ag Connection - 04/12/2018

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard Ball Wednesday announced $500,000 is available through the Community Growers Grant Program to develop and enhance community gardens, school gardens and urban farms across the state. These growing sites play a fundamental role in the fight against hunger while supporting proper nutrition, educational opportunities and community engagement. Recognizing the significance of these benefits, Commissioner Ball consulted with the New York State Community Gardens Work Group in developing this grant program to provide resources for the continued growth and sustainability of these growing spaces.

"Community growing sites may be small in comparison to the average-size farm, but they can be just as powerful," Commissioner Ball said. "They are not just great sources of fresh, healthy foods, they are a dynamic tool to combat hunger in underserved communities, beautify neighborhoods, build community pride and boost awareness of the importance of agriculture and environmental stewardship. This grant program is an opportunity to extend these substantial benefits to thousands of New Yorkers."

The Community Growers Grant Program was created as a strategy to improve food security by providing funding to ensure the viability and success of community growing spaces. Currently, there are more than 1,000 community, school and urban gardens throughout New York State. Many serve a critical need in communities with limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

Despite an increasing number of community growing spaces in both urban and rural areas, there remains a lack of available resources and capital to support these plots. While limited funding from not-for-profit organizations has helped meet basic needs, additional support is crucial to building capacity and infrastructure to meet the high demand for these locations statewide. The Community Grower grants will help address these needs by providing up to $25,000 per eligible project.

The funding is available through a competitive application process. Eligible applicants include not-for-profit organizations, educational institutions and government entities. All applications must be submitted through Grants Gateway here. The deadline to apply is May 21.

More information about this grant program, including the Request for Proposals, is available on the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets website at www.agriculture.ny.gov/RFPS.html. For questions, contact Meg.McCabe@agriculture.ny.gov.

This grant program complements the Department's ongoing efforts to provide technical assistance to community growing organizations statewide. Through its Community Garden Program, the Department helps identify vacant public land for community gardening purposes, connects community groups and state or local agencies to facilitate the use of vacant properties for community gardens, and directs gardeners to resources in their communities.

Senator Jeffrey Klein said, "Community gardens are a great way to provide New Yorkers with locally grown, healthy fruits and vegetables. In low income areas, where it can be difficult for residents to access fresh produce, they are especially important. I'm proud that this year we were able to expand this program and I hope that more people will apply for this grant so that we can continue to see its growth."

Assembly Agriculture Committee Chair, Assemblyman Bill Magee, said, "These exciting programs give folks the opportunity to grow fresh food in their own neighborhoods and school gardens, and to cook, eat and take pride in the sharing of the harvest while learning about farming, nutrition, and community stewardship."

Since Governor Cuomo took office in 2011, the state has implemented several programs, policies and legislation to bring hunger relief to thousands of New Yorkers. In 2016, Governor Cuomo created the New York State Council on Hunger and Food Policy to establish a permanent focus on fighting hunger in New York. The Council's mission is to identify new policies and programs that enhance the state's efforts to improve nutrition and the availability of fresh, locally grown foods for New Yorkers living in communities with limited access.

Most recently, the Governor unveiled a five-point plan to provide students of all ages greater access to healthy meal options. The 'No Student Goes Hungry' initiative expands the State's Farm-to-School program, increases reimbursements for schools that source at least 30 percent of their food from New York farms, bans lunch shaming, expands access to free breakfast, and requires food pantries on all SUNY and CUNY campuses.

In addition, the State has expanded its FreshConnect Checks and Farmers' Market Nutrition program to bring more fresh, local foods to underserved communities and increase the buying power of SNAP recipients. The state has also developed procurement guidelines to assist state agencies in purchasing local foods and invested $15 million to build a state-of-the-art Greenmarket Regional Food Hub in the South Bronx.

The Department, through its various divisions and programs, promotes New York agriculture and its high-quality, diverse products, fosters agricultural environmental stewardship, provides consumer protections, and safeguards the State's food supply, land, plants and livestock to ensure the viability and growth of New York's agriculture industries.

The Department operates the Great New York State Fair, and administers the Taste NY initiative, the FreshConnect and New York State Grown & Certified programs. Follow the Department on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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