Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) today congratulated the Rhode Island Center for Agriculture Promotion and Education (RICAPE) for winning a United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development grant to promote the state's farms to in and out-of-state visitors, benefiting two key sectors of the local economy: tourism and agriculture. The $85,000 award from the Rural Business Enterprise Grant program will be used to launch and deliver a web-based, broadcast quality series of video training programs to Rhode Island's farm operators and staff called "The Destination Farm in Transition."
A destination farm provides visitor experiences, activities and amenities beyond food and other farm products. Ultimately, the goal is to expand Rhode Island tourism as it relates to rural areas and farms within the state. In addition, USDA estimates the grant will create 15-20 full-time jobs as well as part-time jobs.
"We too often overlook the tremendous potential for our agricultural community to contribute to rebuilding our state's economy, even though the last Agricultural Census found a 42 percent increase in the number of farms in Rhode Island, the second highest of any state in the country," said Langevin. "This project will take advantage of Rhode Island's tremendous tourist appeal to generate additional activity at our many small family farms, which we should be eager to support. I applaud the outstanding work by Executive Director Stuart Nunnery to obtain this funding and his commitment to ensuring more visitors to our state are made aware of all that our farms have to offer."
This funding will enhance Nunnery's efforts through "New England FarmWays," a campaign RICAPE started to highlight farms as tourist destinations. He says the goal is to showcase our farms as places of "beauty, culture, ecology and history" that are "crucial to maintaining Rhode Island's quality of life."
Langevin has been an advocate for Rhode Island farmers in Congress, fighting in the most recent Farm Bill in 2007 to allocate resources for the significant specialty crop production in the state. The legislation included technical assistance and access to conservation programs for these farmers. Other measures increased funding for school nutrition programs, including the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, which has particularly assisted Rhode Island's Farm to School Program by helping schools purchase fruits, vegetables and nuts, and afford local products. With a new Farm Bill up for consideration this year, Langevin hosted a Rhode Island Farming Forum where he stressed additional measures that can be taken to ensure fair support for specialty crops and small family farms.