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A land of shrimp, wine and honey: Missouri funds agriculture beyond cows and corn

Merav Gleit, Monsanto's bee health platform lead, with the company's backyard bee hives in summer 2016.
File photo | Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

The state of Missouri is again set to fund non-traditional and urban agriculture entrepreneurs like shrimp farmers, wine producers and beekeepers. Those are some of the businesses the state’s department of agriculture has supported in the past few years through a special program.

The state is accepting applications until Oct. 26 for the next round of funding for its Urban and Non-Traditional Agriculture Matching Grant Program, which aims to spur innovation and create more jobs in Missouri’s agricultural sector.

“We want to drive jobs. We want to put more people to work in the agriculture industry while growing the agriculture industry,” said Missouri Grown program manager Christi Miller.

Attracting agribusiness concepts that have not been in the state before is a key goal of the matching-grant program.

“We like to say it’s different from cows and corn and soybeans,” said Miller.

One of last year’s grant winners was a shrimp farm near Kansas City. Other agribusinesses awarded funding in previous years include a winery near Augusta and farms expanding into the business of bees and honey. 

“We've assisted a couple of farmers over the years who wanted to get into beekeeping and honey production,” Miller said.

The program offers matching grants of up to $7,500. Many agribusiness entrepreneurs, like the beekeepers, don’t need that much to get going.

“The things they needed to begin their business, to begin their hives and honey production, for instance, wasn't the entire amount.”

The grants also focus on urban areas where agricultural-related businesses are rarer.

Urban Buds, a flower business in the Dutchtown neighborhood of St. Louis has also received some money through the program. 

“This grant allowed them to take not just one vacant lot, but to buy the vacant lot next door and expand their business,” she said.

“So they are growing twice as many fresh cut flowers in St. Louis. In the heart of St. Louis.”

The application for the next round of grants is available at agriculture.mo.gov. The winning concepts will be selected by mid-November.

The projects need to be completed by May 1 for businesses to receive the funding.

Follow Wayne Pratt on Twitter: @WayneRadio

Wayne is the morning newscaster at St. Louis Public Radio.

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