R.I.’s Food System Receives Unique Financial Support

By ecoRI News staff

PROVIDENCE — The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the Rhode Island Food Policy Council recently awarded $210,000 to the 2015 recipients of the Local Agriculture and Seafood Act (LASA) grants program, including $20,000 to be used by DEM and the Rhode Island Seafood Marketing Collaborative for a statewide local seafood promotion campaign.

“Rhode Islanders are eager to grow, eat and promote local food,” said DEM director Janet Coit, who recognized the award recipients at the annual Rhode Island Agriculture Day celebration held May 28 at the Statehouse. “This initiative is one of many efforts taken by DEM to enhance our state’s food economy and the economic competitiveness of Rhode Island-grown agricultural products and local seafood.”

The Local Agriculture and Seafood Act of 2012 established a grants program within DEM’s Division of Agriculture to support the growth and marketing of local food and seafood in the state. The program was made possible by a unique and unprecedented public-private partnership with $100,000 in funding from the state of Rhode Island and $110,000 in funds from the van Beuren Charitable Foundation, the Henry P. Kendall Foundation and the Rhode Island Foundation.

The LASA Grants Program Advisory Committee, established to advise and assist DEM in matters related to the program, reviewed and scored 73 applications totaling $1,025,993 in requested funds for this second year of grant funding.

Here is the list of 2015 grant recipients:

$20,000 for the DEM and R.I. Seafood Marketing Collaborative’s statewide seafood branding and marketing campaign.

$20,000 to the South County Food Co-op in South Kingstown for the South County Farm to Market Initiative, expanding farmer access to the co-op’s certified commercial kitchen to prepare foods for wholesale sales, and enabling local farmers to serve more CSA customers.

$20,000 to Tilted Barn Brewery in Exeter to make improvements to the barn brewery, expand hop production and host a workshop during the hop harvest to provide information to other farmers in Rhode Island who are interested in growing crops to support the expanding craft beer industry or plan to start their own farm brewery.

$20,000 to Wild Harmony Farm in Exeter to buy an insulated trailer with freezer compressor and generator to enable the transportation of frozen meat from certified butchers back to farms, as well as the transport of whole animal carcasses from the slaughterhouse directly to local restaurants utilizing whole animals.

$18,000 to the Northern Rhode Island Area Health Education Center in Woonsocket to support the Rhode Island Hospital Local Foods Challenge, a program to galvanize three Rhode Island hospitals to support the state’s food producers and fishermen through increased institutional purchasing.

$17,165 to the African Alliance of Rhode Island in Providence to support the efforts of immigrant and refugee farmers to acquire more growing space, increase crop production to meet growing demand for ethnic specialty crops, and improve marketing expertise and consumer education.

$16,432 to Eating with the Ecosystem in Warren to work with the Rhode Island Community Food Bank to get local seafood into Rhode Island's food pantry distribution system through an experimental pilot project focused on distribution and education around low-value seafood.

$15,442 to Indie Growers in Bristol to build a solar-heating system to provide radiant heat to the floor of an existing 12-foot-by-30-foot high tunnel, enabling production of micro-greens and other specialty crops during the winter.

$13,728 to the Local Catch in Charlestown to establish a fish-smoking operation specifically utilizing R.I.-landed seafood, with an emphasis on increasing sales of underutilized species that are landed in high volume at the Point Judith port but have had weak consumer demand.

$13,406 to Brian Pinsky, Matt Behan, Jim Arnoux, Jules Opton-Himmel and Michael Rice in Charlestown to study seasonal and tidal variation in food levels and observe the growth and condition index of oysters being cultivated by six oyster farmers in Ninigret Pond.

$13,000 to Big Train Farm in Cranston to increase community-supported agriculture (CSA) membership among Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients in Rhode Island through targeted outreach and collaboration with community organizations and the purchase of a larger-capacity market vehicle.

$10,700 to the Rhode Island Shellfishermen’s Association to produce an educational video on how to become a commercial shellfisherman in Rhode Island and create an apprenticeship program to match Rhode Islanders with professional shellfishermen, with the goal of engaging youth in the shellfishing sector.

$9,464 to Elizabeth McDonnell and Michael de Cruz in Providence to build the infrastructure for small-scale, artisan, sea salt production in Rhode Island, focusing on the uniquely varied waters of Narragansett Bay.

$8,090 to Thundermist Health Center in South Kingstown to institute SNAP and credit-card access, as well as SNAP and WIC incentives, at a minimum of three farmers markets in Washington County.

$7,600 to the city of Providence’s Healthy Communities Office to research and develop a Farmer’s Guide to detail regulatory, zoning and permitting requirements related to on-site farm sales in Providence and develop marketing and outreach materials for a new urban farm stand in Providence.

$6,973 to Blue Skys Farm in Cranston to build a professional drying room that will increase production of dried crops, such as culinary, medical/tea herbs, flowers and hot peppers, and reduce drying times, creating new sales channels and increasing wholesale demand.