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MDA awards $150,000 in sustainable ag grants

ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) has awarded $150,000 in Sustainable Agriculture grants for 10 on-farm research and demonstration projects.

Available through the MDA's Sustainable Agriculture Grant Demonstration Program, the grants support three-year projects that increase farm net profits, benefit the environment and improve the farm family quality of life.

Many of this year's grantees will investigate ways to extend the growing and grazing seasons for crops and livestock:

n Michael Hamp, Wadena County, will experiment with the use of shade cloth and water misters over lettuce and herb beds to lower air temperatures in mid-summer that would result in an extended growing season.

n Dallas Flynn, Otter Tail County, will use solar energy to heat the soil in an attempt to extend the growing season for high tunnel vegetable production. If successful, this would increase the amount of vegetables produced and reduce Flynn's energy costs.

n Kelly Smith, Carlton County, will research and demonstrate the growing of hardy greens such as spinach, arugula, and carrots in unheated hoop houses under row cover to extend the vegetable growing season.

n Al Ringer, St. Louis County, will investigate conventional and non-conventional types of winter protection for crops. He will compare using commercial plant coverings vs. making his own snow cover to protect blueberries during the winter months.

n Sam Kedem, Dakota County, will examine ways to extend the market season for organic strawberries.

Other projects include:

n Koua Vang and Cingie Kong, Chisago County, will design a production system to increase cultivation of the Goji berry in Minnesota similar to that grown in Asia.

n Jeff Duchene, Fillmore County, will conduct aerial seeding of winter rye into cropland to extend the grazing season. If successful, this would reduce the costs of feeding hay to over-winter cattle.

n Jerry Tourtillott, Roseau County, will demonstrate the use of warm-season grasses such as bluestem and switch grass as a source of livestock forage for both organic and conventional farms to determine if warm-season grasses increase production and profitability.

n Ryon S. Walker, Itasca and Carlton Counties, will compare conventional seeding, no-till interseeding, or broadcasting of annual cool and warm-season grasses utilizing pastures used as winter feeding areas.

n Joe Bowman and Michelle Gransee-Bowman, Scott County, will research and demonstrate strategies for managed rotational grazing by cattle, sheep, and poultry, to benefit the health of the ecosystems and the animals, while providing a diverse harvest of marketable products for farm enterprises.

Sustainable agriculture grant projects are highlighted in the MDA's annual Greenbook.

To learn more about previous projects, visit the Web site,