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DEM Promotes Growth of Local Farm Economy with Latest Grant Awards

A total of $276,614 will be invested to support specialty crop production and sales in Rhode Island

Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management
Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management

The Department of Environmental Management announced today the award of $276,614 in farm viability grants to seven Rhode Island-based groups working to support local agriculture; the grants are made possible by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and will support efforts to increase specialty crop production and grow the marketplace for these crops in Rhode Island.  USDA defines specialty crops as fruits and vegetables, dried fruit, tree nuts, and nursery crops, including floriculture and turf grass.

“We’re delighted to support Rhode Island specialty crop growers and cultivate their practices through this grant round and look forward to the success of these projects,” said DEM Director Janet Coit.  “Congratulations to these grant recipients for their innovative efforts to strengthen markets for specialty crops and foster growth in our state’s farming industry.”

Grant recipients include:

Farm Fresh Rhode Island – $50,000 Funding supports the expansion of the educational component of the farm-to-school program through farm and classroom-based educational opportunities for both students and school nutrition professionals.  Field trips will provide hands-on, experiential educational opportunities for Rhode Island children to understand where their food comes from and think critically about the importance of local food.  A separate series of field trips will provide professional development opportunities for school nutrition professionals to identify ways to begin or strengthen farm-to-school programming through local specialty crop purchasing practices.

Caserta Productions – $49,984 Funding supports creation of seven new episodes of the Harvesting Rhode Island television series to promote Rhode Island specialty crop growers and educate consumers on the benefits of buying locally-produced crops.  New episodes to cover topics including young farmers staying in Rhode Island and the cost of farmland, the relationship between renewable energy and the loss of farmland, climate change, and vertical growing. Discussions with farmers will include organic farming, issues about solar panels and alternative energy on the farmland.

Northeast Organic Farming Association of Rhode Island (NOFA/RI) – $30,950 Funding supports NOFA/RI’s efforts to train and provide technical assistance to local organic farmers.  Specifically, efforts will include continuing and enhancing NOFA/RI’s farmer-to-farmer advisor program, a series of on-farm workshops, an advanced growers’ seminar, an educational conference, and enhanced publicity/outreach/education efforts including direct contact with consumers at farmers markets and other venues.

Southside Community Land Trust (SCLT) – $29,858 Funding supports efforts to increase the impact of SCLT’s Food Hub, which aggregates and distributes specialty crops grown at urban farm sites in greater Providence, by developing digital platforms for customer ordering and invoicing, and systems for improved inventory control; providing logistical support for the increasing volume of crops sold through the Food Hub and for coordinating with new customers; and increasing the number of access points for low-income, socially disadvantaged community members to buy fresh, healthy produce grown by local farmers; and developing food systems and entrepreneurial competencies for college-age employees. 

African Alliance of Rhode Island (AARI) – $14,500 Funding supports AARI’s efforts to expand access to locally grown organic specialty vegetables, greens and value-added products to people living in food desert neighborhoods in upper and lower South Providence.  Specifically, the project will support AARI beginning farmers who grow produce for home consumption and to sell at local farmers markets by creating three new pop-up farmers markets in areas where farmers markets do not currently operate and continuing to offer locally-sourced fresh produce at established venues.

Wishing Stone Farm – $12,375 Funding supports the development of technologies and a protocol for no-till vegetable production specific to New England soils and seasonal time horizons.  The project will include soil testing to examine fertilizer and moisture needs and ways to increase the amount of organic matter levels in no-till soils.  A video will be produced to update farmers on this new technology and a slideshow/talk on no-till vegetable production will be presented at the biennial meeting of the New England Vegetable Growers Association. 

Additionally, DEM received $88,947 under USDA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program to strengthen 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 is a national leader 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.


State’s Premier Culinary Incubator, Hope & Main, Receives $178,000 Usda Grant To Increase Access To Local Food

Non-Profit Earns Competitive Grant for Unique National Model that Drives Both Supply and Demand for Rhode Island Made Product

Hope & Main and Rhode Island DEM

Hope & Main opened its doors as a start-up of start-ups and an engine of innovation, small business development, and job creation in Rhode Island’s growing food economy. Founder and President, Lisa Raiola says, “We have been one lesson plan ahead of the class when it comes to developing our incubation program. We had no preconceived ideas about best practices in this market and were deliberate in listening to the needs of our members so we can address major pain points and develop a comprehensive approach to helping new food businesses to launch and scale.”  

