By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff
PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island has its first food chief, a job that doesn’t require cooking but instead preparing a statewide food plan. The new director of food strategy will coordinate existing food plans and draft a new one that brings together all aspects of the state's farm and seafood sectors, which includes growing, marketing, transportation, consumption, disposal and food security.
Sue AnderBois, policy analyst and Rhode Island coordinator for the Boston-based New England Clean Energy Council, is expected to start her new position in three weeks. Her office will be at the Department of Environmental Management (DEM). Her salary will be between $69,000 and $78,000, and is funded through grants from the Henry P. Kendall Foundation, The John Merck Fund and Main Street Resources.
The position will be privately funded for two years, with hopes of having it absorbed into DEM's budget after that.
AnderBois previously worked on policy and programs for Rhode Island's Office of Energy Resources, where she helped launch the Solarize Rhode Island solar-incentive program. She serves on Providence’s Environmental Sustainability Task Force and the Rhode Island Food Policy Council.
She will be working with several growing industries under Rhode Island’s broad $2.5 billion food sector. The state has more than 1,200 farms, an increase of 50 percent in the past 10 years. Rhode Island ranks second nationally in the number of farms owned by young and first-time farmers.
During its annual Ag Day event at the Statehouse on May 10, DEM awarded more than $200,000 for 16 farm and aquaculture initiatives ranging from composting services to accessing ice.
Bob DiPietro, owner of the R.I. Mushroom Co. in West Kingston, was a 2014 recipient of DEM’s Local Agriculture & Seafood Act (LASA) grant. A $10,000 grant helped propel his mushroom-growing startup to become a top mushroom grower in the Northeast.
The following are this year’s LASA recipients:
$19,938 to Young Farmer Network to expand current programming and its coalition.
$19,757 to Rhode Island Land Trust Council to improve farmland access and transfers.
$19,706 to support SecondsFirst food production program.
$19,462 to Southside Community Land Trust for improvements to Urban Edge Farm.
$19,204 to Roger Williams University to conduct local sugar kelp research.
$16,091 to Pickin Rock Produce/Silas Peckham-Paul to buy equipment and conduct research.
$15,349 to Little State Flower Co. to expand harvest production of flower products.
$15,000 to Pat's Pastured to increase poultry processing capacity.
$14,500 Zephyr Farm to buy and retrofit a trailer to process fruits and vegetables.
$10,000 to Christian Durfee to defray operational costs for oyster hatchery.
$9,847 to Sol Chariots Pedicab Cooperative to expand compost pick-up service.
$9,754 to Sun Farm Oysters LLC to expand access to ice for Block Island aquaculture farms.
$8,300 to Mapleville Farm to expand aquaponics greenhouse and support outreach.
$7,405 to Nathaniel Wood, Jenna Yu and Adam Graffunder to upgrade infrastructure for seed starting and crop storage.
$2,874 to Albert Brandon to extend the growing season and profitability of local strawberries.
$2,811 to Jon and Aden Restivo to install additional beehives at Legend's Creek Farm.