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The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM), along with its partners, today awarded over $210,000 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.
“Agriculture Day shines a bright light on Rhode Island’s vibrant food scene and rich agricultural and fishing heritage,” said Governor Gina Raimondo in a prepared statement. “Today’s Local Agriculture and Seafood Act grants will help nurture new food ventures and grow our state’s green economy. I congratulate all grant recipients and look forward to celebrating the success of these outstanding initiatives.”
Now in its fifth year, LASA has provided over $1.1 million – 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 thrilled to award these grants to help farmers, fishers and food businesses start or expand their operations in Rhode Island,” said DEM Director Janet Coit in a prepared statement. “Our state has a vibrant food scene and rich agricultural and fishing heritage, and I look forward to the initiatives and businesses this latest grant round will help inspire.”
“The LASA program has inspired Rhode Island’s agriculture and seafood businesses to innovate and grow,” said Nessa Richman, Network Director for the RI Food Policy Council in the statement. “Results from the first comprehensive evaluation of the program show impacts in terms of new product, new markets, increased sales, jobs created, and more that exceed expectations. Funds like this are a key part of the infrastructure for a local food economy.”
The 2018 LASA grant awards include:
- African Alliance of RI, Providence/Johnston, $15,140: To support community garden/farm efforts though purchase of equipment/supplies and a part-time farm manager
- Carl Berg, Little Compton, $5,500: To improve aquaculture production and markets for Sakonnet-grown shellfish
- Ester & Joel Bishop, Tiverton, $7,000: To purchase a mobile processing unit for poultry
- Blackstone Bees, LLC, Smithfield, $10,000: To create a new, sizeable apiary
- Deep Roots Farm, Chepachet, $5,794: To purchase two grain bins to hold chicken and pig feed, bulk feeders, and equipment to move grain around the farm
- Eating with the Ecosystem, Statewide, $12,000: To support outreach and marketing of local seafood
- Garman Farm, Newport, $6,150: To construct a wood-framed shed for equipment storage/wash-and-pack line
- Herb & Forage LLC, North Kingstown, $8,086: To construct a facility for safe washing and storage
- Hope’s Harvest RI, Statewide, $9,000: To support farmer participation in farm gleaning project
- Robert F.D. Payne, Exeter, $18,200: To provide seed money for the South County Sustainable Tool Library
- Rachel Playe, Providence, $12,825: To build a drying shed for medicinal herbs
- Rhode Island Land Access Work Group, Statewide, $18,000: To support the organization’s farm succession school and farm match program, and produce three RI farm “success stories”
- Joel Russell, Hopkinton, $7,000: For contracted labor to design and install a public water system on the farm property
- Sanctuary Herbs of Providence, Providence, $6,500: For purchase of a tea-bagging machine to help further develop market for local tea in Rhode Island while working with refugee farmers
- Skinny Dip Farm, Little Compton, $9,982: To purchase a walk-in cooler, thermometer, and hydrometer
- Sweet Pea Farm, Charlestown, $6,115: To construct a wash station and a walk-in cooler
- Urban Greens Food Co-op, Providence, $19,500: To support development of kitchen to help increase capacity for processing and use of local ingredients
- Samantha Vallone & William Morin, Chepachet, $6,025: To construct a wash-and-pack station and expand cold storage capacity
- Westbay Community Action/Westbay Farm, Warwick, $12,200: To build a root cellar to expand capacity of community farm
- Nathaniel Wood & Adam Graffunder, Johnston, $6,940: For purchase of farming equipment to increase the efficiency of the no-till, bio-intensive farming operation at Snake Den Farm
- Young Farmer Network, Statewide, $11,140: To support education programming and network development for young farmers in Rhode Island
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 at 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 4:30 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.