R.I. gets $276K in specialty crop support from USDA grants

PROVIDENCE – Four Rhode Island groups and the R.I. Department of Environmental Management were awarded a combined $275,557 to increase specialty crop production and grow the market in Rhode Island for specialty crops, DEM announced Thursday.

Funds came from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. The program supports the market for fruits and vegetables, dried fruit, tree nuts and nursery crops.

“We’re delighted to announce these awards that support local specialty crop growers and their businesses and promote the long-term viability of agriculture in Rhode Island,” said DEM Director Janet Coit in a statement. “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. DEM is proud to partner with Rhode Island specialty crop growers and looks forward to the success of these exciting new projects.”

DEM received $105,136 to increase consumer awareness and demand for specialty crops and to increase marketing efforts for Rhode Island-grown tomatoes. DEM will also work with growers to extend the tomato growing season.

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Farm Fresh Rhode Island will receive $50,000 to build awareness and consumption of locally grown specialty crops, including in-classroom education, cooking and tasting programs, and garden programs for students, parents, teachers and staff.

The University of Rhode Island Saffron Program received $49,942 to support saffron as a high-value crop for Rhode Island agriculture. Saffron has tested well as a potential crop in the state and is the world’s most expensive spice.

The Southside Community Land Trust received $37,474 to support the development of a locally adapted system for organic hop and rhizomatic crop production. SCLT will implement a research and training farmyard at URI. At Urban Edge Farm, the organization will develop a training space where farmers can learn to grow rhizomatous food.

Northeast Organic Farming Association of Rhode Island received $33,005 to fund its efforts to provide training and support to farms for organic farming methods on specialty crops.