Friday, September 25, 2009

Number of Rhode Island farms increases, apparently from demand for local food

Rhode Island saw the creation of 361 more farms between 2002 and 2007, an increase that analysts suggest coincides with the growing demand for local food. “People see buying local as a benefit in a lot of different ways," Kristen Castrataro, of URI Extension Services, a group that provides research and assistance to farmers, told Talia Buford of the Providence Journal. "Economically, it’s keeping a lot of our hard-earned money in the state. The more you spend in the local community, the more stays in the local community.”

The "green industry" -- nursery, horticulture and turf '' accounted for 67 percent of Rhode Island farms' market sales in 2002, and 60 percent in 2007. Kenneth Ayars, chief of the division of agriculture of the state Department of Environmental Management tells Buford that the decrease resulted from more farmers shifting to fruits, vegetables and livestock.

Rhode Island farms depend largely on direct-to-consumer sales, averaging $25,270 a year in direct market sales, the third highest level in the country, Buford reports. “This ain’t Nebraska," Stu Nunnery, director of the Rhode Island Center for Agricultural Promotion and Education, tells Buford. "And regional agriculture is based more on the direct market model, which is to produce not high volume, but lower-volume, high-quality specialty crops and products and sell them directly to the consumer at retail, rather than wholesale.” (Read more)

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