The state Department of Agriculture is looking for new ways to make Indiana specialty crops competitive.
They'll divide more than $380,000 among research and marketing projects for fruit, veggies and more. The federal money comes from the USDA’s specialty crop block grant program.
Bob White helps farmers break into specialty crops for the state Farm Bureau. He says Indiana’s biggest crops remain corn and soybeans, but more people are getting into growing other produce on fewer acres.
Some farmers returned to that land after losing a manufacturing job, he says.
"You're also seeing a whole new crop of millennials that are wanting to get into the grow their own food business and marketing to the wholesale," White says.
In the past, the state has divided its federal grant money across farmer's markets, local crops like tomatoes, melons and maple syrup, and brands like Indiana Grown and the Uplands wine region. But White says recently, one crop has risen above the rest:
"Hops has been a big one the last couple years," he says.
That's because craft beer producers have gone looking for local hops.
Last year, Purdue University got specialty crop funding to study how best to grow the plants in Indiana soil -- and White thinks they might be in the spotlight this year, too.
The state is accepting proposals for specialty crop funding through June 6.