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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A look back and ahead from our partner/EcoRI News

Welcome to 2012. We look forward to sharing many great moments and shows with you.

Much of this week, we will be sharing an article from EcoNewsRI that offered a great retrospective, and look ahead, for RI that touched on many of the salient points of the business side of green we focus on, and has elements that touch every state and every country (from waste management to restoring farms to renewable energy issues).

Here's the first part of the story. We'd appreciate your feedback and comments:

2011 in Retrospect, and a Look Ahead
By ecoRI News staf

"Environmental Winners

Food and Agriculture. It’s no news that agriculture is big news in Rhode Island, and it looks like that trend will continue. There are now five winter farmers’ markets and more than 50 summertime markets in Rhode Island. The Rhody Ag project is up and running and shaping future farm policy from the farmers' perspective. Urban agriculture stalwart Southside Community Land Trust continues to spread seeds in Providence and environs while relative upstart New Urban Farmers has begun an interesting year-round farming operation in Pawtucket.

Another trend is the shifting face of America’s farmers. In Rhode Island, more young people and women are turning to agriculture as a means of sustenance and support. The bonus here is that those women and youngsters tend to gravitate toward more sustainable farming methods. For some, fertilizer-free food was a major reason to grow one’s own.

While turfgrass continues to be the state's top crop, the down economy is causing some sod farmers to diversify into fruit and vegetable production. The Rhode Island Nursery and Landscape Association and the Rhode Island Farm Bureau — organizations that have in the past butted heads on agriculture policy — have come together to facilitate the transition from turf to turnips.

Local seafood had a banner year in 2011, despite the continued friction over catch shares. Community-supported fisheries such as The Local Catch in Narragansett and Ocean State Fresh in Newport are popping up at farmers' markets and supplying more and more local restaurants. Aquaculture is booming as well.

Nationally, the upcoming Farm Bill has been of great concern to Rhode Island’s farmers. The bill historically has favored large producers, like farms the size of Rhode Island, and makes agriculture in Rhode Island a difficult proposition. The high value and cost of land in Rhode Island keeps taxes high and profits low for farms. Small farmers would like to see more flexibility and equity in where and when the Department of Agriculture spends federal dollars.

Predictions: 2012 will still see agriculture growing in Rhode Island. You may not see as many farmers’ markets, but per market sales will go up. 2012 will also see more farm-to-school programs. The capacity for processing food locally will be the next big hurdle for the state's farms and farmers."

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