Small and beginning farmers and fishermen have until April 1 to apply for new grant money available to help them grow and promote their businesses.
The governor’s office and the Department of Environmental Management announced a new program with more than $200,000 in grants to make the state’s local food system stronger. The grant program was established by the Local Agriculture and Seafood Act (LASA) of 2012.
With a tight budget, Gov. Lincoln Chafee and the General Assembly managed to include $100,000 in the DEM’s budget to ensure locally grown food and seafood thrive in the state’s economy.
Chafee said the program will help the growing number of young people interested in farming.
“We’re very proud of agricultural history here in Rhode Island and of course, of our fishing industry,” said Chafee. “These have been two areas that have continued their growth through the recent economic downturn, particularly on the land side.”
The van Beuren Charitable Foundation, the Henry P. Kendall Foundation, and the Rhode Island Foundation have pooled together $110,000 in matching funds.
“We’re limited to $20,000 maximum for our [individual] grant awards,” said Ken Ayars, chief of the division of agriculture at the DEM. “But that grant award could be potentially increased or matched on a one-to-one basis with the nonprofit funding, if it’s something of particular relevance and interest [to the foundations].”
The Rhode Island Food Policy Council will administer the nonprofit funding.
Ayars said the grants will support a wide range of projects.
“We’re getting phone calls from aquaculture farmers, from smaller beginning land-based farmers, from people who are just interested in improving the Rhode Island food system,” said Ayars. “I think it’s a pretty broad category of eligibility and we’re really looking forward to seeing what comes our way.”
Ayars said this is the first time private foundations have stepped up to match state money for farming and fishing. He says the state never knows when federal money to support such sectors will run out. So it’s important to secure money locally.
The DEM is also accepting applications for another federally funded grant, the Specialty Crop Block Grants. Ayars said the department will announce the LASA grant winners by May 1.