American Farmland Trust Awarded $96,275 For Conservation Innovation Grant in Massachusetts
The funds will provide greater access to assistance programs for urban agriculture producers.
Northampton, MA— The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has announced the 2021 Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG), aimed at developing innovative conservation approaches and technologies to address natural resource issues in Massachusetts. American Farmland Trust was awarded $96,275 to support conservation planning for urban agriculture, with the intent to increase and embed technical assistance to urban agriculture producers in the NRCS field office system.
Urban agriculture is a vital part of the Massachusetts local food systems, facing unique challenges around the conservation of soil, air and water. In an urban agriculture setting, challenges cannot be met with conventional technical and financial assistance. Instead, processes must be modified, and new tools developed with relationships from producers in the community.
“Urban agriculture provides communities across the commonwealth with increased access to local, fresh and culturally important foods, supporting the local food economy, and providing ecosystem services that mitigate climate change and protect water quality,” said Emily Cole, AFT New England Deputy Director. “This conservation innovation grant will help AFT provide direct support to meet the unique challenges that urban agriculture faces.”
“Most urban soils that are actively being used for food production are very different from native rural soils and face unique challenges around moisture retention, crop performance and maintaining long-term soil health,” said Caro Roszell, New England Soil Health Specialist. “Through this grant, AFT will be able to help urban food producers build and improve their soils so that these vital spaces can become even more abundant over time.”
CIG grants fund projects targeting innovative on-the-ground conservation, including pilot projects and field demonstrations, leveraging the federal investment in environmental enhancement and protection in conjunction with agricultural production. NRCS administers CIG as part of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Grants are awarded to state and local governments, federally recognized Indian tribes, non-governmental organizations and individuals. Grant recipients provide 50 percent of all project costs.
“These Conservation Innovation Grants will help spur creativity and problem-solving in the commonwealth’s forests and urban farms,” said Dan Wright, Massachusetts State Conservationist for NRCS. “Across the nation, CIG grants allow the best minds in America to develop unique and innovative solutions that will help make conservation more efficient in the future.”
This project seeks to provide greater access to NRCS assistance programs to urban agriculture producers in Massachusetts. AFT will partner with urban agriculture organizations to provide direct technical assistance to urban producers through on-site learning events. Additionally, through relationship-building, interviews and feedback, this project will develop urban agriculture-specific resources to increase knowledge of NRCS application processes and protocols. Further, it will develop recommendations for NRCS to increase urban farmer participation in federal conservation programs in Massachusetts.