PROVIDENCE – The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM), along with its partners, today awarded over $200,000 to 21 local food businesses as part of its annual Agriculture "Ag" Day celebration at the State House. The awards, funded under the Local Agriculture & Seafood Act (LASA) grant program, help new and existing small businesses and food initiatives prosper in Rhode Island.
"LASA continues to be an important catalyst in growing our food and agricultural businesses in Rhode Island," said DEM Director Janet Coit. "It's fitting to celebrate these awards and the initiatives they help fund during the annual Ag Day celebration, which shines a bright light on our state's vibrant food scene and rich agricultural and fishing heritage. Kudos to all grant recipients! I look forward to celebrating the success of these initiatives."
Now in its fourth year, LASA has provided over $900,000 – through grants up to $20,000 – to support growth of Rhode Island's local food economy. The state's food scene is often cited as an area of economic strength ripe for innovation and growth. Already, the local food industry supports 60,000 jobs, and the state's green industries account for more than 15,000 jobs and contribute $2.5 billion to the economy annually.
"I'm always very excited to see the new crop of LASA grantees each year," said David Dadekian, chair of the Rhode Island Food Policy Council. "The progress and success of these businesses, with the help of a program like LASA, is proof positive of the economic growth in the food and drink cluster here in Rhode Island and the Council is always proud to support that growth."
The 2017 LASA grant awards include:
- Backyard Food Company, $6,890: Expand greenhouse production space - Brandon Family Farm, $5,229: Support creation of pawpaw fruit orchard - Charlie's Sugarhouse, $3,000: Expand parking area for education programs - Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation, $18,255: Develop an educational series for restaurateurs on local seafood products - Hocus Pocus Farm, $6,578: Improve soil conservation by transitioning to a no-till method of farming - Hurricane Hill Farm Collaborative, $19,836: Provide incubator farm space & to support infrastructure - Jerusalem Shellfish Co., LLC, $10,000: Restore a walk-in cooler & ice maker - Little River Farm, $3,500: Support expansion of caterpillar hoop house tunnels to help extend the farming season - Little State Flower Company, $8,949: Help develop historic farm site & expand flower growing business - Moonrose Farm, $6,362: Purchase a mobile walk-in cooler - Mooresfield Oyster Farm, $15,072: Enhance food safety measures - Northern RI Conservation District, $19,613: Help expand farming opportunities at Snake Den Farm - Ocean State Oyster Hatchery, $9,000: Purchase & install a commercial generator - Pat's Pastured, $12,500: Improve chicken coops for greater efficiency & humane raising of birds - Point Judith Kelp Company, $6,000: Support wild seaweed harvest & development of new products - Rhode Island Shellfisherman's Association, $1,931: Repair & upgrade upweller - Sanctuary Teas & Herbs, $12,160: Help launch this new business venture with refugee farmers - Walrus and Carpenter Oysters LLC, $12,000: Support expansion of sugar kelp hatchery - Westbay Community Action, $4,510: Develop cold storage & a new farm stand - West Elmwood Housing Development Corporation/Sankofa Initiative, $17,015: Support purchase of cold storage for produce grown at Sankofa community farm - Wild Harmony Farm, $11,600: Purchase an egg-washing machine & expand capacity
In partnership with the Rhode Island Food Policy Council, LASA is funded by the state with generous support from the van Beuren Charitable Foundation, the Henry P. Kendall Foundation, and the Rhode Island Foundation. In addition to the above grant awards, $20,000 is directed to DEM and the Rhode Island Seafood Marketing Collaborative to support the state's local seafood campaign, RI Seafood. Local seafood is poised to spur the next wave of food-based economic growth. Last year, more than 100 million pounds of seafood arrived to a local port, with an export value over $1 billion.
As part of Ag Day festivities, local farmers, food businesses, and community groups are set up around the State House Rotunda from 11:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. today and offer free food samples and information about their work. For more information on DEM programs and initiatives, visit www.dem.ri.gov. Follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RhodeIslandDEM or on Twitter (@RhodeIslandDEM) for timely updates.