NRCS offers support to urban farmers in Northeastern Illinois through EQIP

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has developed a new funding opportunity for individuals or groups producing agricultural crops in the northeastern Illinois urban areas. NRCS is offering an urban agricultural project through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to provide financial and technical assistance to urban farmers to address natural resource concerns by applying conservation practices. One of the practices offered through EQIP for urban farmers is a ‘hoop house,’ or what NRCS calls a seasonal high tunnel. Other practices available to treat resource concerns are cover crops, nutrient management, and pollinator habitat.

A ‘hoop house,’ or what NRCS calls a seasonal high tunnel, provides a suitable environment to grow produce longer throughout the year. Other benefits of the high tunnel are improved plant quality and healthier soils for raising fruits and vegetables. (IL NRCS Photo)

A ‘hoop house,’ or what NRCS calls a seasonal high tunnel, provides a suitable environment to grow produce longer throughout the year. Other benefits of the high tunnel are improved plant quality and healthier soils for raising fruits and vegetables. (IL NRCS Photo)

The EQIP urban agricultural project is being offered in the Chicagoland area in the following counties: Cook, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will. The purpose of the project is to improve natural resources while growing fruits and vegetables. “There is a pressing need for locally grown produce in urban areas, and for that reason NRCS established this project to support urban agriculture,” explains Eric Gerth, Acting State Conservationist. “Through EQIP, a seasonal high tunnel can be installed, which will extend the growing season in an environmentally safe manner and allow farmers to produce crops beyond the normal growing season.”

Individuals or groups interested in applying to receive financial assistance through EQIP should fill out an application for the program and establish records at their local USDA Service Center. NRCS accepts applications year round and keeps applications on file until application deadlines and funding cycles are established. Three application deadline dates have been set to submit completed applications to NRCS. Those deadline dates are January 15, 2016;February 19, 2016; and March 18, 2016. Each deadline will have its own funding cycle for applicants to be ranked and compete for funding.

NRCS staff will assist applicants through the process and explain the steps and activities. NRCS will evaluate applications for eligibility and answer ranking questions based on resource concerns and practices to be implemented. NRCS will select and fund the higher ranked applications and will develop a contract with practices to implement.

NRCS staff can assist interested individuals and groups and be reached at the phone numbers below. Visit the Illinois NRCS website for information on EQIP and the application form NRCS-CPA-1200 at: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/il/programs/financial/eqip/

For information on the northeastern Illinois EQIP urban agricultural project, NRCS points of contact by county are:

Mark Baran for Grundy and Kendall Counties — (815) 433-0551 ext. 3
Trenton Rader for Cook (South of Cermak Road), Kankakee and Will Counties — (815) 937-8940 ext. 3
Jim Rospopo for Cook (North of Cermak Road), Lake, McHenry, DuPage, and Kane Counties — (630) 584-8240 ext.3.