In its 18,000 square foot shared-use facility in Warren, RI, Hope & Main provides affordable access to four specially-equipped commercial kitchens. “Equally, if not more important to the success of these emerging businesses,” says Raiola, “is the ability to reach direct consumers and purchasers with these new products. Production space is not enough. These entrepreneurs need a partner in promotion. That is where the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) USDA grant comes in.”

U.S. Senator Jack Reed, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee and an early champion of the Hope & Main concept, said: “Hope & Main was selected for a $178,000 three-year FMPP grant for its innovative incubation model that combines technical assistance for food production with promotional programs that connect makers to direct consumers and large purchasers.  I have met many of the producers and makers, and they always have a fascinating story to tell, to go along with delicious food.  This grant will help spread the word, help Hope & Main expand its reach, and develop new market opportunities for producers and makers. I commend Lisa Raiola for her vision and leadership, and I hope this innovative incubator will help us continue building a stronger local food system for Rhode Island.”

With the help of funders such as the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, Commerce RI and the Rhode Island Foundation, Hope & Main has serviced over 300 food businesses, launched 177 new businesses and assisted 40 businesses to graduate into their own facilities throughout Rhode Island and the region. These 40 graduates have created 351 jobs and have poured millions of dollars into the State’s emerging food sector. In just four years, this non-profit incubator is among the top 10% of all culinary incubators in the country.

The FMPP grant will help Hope & Main to assist members to broaden and diversify access to their products.  The funds will support distribution partnerships with Farm Fresh Rhode Island to reach retail and institutional buyers through Market Mobile; and Crave Food Systems with whom they have developed an app to enable consumers to order products directly from members. The grant will support education for members in branding and marketing local products. In addition, with the help of the RI Community Food Bank, funds will help expand access to local food at Hope & Main’s Schoolyard Market and Meet Your Maker market, to food insecure neighbors in the East Bay and throughout Rhode Island.   

When asked what is next for Hope & Main, Raiola says as members have graduated the team is excited to help the pipeline of new applicants bring their good food ideas to market. With the recent addition of a Contract Manufacturing Technical Assistance Program through an Innovation Network Matching Grant from the State, Hope & Main can now help start-up food businesses by performing small batch manufacturing for them at their Warren facility.  She says, “The ability for our entrepreneurs to get out of the kitchen and on the road to sell their products will help them to scale more rapidly, and reach sustainability sooner.”


Barnaby’s Public House Opening

Barnaby’s Public House
Barnaby’s Public House

Barnaby’s Public House, located at 385 Westminster St, Providence, in the historic Conrad Building, is excited to announce its opening in early January. 

Barnaby’s will celebrate the era of pre-prohibition, when drinks were serious and American cuisine was simple and delicious. It’s prime location in the Conrad Building, which was erected in 1885 by the new establishment’s namesake, Jerothmul Barnaby, has been completely restored to showcase the Victorian details and the ornate characteristics of the era. 

The story and historical significance of Barnaby’s is a key component of the establishment. The scandalous legend and murder of Jerothnul’s wife, Josephine, in 1881 (the first death by mail in the country), will be shared with all guests in a variety of ways ranging from the décor to the food and drinks that will certainly spark curiosity and interest.  

Under the leadership of David Bertolini and Michael Santos, owners of Providence Coal Fired Pizza, Barnaby’s will pride itself on offering craft cocktails and beers, fine wines, and an impressive selection that includes whiskeys, bourbons, and ryes. 

Barnaby’s will be open 7 days a week, serving its full menu from 11:30 am to 10:00 p.m. Monday to Thursday and a late night menu on Fridays and Saturdays. The bar will be open daily from 11:30 am to Midnight, Sunday to Thursday, and until 1:00 am on Fridays and Saturdays.

Please visit www.barnabyspublichouse.com for more information and updates.

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