Gov. McKee, DEM Announce over $400K in Grant Awards to Help RI Farmers Expand Market Access for Specialty Crops

Published on Thursday, August 24, 2023

PROVIDENCE, RI – Governor Dan McKee and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) today are announcing that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded through DEM $137,983 in mini grants to Rhode Island farmers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and over $270,000 to DEM through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) to help Rhode Island farmers expand market access for local fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, and nursery crops.

“These grants support Rhode Island’s efforts to improve the resiliency of our food systems, which helps provide the people of our communities with greater access to local, nutritious, and affordable food,” said Governor Dan McKee. “Both consumers and food producers alike benefit from a more local, sustainable, and resilient food supply chain.”

“DEM is always working to connect consumers with locally grown food to support Rhode Island farmers, food businesses, and our environment,” said DEM Director Terry Gray. “The SCBGP funding supports local specialty crop growers, offsets losses and diminished sales incurred from the pandemic, and promotes the long-term viability of our state’s agriculture by supporting DEM’s efforts to raise consumer awareness of fresh and delicious RI grown produce.”

“With this year’s Specialty Crop Block Grant funding, Rhode Island is investing in innovative projects that will help address the needs of specialty crop producers within the region,” said USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jenny Lester Moffitt. “The funded projects will also further USDA’s efforts to ensure U.S. specialty crop products remain competitive in markets across the nation and abroad.”

Through the SCBGP, DEM has awarded $270,000 in grants to fund six projects. Among DEM’s projects, is the establishing of RI Grown Week – a weeklong celebration highlighting specialty crops grown in the Ocean State. Additional funded projects focus in areas such as looking at heat-tolerant vegetable trails, providing technical assistance for small and beginning Rhode Island Specialty Crop Producers, and increasing education of specialty crops through farmers markets.

2023 SCBGP recipients include:

  • African Alliance of Rhode Island: $37,000 to increase consumer access to Specialty Crops by expanding coverage of AARI pop-up farmers markets.
  • Farm Fresh Rhode Island; Community Education at the Farmers Market: $39,850 to highlight Specialty Crops throughout Rhode Island.
  • Rhode Island Food Policy Council; Scaling Equitable Growth: $33,896 for technical assistance for small and beginning Rhode Island Specialty Crop Producers.
  • Rhode Island DEM, Division of Agriculture and Forest Environment: $58,577 for ongoing efforts to support RI's specialty crop growers and improve the viability of RI Specialty Crop Farms.
  • Rhode Island DEM, RI Grown: $41,723 to establish RI Grown Week aimed at raising consumer awareness and demand for locally grown specialty crops.
  • University of Rhode Island: $37,883 to evaluate heat-tolerant broccoli varieties for Rhode Island vegetable farmers.

Additionally, DEM has issued 18 mini grants to farmers through the Specialty Crop Block Grant program.    Throughout the pandemic three areas have impacted Rhode Island Specialty crop production and marketing – direct COVID-19 expenses, digital marketing, and food safety improvements. The Specialty Crop Block Grant Mini Grant program aims to assist agriculture operations with eligible expenses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, provide funding for modernization and access to digital media to expand market access, defray the costs of implementing on-farm food safety practices to increase compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule, and fund improvements to irrigation systems.

SCBG Mini Grant recipients are:

  • Ashawaug Farm, Safety Heeds Water Needs:  $10,000 for maintaining balance at Ashawaug Farm.
  • Blue Skys Flower Farm, Specialty Cut Flowers & Herbs: $10,000 to increase health and happiness while decreasing carbon footprint.
  • Bramblenook Farm, Food Safety Practices Implementation and Community Education: $9,392 to retrofit barn and support a stakeholder field day.
  • Brandon Family Farm: $7,934 for irrigation improvements that support food safety.
  • The Bronson Family Farm: $9,392 for improvements to the Bronson Family Farm to expend education and resources for the next generation of farmers.
  • Canterbury Farm: $3,000 for marketing and educational support for local certified organic flowers.
  • Cucumber Hill Farm LLC: $2,998 for a point of sale system upgrade.
  • Eastern Rhode Island Conservation District: $7,955 for irrigation improvement and expansion.
  • Farm Fresh Rhode Island: $9,900 to increasing RI Specialty Crop Sales through market technology improvements.
  • The Farm LLC: $10,000 to enhanced food safety with expanded produce wash and pack.
  • The Farm Stand at Tockwotton Farm: $10,000 for roof of produce wash area and a Square register kit.
  • Gotham Greens Providence, LLC: $10,000 for reimbursement of expenses incurred for safety equipment and facility adjustments during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Hard-Pressed Cider Company, LLC: $6,394 for reimbursement of expenses incurred for safety equipment and facility adjustments during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Lucayda Farm: $9,993 for produce safety compliance.
  • Narrow Lane Orchard: $10,000 for digging out existing pond.
  • Saunderstown Garlic Farm: $7,704 for improving systems for storing and curing garlic.
  • Southside Community Land Trust, Urban Edge Farm: $9,875 for irrigation water quality and supply improvements.
  • Water Way Farm: $9,850 for specialty crop modernization and access to digital media to increase and improve market access.

The funding for the SCBGP grants is authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill and FY2023 funding is awarded for a three-year period beginning Sept. 30, 2023. The funding to Rhode Island is part of a total of $72.9 million in non-competitive FY 2023 SCBGP funding awarded to 54 states, territories, and the District of Columbia. Since 2006, USDA has invested over $1 billion through the SCBGP to fund nearly 12,000 projects that have increased the long-term successes of producers and enhanced marketing opportunities for U.S. specialty crops products. The SCBGP funding supports farmers growing specialty crops, including fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, and nursery crops. USDA’s support will strengthen U.S. specialty crop production and markets, ensuring an abundant, affordable supply of highly nutritious fruits, vegetables, and other specialty crops, which are vital to the health and well-being of all Americans.

More information about the Specialty Crop Grant Programs is available at For more information on DEM programs and initiatives, visit Follow DEM on Facebook, Twitter (@RhodeIslandDEM), or Instagram (@rhodeisland.dem) for timely updates.