PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management announces that four farmers' markets located in state parks will open on a weekly basis beginning this week. For the first few weeks, the popular markets primarily will offer bedding plants, hanging plants, cut flowers, early vegetable crops, honey, and maple syrup. As traditional local summer crops become available, more vendors will participate.
"The growth of farmers' markets in Rhode Island has been phenomenal," said DEM Director Janet Coit . "Last year, there were more than 50 seasonal farmers' markets operating across Rhode Island, compared to just nine markets in 1998 . With the growing demand for locally-grown products and the impressive entrepreneurial skills of Rhode Island farmers, these markets help create a more sustainable, locally-based food system that benefits the Rhode Island economy and environment. With Mother's Day just a week away, be sure to head out to a farmers' market to get some beautiful bedding plants and flowers - they'll make the perfect gift!"
The farmers' markets in DEM-operated parks and market hours of operation are:
Goddard Memorial State Park Farmers' Market in Warwick, Fridays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. beginning on May 3. Colt State Park Farmers' Market in Bristol, Fridays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. beginning on May 3. Fishermen's Memorial State Park Farmers' Market in Narragansett, Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. beginning on May 5. Haines Memorial State Park Farmers' Market on Route 103 on the East Providence/Barrington line, Wednesdays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. beginning on May 1. The opening of the DEM Farmers' Markets coincides with the opening of many other farmers' markets throughout the state. Several additional farmers' markets operated by DEM will open in mid-to-late July, including:
Capitol Hill Farmers' Market in Providence, Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. beginning on July 25. Pastore Complex Farmers' Market in Cranston, Fridays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. beginning on July 26. Blackstone River Visitor Center Farmers' Market on Rt. 295 North in Lincoln, Tuesdays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. beginning on July 23. Johnston Farmers' Market at Memorial Park on Route 6 (Hartford Avenue), Mondays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. beginning on July 29. State Pier Nine Farmers' Market at State Pier Nine in Newport, Fridays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. beginning on July 26. Most vendors at every DEM Farmers' market accept farmers' market checks from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) administered by the Department of Health (to purchase fruits and vegetables). The successful Senior Farmers' Nutrition Program for purchase of fruits and vegetables, administered by DEM for the past eight years, will be offered at all DEM markets as the season progresses. The coupons are expected to be available at senior centers sometime in July. To qualify for the program, persons 60 or older make a simple self-declaration of income based on household size. DEM coordinates the program in conjunction with the RI Department of Elderly Affairs.
Rhode Island has 1,219 farms, mostly family run, which occupy 61,000 acres . The state has 50 seasonal farmers markets in urban, suburban and rural areas, seven indoor winter markets, and numerous pick-your-own farm stand operations . According to the 2007 USDA Census of Agriculture, Rhode Island was ranked number three in the country for direct marketing sales of fruits and vegetables from farms to consumers, on a per farm basis . Rhode Island also had $6.3 million worth of agriculture sales sold directly to the public, equal to 9.5 percent of all agriculture market sales, which ranked Rhode Island first in the US for percentage of direct market sales . The Economic Impact Study conducted by URI significantly determined that many economic values surpassed USDA figures .
DEM's Division of Agriculture and Resource Marketing, which helps farmers with marketing information, offers a free brochure that lists the locations of all farmers' markets and roadside stands, along with addresses, hours, days and months of operation, and telephone numbers. To obtain a free brochure, or participate in the state farmers' markets, please contact the Division at 222-2781. The brochure is also available on DEM's website, www.dem.ri.gov, by clicking on "Agriculture in Rhode Island" on the left side of the homepage, then "For Consumers," then "Farmers' Markets."