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Planting the seeds for growth
By Jenny Pereira / January 14, 2015 /   Loading Disqus...

Imagine a grant program that uses state and private money to promote healthy eating, protect the environment, and put Rhode Islanders to work. Well, the Local Agriculture and Seafood Act program is doing just that. Nonprofits, fishermen and farmers are eligible to apply for grants of up to $20,000 to promote the sale of local farm products and seafood.

The timing is good. The number of farms in Rhode Island grew by nearly 50 percent between 2002 and 2012. Not surprisingly, more land is being farmed, too. In fact, Rhode Island bucked a trend that saw the number of acres being tilled nationally decrease. About 70,000 acres on more than 1,200 farms are now being cultivated here.

Promoting the state’s agricultural and seafood products takes lots of partners. The state Dept. of Environmental Management came up with $100,000. The van Beuren Charitable Foundation and the Kendall Foundation joined us to chip in $110,000. And then there is the work of the state Division of Agriculture, the R.I. Agriculture Partnership and the R.I. Food Policy Council.

You can find out more about the grant program at informational sessions beginning January 24. The deadline to apply is February 17. About $200,000 is available, about the same as last year when 17 applicants received funding for projects ranging from a seafood marketing campaign to a garden program at the ACI to an irrigation system for a small farm in Johnston.

Agriculture is once again recognized as part of an economic development strategy for the state. It is an industry that impacts our economy, our environment, our cultural identity, and our health. Rhode Island’s myriad of restaurants, our nationally recognized culinary arts scene, and home-grown specialties like Del’s lemonade, clam cakes, and quahogs make our state a destination and a delicious place to live.

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