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Federal funding supports local ag internship

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Federal funding is on the way to assist an agriculture internship program operated by a Springfield nonprofit.

Springfield Community Gardens is the recipient of an Environmental Protection Agency grant for its regenerative agriculture internship initiative, according to a news release. Anna Withers, the nonprofit's resource development manager, said via email the grant amounts to $75,000.

"We are pleased that the EPA is recognizing the importance of supporting small-scale, regenerative agriculture farm operations as part of the climate solution," said Maile Auterson, SCG's executive director, in the release. "This project will educate and empower communities and especially the underserved to become more resilient to climate change and natural disasters by teaching sustainable, ecologically diverse food production practices.”

The internship program operates in a cohort format. The EPA grants helps fund seven monthlong cohorts, including one that was completed in October, with future cohorts scheduled to take place in March, April, May, June, July and September of 2023, Withers said.

The capacity for the year of cohorts is 28 interns. After that, additional funding will be needed to continue the program, Withers said.

"The key difference in the program before and after EPA funding is that we can offer interns a stipend to help offset transportation or other related costs, as well as being able to pay industry experts to come in and present workshops along with receiving hands-on, on-farm learning from SCG farmers," Withers said via email. "This way we can contract workshop hosts to provide a more comprehensive crash course on subjects related to soil quality, native plants and rainwater collection, biodiversity and ecological design strategies, and diversity and equity outreach to BIPOC communities in farming. These are all essential lessons in learning about the resiliency of regenerative agriculture."

The grant also will pay for supplies to outfit a greenhouse at SCG's East Stanford Market Garden, she said.

Partners in the intern program include United Community Change, University of Missouri Extension, Ozarks Mountain Permaculture, Springfield Environmental Services, Smiling Suns Gardens and CoxHealth, according to the release.

SCG operates 16 community gardens and three farm incubator sites.

Earlier this month, SCG announced a $67,000 grant to build a vegetable packing station and propagation house at Amanda Belle’s Farm at Cox South, according to past reporting.

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