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USDA SARE Grant-2024-25

The 2023 Southern SARE Professional Development Program

The International Center for Indigo Culture (ICIC) announces its 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.

 

We are thrilled 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. These events 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, indigo dyers/dye makers, and 1890 HBCU faculty (Dr. Florence Anoruo SC State and Dr. Nik Heynen of UGA).

 

This balance of skills, interests, knowledge, and connections will allow us to make great advancements in closing the gap between the growing regional market demand for indigo and the ability of small farms to meet that demand with sustainable production of indigo pigment and value-added food and fiber products from companion plants.

For the 2024 and 2025 cohorts from GA and SC, training will be held virtually and in person. ICIC will lead these trainings, featuring a curriculum developed collectively by all partners and first-hand knowledge sharing from indigo growers, dye producers, and product marketers.

 

Our Marketing curriculum will focus on proven and growing market segments for indigo dye pigment, textile products, hands-on experiences, and agritourism opportunities. It will also consider 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.

 

Harvest and Processing On-farm Training will be held in the fall, 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 use, to sell to indigo dyers or to serve as part of a worker-owner processing cooperative in their community. We will also be creating evergreen digital content to supplement any print content.

 

This unique opportunity to work with the plants, process, and equipment will allow SPs to gain a more detailed understanding of the potential for scaling this farm-based system to serve multiple farms in a central dye house facility that could be owned and operated by a producer cooperative of farmers and textile artists.

 Please join our mailing list to get our latest project updates.

Sapelo Island Partnership 

The Cornelia Walker Bailey Program on Land and Agriculture has entered into a partnership with the International Center on Indigo Culture (ICIC) and the State Botanical Garden of Georgia at the University of Georgia (SBG) to re-introduce indigo on Sapelo Island.  This effort is in line with the Sapelo Island Cultural and Revitalization Society’s (SICARS) long-term effort to grow heritage crops on Sapelo for the sake of economic development within the Hog Hammock community.  ICIC President Donna Hardy and SBG’s Heritage Garden Curator Gareth Crosby have agreed to provide technical support to program co-directors Maurice Bailey and Nik Heynen to develop the cultivation, processing and selling of indigo, which has a long history on Sapelo Island.   

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