DEM awards $130K to boost specialty crops

PROVIDENCE – The R.I. Department of Environmental Management announced $130,008 in farm viability grants to four organizations on Monday. 

The funds come from the US. Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, which defines specialty crops as fruits and vegetables, dried fruit, tree nuts and nursery crops, including floriculture and turf grass.

The grants ranged from $25,500 to $39,107.

“The innovative projects being funded through this grant round will help strengthen markets for specialty crops and foster growth in our state’s farming industry,” said DEM Director Janet Coit.  

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The grants were:

  • Young Farmer Network: $39,107 to support the organization’s project to enhance specialty crop production and marketing skills for the next generation of Rhode Island farmers.
  • Southside Community Land Trust: $37,474 to support the organization’s initiative to develop and research and training farm yards for rhizomatic crops at the University of Rhode Island’s Urban Edge Farm. DEM said that the organizations will implement trials and training for organic production of two specialty crops, beginning with hops, in 2021.
  • Farm Fresh Rhode Island: $27,666 to increase purchaser and consumer awareness, demand, and ability to purchase specialty crops from Rhode Island farmers by developing and implementing an educational marketing campaign to highlight specialty crop farmers and the produce they sell to schools.
  • African Alliance of RI: $25,500 to support expansion of the organization’s Beginner Farmers’ Speciality Crops Project. AARI will contract with the DEM to work with beginner and small, minority farmers to increase production of local, sustainably grown specialty vegetables, greens and value-added products that are sold at AARI’s farmers markets in Providence.

DEM also said that it had received an additional $105,905 under USDA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program to help increase consumer awareness and demand for specialty crop products; enhance grower competitiveness and on-farm food safety practices to ensure that special crop farmers comply with state and federal food safety requirements; and improve market access to state and federal grower certification programs and agricultural water quality testing for Rhode Island specialty crop growers.