PROVIDENCE – Ken Ayars, chief of the Department of Environmental Management's Division of Agriculture, received the Award of Merit from the Rhode Island Nursery and Landscape Association (RINLA) at the group's annual trade show and seminar held on January 17th at the University of Rhode Island's Center for Biotechnology and Life Sciences.
RINLA is the leading horticultural, agricultural and landscape business association in the state. Its members include nurseries, landscape contractors, arborists, irrigation specialists, masons, garden centers, turf farms, landscape architects, landscape designers, vegetable growers, cut flower growers, suppliers and allied businesses. The association has a long history of partnering with URI in education, training and research that supports the green industries in Rhode Island.
"Ken Ayars is woven into the fabric of our RINLA community – we consider him to be one of our own," said RINLA Executive Director Shannon Brawley. "Ken has made himself available to us for collaboration not only in addressing policy issues but also in addressing practical, on-the-ground solutions for green related industry issues and needs."
The Award of Merit was presented to Ayars by RINLA board member Jean Cotta, who is the co-owner of Portsmouth Nursery and president of the RI Nursery and Landscape Institute. "Ken continues to be this state's strongest advocate for agriculture and the green industry. He works tirelessly to ensure a future that recognizes agriculture and horticulture as important, vibrant small businesses that are necessary components to a sustainable economy, a better quality of life, and a locally-based food system in Rhode Island," said Cotta. "Ken is patient, unbiased, dedicated and sincere, and it is both an honor and a privilege to present him with this year's Award of Merit."
A resident of Exeter, Ayars has worked in DEM's Division of Agriculture since 1987 and has served as division chief since 1998. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology, a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture and Resource Technology, and a Master of Science degree in Plant Sciences from the University of Rhode Island.
"I am deeply appreciative of receiving the 2013 Award of Merit by the RI Nursery and Landscape Association," he said. "RINLA is a progressive organization and the industry it represents has an important role in the state's economy, quality of life and environment, as evidenced in part by the recent green industry economic impact study funded by DEM and conducted by URI. DEM supports the state's natural resource-based industries in a plethora of ways, all of which contribute to Governor Chafee's and Direct Coit's economic and environmental priorities to move Rhode Island forward."
"Ken Ayars is the kind of person who demonstrates the value and impact of public service," said DEM Director Janet Coit. "His efforts to promote and foster the growth of agriculture in Rhode Island can be seen across the state, from the explosion of farmers' markets to the promotion of local foods in our outstanding restaurants. Seven days a week, Ken Ayars is working for the benefit of farmers and farm businesses in Rhode Island. He makes me proud to be the Director of DEM!"
The 2,500 green industry businesses in Rhode Island sustain 12,300 jobs and contribute $1.7 billion annually to our state's economy. Farming is an integral part of the state's economy and provides a valuable contribution to Rhode Island's open space and quality of life. Beyond fresh and local produce, nursery stock, sod and Rhode Island's own Rhody Fresh milk, agriculture contributes to tourism, open space, landscaping businesses, and a variety of food-related industries. DEM's Division of Agriculture oversees numerous efforts designed to maintain the viability of farming in Rhode Island, including locally-produced milk and beef, farmers' markets, and buy local and agri-tourism programs.
The Rhode Island House of Representatives also issued a Citation to Ayars last week in recognition for the RINLA merit award and for providing outstanding service to the state's horticultural, agricultural and landscape communities.