Funding supports specialty crop production, sales in Rhode Island
PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) today announced $225,524 in grant awards to five local groups working to grow the state's agricultural sector. The grants, funded under the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, support efforts to grow the marketplace and increase local production of specialty crops. USDA defines specialty crops as fruits and vegetables, dried fruit, tree nuts, and nursery crops, including floriculture and turf grass.
"Agriculture is an important, diverse industry poised for growth in Rhode Island," said DEM Director Janet Coit. "We're pleased to announce these awards that support our local growers and their businesses as well as increase consumer understanding and demand for Rhode Island's specialty crops. The work these grant recipients are doing is vital to ensuring the continued viability of agriculture in Rhode Island, and we are proud to be a partner. Kudos to all!"
Grant recipients include:
Farm Fresh Rhode Island - $50,000 Funding supports creation of a farm-to-institution advocacy group focused on increasing use of local specialty crops in school, university, and hospital cafeterias.
Southside Community Land Trust - $25,750 Funding supports creation of a food hub that will collect specialty crops grown at urban farm sites in the Providence area and distribute to Rhode Island's low-income communities.
Northeast Organic Farming Association of Rhode Island (NOFA/RI) - $20,800 Funding supports NOFA/RI's efforts to train and provide technical assistance to local organic farmers. Available trainings will include advanced grower seminars and on-farm workshops where organic techniques will be reviewed. Participating farmers also have access to an advisor to support them in producing high-value organic crops.
RI Organic Farm Market - $29,730 Funding supports RI Organic's market and "Farm Share Baskets" program. Through this program, RI Organic delivers locally sourced, organic and non-GMO specialty crops to Rhode Island residences.
University of Rhode Island - $21,851 Funding supports the Department of Plant Sciences' efforts to increase production of African-origin vegetable crops on Rhode Island's urban farms. Efforts also include educating urban growers and providing community workshops on these crops.
Additionally, DEM received $77,393 under USDA's Specialty Crop Block Grant Program to support its buy local campaign, "Get Fresh, Buy Local." The funds will be used to help increase consumer awareness and demand for specialty crop products.
Rhode Island is experiencing significant growth in its agricultural and local food sector. The state's food system now supports 60,000 jobs, and Rhode Island is one of a few states where the number of farms is on the rise, now standing at more than 1,200 farms. The state also leads the nation in the percent of its farms selling directly to the public. Green industries in Rhode Island account for more than 15,000 jobs and contribute $2.5 billion to the economy.
For more information about the Specialty Crop Block Grant awards, visit USDA.gov.
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.