Two Arizona Urban Farmers Win National Grants

Two Arizona Urban Farmers Win National Grants
Chaz Shelton shows the seeding process at his urban farm in Tucson.

Merchant’s Garden AgroTech in Tucson has been named a $10,000 winner and Arizona Microgreens in Phoenix has been named a $5,000 winner of the Cultivating Change contest, in which local farmers compete for grant awards ranging from $1,000 to $20,000. Both Urban farming businesses have made a name for themselves in their local communities.

A member of Arizona Farm Bureau, Merchant’s Garden AgroTech plans to use its $10,000 grant to install and implement food traceability tools and processes. Established in 2015, Merchant’s Garden grows a variety of leafy greens and herbs using aquaponics. They partner with Stern Produce Company, a PRO*ACT fresh produce distributor and member of Greener Fields Together, a program that supports sustainability throughout the fresh produce supply chain.

Chaz Shelton of Merchant's Garden

Arizona Microgreens plans to use its $5,000 grant to purchase a commercial germination chamber for increased microgreen production. Arizona Microgreens grows assorted microgreens for restaurants, schools, and individuals throughout Arizona. They partner with Stern Produce Company, a PRO*ACT fresh produce distributor and member of Greener Fields Together, a program that supports sustainability throughout the fresh produce supply chain.

The funds will enable both farms to reach their goals of implementing food traceability tools for increased food safety and full supply chain transparency.  

“Winning this grant means fuel for the next iteration of our business,” explained Chaz Shelton, Founder and CEO of Merchant’s Garden AgroTech. “It means we've prepared properly to take the next step towards making fresh food more accessible and affordable in Southern Arizona. $10,000 helps provide us with the resources necessary to grow our production and operate it more efficiently. These funds will allow us to accomplish value-added activities.”

Cultivating Change was started in 2015 to promote and support the efforts of local farmers by providing funds for new or upgraded equipment and facilities, certifications, or eco-driven projects that will minimize environmental impact and maximize production. This year, 100 farms participated in the grant program, which has awarded more than $200,000 in grants since the program’s inception. Six project proposals, representing a total of $55,000 in grant money, were selected by panel review, and five additional outstanding winners, who each will receive from $1,000 to $10,000 in grant funds, were chosen via popular vote.

Farms throughout North America were invited to submit applications that clearly defined a quantifiable and distinct outcome in one of four areas: marketing, infrastructure, capacity building, or certifications. “Our team was amazed by the quality of the applications, ingenuity of projects, and ultimately enthusiasm from the community,” stated Anne Nichols, Sustainability Manager for Greener Fields Together. “We are excited to see these projects funded and moving forward.”

PRO*ACT CEO, Max Yeater, shared PRO*ACT’s goal to “really ‘cultivate change’ in communities through effective support of these local farmers who provide fresh produce, jobs, and inspiration to those they serve. It’s our hope that these investments provide the needed support for them to continue to grow.”

Applications to participate in the Cultivating Change competition in 2018 will be accepted beginning on October 1, 2018. Requirements and contest rules, as well as profiles of all of our winners, can be found at cultivatingchange.org.

More information about Merchant’s Garden AgroTech can be found on their website: http://www.merchantsgarden.com/

More information about Stern Produce Co. can be found on their website: http://www.sternproduce.com/

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