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  • Judy Newland

Indigo and Companion Food Crops: Opportunities for Limited Resource Farmers in the Lowcountry of Sou

For Immediate Release, February 17, 2023

International Center for Indigo Culture Grant Funding

ICIC has been awarded the 2023 Southern SARE Professional Development

Charleston—The International Center for Indigo Culture (ICIC) announces their approval for a two-year grant to fund a “train the trainer” agricultural model for teaching farmers to grow and process indigo in the Lowcountry.

The board members of ICIC are thrilled to be able to begin to implement this mission-centered project, “Indigo and Companion Food Crops: Opportunities for Limited Resource Farmers in the Lowcountry of South Carolina and Georgia,” after several previous attempts for grant funding.

Project Impact

The project team will develop and host sustainable agriculture educational events about plant-based indigo dye and companion food crops for Service Providers in coastal SC and GA, so they may inspire Limited Resource farmers to consider roles in the indigo value chain as growers and processors.

Approach and Method

The planning and design of this project proposal represent a multi-partner collaboration among mentor farmers (Sara Reynolds Green and Maurice Bailey), ICIC board members and indigo dyers/dye makers (Donna Hardy, David Harper, Arianne KingComer, Heather Powers, Nathaniel Styles, Tony Williams), 1890 HBCU faculty (Dr.

Florence Anoruo SC State and Dr. Nik Heynen of UGA), and indigo growers/dye

producers (LaChaun Moore of GIST yarn and Carolina Harper/CHI design indigo).

It is this balance of skills, interests, knowledge and connections that will allow us to make great advancements in closing the gap between the growing regional market demand for all things indigo, and the ability of small farms to meet that demand with

sustainable production of indigo dye pigment and value-added food and fiber products

from companion plants.

Our team will conduct outreach and recruiting focused on those professionals and community leaders in coastal counties of SC and GA working directly with Lowcountry farmers, especially Limited Resource farmers of Gullah heritage.

Indigo Trainings will be held simultaneously as zoom conferences for Cohort from both states in the first year, and again for Cohort 2 from both states in the second year. ICIC will lead these trainings and will feature curriculum developed collectively by all partners, and first-hand sharing of knowledge from indigo growers, dye producers, and product marketers. Curriculum will follow the steps and methods outlined in the

how-to manual, and will provide an overview of the process and its potential for small

sustainable farmers.

The Marketing curriculum will focus on proven and growing market segments for indigo dye pigment, textile products, and hands-on experiences and agritourism opportunities, as well as potential income from indigo companion plants, such as dyeing locally grown fiber (hemp, sea island cotton), and branding and marketing value-added food products made from Lowcountry-grown berries.

A total of four Harvest and Processing On-farm Trainings will be held in

September/October of both years, one each year in SC and one in GA. These

are designed to the heart of the training program, where SPs will come to the farm,

meet other SPs and indigo growers, processors, and artists in their region, and

participate first-hand in harvesting the indigo crop and initiating the creation of a batch of dye using the wet fermentation method.

We envision printing at least 250 copies of a 10-page, color how-to manual for

Lowcountry indigo dye production, as a user-friendly guide for Lowcountry farmers and growers to use when planting indigo crops and companion plants for their own use, to sell to indigo dyers, or to serve as part of a worker-owner processing cooperative in their community. As an outcome of t

he follow-up with service providers (SPs) and evaluation of their experience, ICIC will focus on growing and maintaining an engaged network of SPs and farmers in coastal SC and GA with the goal of advancing indigo dye production, processing, distribution, and marketing by strengthening know-how, systems, and collaborative partnerships throughout the value chain.

This unique opportunity to work with the plants, process, and equipment will allow SPs to have a more detailed knowledge of the potential for scaling this farm-based system to serve multiple farms in a central dye house faci

lity that could be owned and operated by a producers cooperative of farmers and textile artists.

If we do our jobs well with this project, there will be a lot more blue seen in homes, businesses, and on the streets from Charleston to Beaufort to Savannah and beyond -- putting Lowcountry indigo back on the map.

Project Timeline

The project is in the planning stages and will be administered beginning in July of 2023 and through the end of June 2025. More details will be made available as the project progresses.

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