DEM, Partners to hold launch party for Farm Fresh RI’s new online platform

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM), in partnership with the Young Farmers Network, Farm Fresh RI and the RI Farm Bureau invites beginning and seasoned farmers to a launch event next week for a new webpage aimed at bridging generational divides within the RI agricultural community.  The NE Agriculture Exchange, https://exchange.farmfreshri.org/, provides an online forum for all farmers to connect on a host of topics such as land management and labor. The platform can also be used by farmers to ask for and receive guidance, and to buy/sell/trade items or skills. 

“Rhode Island has one of the highest percentages of new and beginning farmers in the country and our agricultural future in no small part depends on creating relationships in as many ways possible with the veteran farmers of our state,” said DEM Agriculture Chief Ken Ayars.

WHAT:      Launch Party for Ag Exchange platform 

WHEN:      Thursday, May 9, 5 p.m. – 8 p.m.                   

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WHERE:     Tilted Barn Farm Brewery, One Hemsley Place, Exeter

The launch party offers an opportunity for farmers of all ages and experience to meet, connect, and celebrate the upcoming growing season.  Along with a lively discussion of farm-related topics, the event will feature free snacks and beverages. Individuals who RSVP by May 3 to youngfarmernetwork@gmail.com will receive one free beer ticket. 

“We’re so excited to be collaborating with these great agricultural organizations. This site is a true testament to the unified efforts underway in our agricultural community,” said Abby Phillips, a field specialist in DEM’s Division of Agriculture. “The concept behind the NE Ag Exchange is nothing new.  Growers have always been helping each other out, whether it be pest advice, tractor tips, hiring help, you name it.  The Ag Exchange will facilitate those interactions further and broaden the scope of communication.  This is so important in supporting the growth of new and existing farm businesses in RI.  We need to tap into the knowledge that is out there – we all have so much to offer!”

Partial funding for the project was provided by the Local Agriculture and Seafood Act (LASA) grant program, which is administered by DEM. In 2018, the Young Farmer Network was awarded a $11,140 LASA grant to support education programming and network development for young farmers in Rhode Island.  Tilted Barn Brewery received a $20,000 LASA grant in 2015 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.

Now in its sixth year, LASA helps new and existing small businesses and food initiatives prosper in Rhode Island.  To date, LASA has provided over $1.1 million – through grants up to $20,000 – to support the growth of Rhode Island’s local food economy. The state’s food scene is often cited as an area of economic strength ripe for innovation and growth. Already, the local food industry supports 60,000 jobs, and the state’s green industries account for more than 15,000 jobs and contribute $2.5 billion to the economy annually.

DEM continues to work across many fronts to strengthen Rhode Island’s green economy and assist local farmers in growing their businesses. There are more than 1,000 farms sprinkled across the state and Rhode Island is home to a thriving young farmer network; the state’s green industries account for more than 15,000 jobs and contribute $2.5 billion to the economy each year. DEM continues to make investments in critical infrastructure as well as provide farm incubation space to new farmers through its Urban Edge Farm and Snake Den Farm properties. 

For more information on DEM programs and initiatives, visit www.dem.ri.gov. Follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RhodeIslandDEM or on Twitter (@RhodeIslandDEM) for timely updates.