NRCS Help For Cook County Urban Farms
Champaign, IL October 10, 2017— Urban agriculture is growing and the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) can help Cook County farmers conserve and improve natural resources on their farm. Ivan Dozier, Illinois NRCS State Conservationist explains, “Urban farms are valuable resources for neighborhoods and the people who live in them.
NRCS can assist these producers with conservation solutions and offer financial assistance to install conservation practices such as hoop houses, or what NRCS calls a high tunnel, or to plant pollinator species or cover crops.”
The urban landscape has many challenges for growing healthy food. NRCS can help with financial and technical assistance to manage natural resources like soil, water, and plants that can improve the crops urban farms grow.
Financial assistance from NRCS is provided through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Individual growers or groups can apply to receive EQIP financial assistance by filling out the program application, establishing records, and creating an account at their local USDA Service Center. Two USDA offices service Cook County growers. The exact location of each farm will determine the correct point of contact and a phone number (see details below).
NRCS accepts applications year round and keeps applications on file until application deadlines and funding cycles are established. Two application deadline dates have been established--November 17, 2017 and January 19, 2018. Each deadline will have its own funding cycle where applications are ranked and compete for available funding.
NRCS staff will assist applicants through the process and explain the steps and requirements to follow. NRCS evaluates applications for eligibility and makes ranking decisions based on specific resource concerns and practices each grower identifies. Applications that rank the highest will be selected for funding. NRCS will work with farmers to develop a customized contract that outlines specific practices and a schedule for installation.
According to Dozier, “For the past few years, urban farmers in Cook County have used EQIP to install high tunnels to extend the growing season and establish native flowering plants that attract and support more pollinator species. EQIP assistance is available once again to urban farmers and is a solid way to solve the natural resource issues on your farm.”
If interested, individuals or groups should contact NRCS staff at phone numbers listed below or visit the Illinois NRCS website at www.il.nrcs.usda.gov. If EQIP is right for you, consider signing up for the Conservation Client Gateway (CCG), a web portal that allows authorized individuals to perform program transactions and manage your account via the web.
For more information on CCG, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/cgate/