2015 Local Agriculture and Seafood Act (LASA) Grant Recipients Announced

Published on Friday, May 29, 2015

PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the Rhode Island Food Policy Council (RIFPC) announce the 2015 recipients of the Local Agriculture and Seafood Act (LASA) Grants Program. A total of $210,000 is being awarded this year to 15 recipients, including $20,000 to be used by DEM and the RI Seafood Marketing Collaborative for a statewide local seafood promotion campaign.

"Rhode Islanders are eager to grow, eat and promote local food," said DEM Director Janet Coit, who recognized the award recipients at the annual Rhode Island Agriculture Day celebration, held today at the State House. "This initiative is one of many efforts taken by DEM to enhance our state's food economy and the economic competitiveness of Rhode Island-grown agricultural products and local seafood."

"The LASA grant program is an important step forward in Rhode Island toward building a vibrant local food economy in relation to farming and fishing. It involves a unique and forward-thinking partnership between DEM, the RIFPC and other important non-profits that are committed to building a local, sustainable food system in Rhode Island," said Ken Ayars, chief of the Division of Agriculture, who served as chair of the LASA Grants Advisory Committee.

The Local Agriculture and Seafood Act of 2012 established a grants program within DEM's Division of Agriculture to support the growth and marketing of local food and seafood in the state. The LASA Grants Program was made possible by a unique and unprecedented public-private partnership with $100,000 in funding from the State of Rhode Island and $110,000 in funds from the van Beuren Charitable Foundation, the Henry P. Kendall Foundation and the Rhode Island Foundation. DEM coordinated with the RIFPC to administer the LASA Grants Program.

"Big changes are often accomplished by smaller incremental changes sustained over time. That's the promise the LASA small grants program holds: funding that is incremental, manageable and can be productively absorbed into a growing local food sector. The LASA grants program is a multifaceted partnership, and the RI Food Policy Council is thrilled to be a part of this unique and much needed public-private partnership. Our congratulations go to the grantees and the applicants: it is their work on the ground and on the water that is moving Rhode Island in the right direction," said Kenneth Payne, Chair, RIFPC.

"It is a privilege to partner with the many talented food, agriculture and seafood leaders across public and private sectors in Rhode Island. Together we are creating the foundation for a more resilient food system and local economy," said Courtney Bourns, senior program officer at the Henry P. Kendall Foundation.

President and CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation Neil Steinberg said, "This program provides invaluable seed capital for local businesses. We're very pleased to join with the state and other foundations to strengthen Rhode Island's food system and economy."

"The LASA grants illuminate the entrepreneurial spirit and economic opportunity in Rhode Island's agricultural and seafood industries," said Elizabeth Lynn, Executive Director, van Beuren Charitable Foundation.

The LASA Grants Program Advisory Committee, established to advise and assist DEM in matters related to the LASA Grants Program, received, reviewed and scored 73 applications totaling $1,025,993 in requested funds for this second year of the grants program.

The 2015 grant recipients are as follows:

$20,000 for the DEM and RI Seafood Marketing Collaborative's statewide seafood branding and marketing campaign;

$17,165 to the African Alliance of Rhode Island in Providence to support the efforts of immigrant and refugee farmers to acquire more growing space, increase crop production to meet growing demand for ethnic specialty crops, and improve marketing expertise and consumer education;

$13,000 to Big Train Farm in Cranston to increase community-supported agriculture (CSA) membership among Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients in Rhode Island through targeted outreach and collaboration with community organizations and the purchase of a larger-capacity market vehicle;

$6,973 to Blue Skys Farm in Cranston to build a professional drying room that will increase production of dried crops (including culinary, medical/tea herbs, flowers and hot peppers) and reduce drying times, creating new sales channels and increasing wholesale demand;

$13,406 to Brian Pinsky, Matt Behan, Jim Arnoux, Jules Opton-Himmel, and Dr. Michael Rice in Charlestown to study seasonal and tidal variation in food levels and observe the growth and condition index of oysters being cultivated by six oyster farmers in Ninigret Pond;

$7,600 to the City of Providence's Healthy Communities Office to research and develop a Farmer's Guide to detail regulatory, zoning, and permitting requirements related to on-site farm sales in Providence and develop marketing and outreach materials for a new urban farm stand in Providence;

$16,432 to Eating with the Ecosystem in Warren to work with the Rhode Island Community Food Bank to get local Rhode Island seafood into Rhode Island's food pantry distribution system through an experimental pilot project focused on distribution and education around low-value seafood;

$9,464 to Elizabeth McDonnell and Michael de Cruz in Providence to build the infrastructure for small-scale, artisan sea salt production in Rhode Island, focusing on the unique and uniquely varied waters of the Narragansett Bay;

$15,442 to Indie Growers in Bristol to build a solar heating system to provide radiant heat to the floor of an existing 12' x 30' high tunnel, enabling production of micro-greens and other unique specialty crops during winter months;

$18,000 to the Northern RI Area Health Education Center in Woonsocket to support the Rhode Island Hospital Local Foods Challenge, a program to galvanize three Rhode Island hospitals to support the state's food producers and fishermen through increased institutional purchasing;

$10,700 to the Rhode Island Shellfishermen's Association to produce an educational video on how to become a commercial shellfisherman in Rhode Island and create an apprenticeship program to match Rhode Islanders with professional shellfishermen, with the goal of engaging youth and young people in the shellfishing sector;

$20,000 to the South County Food Co-op in South Kingstown for the South County Farm to Market Initiative, expanding farmer access to the Co-op's certified commercial kitchen to prepare foods for wholesale sales, and enabling local farmers to serve more CSA customers through the Co-op;

$13,728 to the Local Catch in Charlestown to establish a fish-smoking operation specifically utilizing RI-landed seafood, with an emphasis on increasing sales of underutilized species which are landed in high volume at the Point Judith port but have had weak consumer demand;

$8,090 to Thundermist Health Center in South Kingstown to institute SNAP and credit card access, as well as SNAP and WIC incentives at a minimum of three farmers' markets in Washington County;

$20,000 to Tilted Barn Brewery in Exeter to make improvements to the barn brewery, expand hop production, and host a workshop during the hop harvest to provide information to other farmers in RI who are interested in growing crops to support the expanding craft beer industry, or plan to start their own farm brewery; and

$20,000 to Wild Harmony Farm in Exeter to purchase an insulated trailer with freezer compressor and generator to enable the transportation of frozen meat from certified butchers back to farms, as well as the transport of whole animal carcasses from the slaughterhouse directly to local restaurants utilizing whole animals.

About Rhode Island Food Policy Council: The Rhode Island Food Policy Council (RIFPC) envisions a day when Rhode Island's food system will be a national model because of the strength of its local food system and its success at achieving community food security and optimal public health. The RIFPC's work will be coordinated by a statewide collaboration of diverse, committed and engaged stakeholders from all sectors of the food system. For more information visit www.rifoodcouncil.org