RIDEM announces $380K in grants available for food, farming businesses

PROVIDENCE – Farm and food businesses looking to grow in Rhode Island can apply for up to $380,000 in grants available from the R.I. Department of Environmental Management, the DEM announced Friday.

“Farming and fishing are an important part of our heritage and increasingly vital to our economy, and these grants will help farmers, fishers and food businesses start or expand their operations in Rhode Island,” said DEM Director Janet Coit in a statement.

“I’m excited to announce this latest grant round and look forward to the initiatives and businesses it helps inspire.”

Funding is broken down into two separate funds stemming from the Local Agriculture and Seafood Act and Farm Viability grant programs.

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Administered jointly with the Rhode Island Food Policy Council, LASA in its fifth year and provides awards of up to $20,000 totaling $230,000. Funding is provided by the van Beuren Charitable Foundation, the Henry P. Kendall Foundation and the Rhode Island Foundation. Those who are eligible include new and small farmers, fishers, food producers and nonprofits. Both program and capital projects are eligible for funding.

Priority for LASA funding will be given to applicants that:

  • support the entry, growth and sustainability of small and burgeoning Rhode Island farmers, aquaculture producers and fishers
  • foster new collaborations or share new information among Rhode Island’s food partners
  • support new products or new sales channels for clearly defined markets
  • enhance access to, and availability of, agricultural land for producers, including farm transition planning and implementation
  • address gap areas or implementation needs identified in Rhode Island’s Food Strategy, Relish Rhody.

Seventy projects from across the state have received LASA funding measuring roughly $900,000 since the program’s inception.Online applications are highly preferred and must be submitted directly to the Rhode Island Food Policy Council by 11:59 p.m. on March 1. Hand-delivered and mailed applications must be received by DEM’s Division of Agriculture by 4:00 p.m. on March 1. The application is available at on the Rhode Island Food Council website.

LASA awards will be announced as part of Rhode Island’s Ag Day celebration in the spring.

Farm Viability grants support local specialty crop production and efforts to expand the marketplace. They range in size from $10,000 to $50,000 and a total $150,000 in award money will be made possible by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant Program this year. Community research groups and farmers alike are encouraged to apply and projects will be funded for up to two years. Initiatives which benefit a sole commercial product or provide a profit to a single individual or group will not be considered.

To date, over $2 million has been invested through this program to support growth of specialty crops in Rhode Island. Applications accompanied by a W9 form should be mailed to DEM Division of Agriculture, Room 370, 235 Promenade Street, Providence, RI 02908 and postmarked no later than March 31, 2018.

In total, both the LASA and Farm Viability grants have invested $3 million in Rhode Island’s farm and food industry to-date.

Emily Gowdey-Backus is a staff writer for PBN. You can follow her on Twitter @FlashGowdey or contact her via email, gowdey-backus@pbn.com.