Since 2004, Farm Fresh Rhode Island has been working tirelessly on growing and strengthening our local food system. Over the years, we have evolved to better serve the community — from our simple start as a Brown University student project to a nationally recognized nonprofit with a dedicated team of over 50 full- and part-time/seasonal employees. See some highlights of our work through the years.
Farm Fresh RI Puts Down Roots in the Valley Neighborhood
With comprehensive due diligence efforts completed and financing in place, we take ownership of a 3.2 acre parcel of land in the Valley Neighborhood of Providence — future site of our newest and biggest venture, the Rhode Island Food Hub.
Harvest Kitchen Café & Corner Store Opens
Our Harvest Kitchen Cafe & Corner Store opens — offering the community fresh local produce and groceries, youth-made products, and prepared foods for eat-in or take out. The training program expands to include both morning and afternoon sessions. We begin planning with the RI Department of Health to offer nutritious locally sourced prepared foods to other corner stores in Pawtucket and Central Falls.
Harvest Kitchen Gets Brand New Home
Working closely with the city of Pawtucket and Pawtucket Central Falls Development, we move our Harvest Kitchen training program and production kitchen into the first floor of the newly renovated Gately building at 2 Bayley Street in downtown Pawtucket.
Farm Fresh RI Facilitates Statewide Nutrition Incentives
We take on statewide distribution of nutrition incentives for recipients of federal SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits at Rhode Island farmers markets. Our Community Access team begins ongoing participation in many of the Health Equity Zone programs newly formed by the RI Department of Health.
Farm Fresh RI Adopts the “50 by 60” Food Vision
Our board of directors approves adoption of the Food Solutions New England Food Vision as a guiding vision for our organization. The regional plan has a bold vision of building capacity for New England to grow 50 percent of its own food by 2060. As of 2016, as much as 90% of the food we consume still comes from outside our region. We reconfirm our commitment to reaching this “50 by 60” goal through our education and market-building programs, and begin early planning to expand the infrastructure of Rhode Island’s local food system with the Rhode Island Food Hub development project.
Farm Fresh RI Offices Move and Expand
Long having outgrown our office space upstairs at Hope Artiste Village, we move into an expanded and newly renovated space on the first floor of the building, close to our Packhouse.
The Farm Fresh RI Packhouse Achieves GHP Certification
We are proud to achieve Good Handling Practices (GHP) certification, a third-party food safety audit through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Farm Fresh RI Grows and Evolves
After guiding our organization through tremendous growth, and establishing Farm Fresh RI as a respected local food hub in the community, Noah Fulmer moves on to new horizons. Sheri Griffin and Jesse Rye become Co-Executive Directors, dividing core responsibility for Community Access and Food System Enterprise programs between them to meet the accelerating needs of our growing organization.
The Farm Fresh RI Packhouse Doubles in Capacity
Thanks to collaborating with ColdMasters and support from the Prospect Hill Foundation, CEI, and Wholesome Wave, we complete a cooler expansion in our Packhouse — doubling our holding capacity for local produce and dairy before it is delivered to Market Mobile wholesale customers and Veggie Box subscribers.
Market Mobile Achieves New Milestones
Market Mobile finishes its fifth year with $1.9 million in sales on behalf of local farmers and producers, bringing the total sales since 2009 to $5.5 million.
Harvest Kitchen Moves to its First Pawtucket Home
The Harvest Kitchen program moves into a small kitchen space on Pawtucket Ave, a few blocks from our offices.
Market Mobile Wholesale Distribution Flourishes
Market Mobile finishes its fourth year with $1.56 million of fresh, local food delivered on behalf of over 50 producers to over 120 customers. A new record for weekly sales is hit in October when $48,000 of local produce is delivered in one week.
Farm Fresh RI Offers Farm to School Programming
We begin offering nutrition education and local food awareness programs in Rhode Island schools, encouraging school dining services to focus more on local, seasonal foods and providing students with hands-on learning opportunities to increase awareness and enjoyment of nutritious food choices.
Veggie Box Brings Fresh & Local to RI Eaters
With our Market Mobile wholesale distribution service continuing to grow rapidly, the infrastructure is already in place to offer a curated box of locally grown produce to consumers as well. And so our Veggie Box subscription services is born! To facilitate more efficient Veggie Box packing, we install manual conveyor belts in our Packhouse.
Market Mobile Begins Transforming Food Distribution
We move our offices to the Hope Artiste Village (upstairs) and begin our first Market Mobile deliveries — facilitating transformative buying relationships between local farmers and wholesale buyers. The pilot program is made possible thanks to collaboration with the RI Department of Health, RI DEM Division of Agriculture, and Narragansett Creamery. And for that first season, we aggregate orders during the wintertime farmers market!
Market Mobile finds a temporary home at the Canaan & Co warehouse before landing in a more permanent space in the Hope Artiste Village, near our offices, where it now has its own dedicated cold, freezer, and dry storage. As startup grants that funded the first months of Market Mobile end, the sales percentage retained to cover program costs increases from 10 to 15 percent to closer match true operational costs.
Harvest Kitchen Begins Training Local Youth
We launch the Harvest Kitchen project. The first session of our culinary job training program for youth involved with the RI Department of Children, Youth, and Families is held in a commercial kitchen in Providence. The second session is in a church on Broad St, and the third is in the Mathewson St. Methodist Church — where the program stays until moving to Pawtucket in 2013.
Farm Fresh RI Introduces the Bonus Bucks Incentive Program
Following the lead of comparable organizations around the country, and with the support of national organization Wholesome Wave, Farm Fresh RI institutes a nutrition incentive program called Bonus Bucks. Bonus Bucks gives Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) shoppers an extra $2 to spend on fresh fruits and vegetables for every $5 they spend with their EBT card at participating farmers markets. In the first year of Bonus Bucks implementation, SNAP sales increase over 600% across Rhode Island markets!
Wintertime Farmers Market Moves to Pawtucket
Customer and farmer demand is so great after the Wintertime Farmers Market debut at AS220 in 2007, that we move the market to the Hope Artiste Village building in Pawtucket on the recommendation of friends and market partners New Harvest Coffee Roasters and Seven Stars Bakery, which had already set up shop in the building. The number of vendors jumps from 7 to 51.
Farm Fresh RI Offers Nutrition Education at Farmers Markets
Our Heathy Foods, Healthy Families nutrition education program is born, for its initial season offered at just one Providence farmers market. With the pilot season a success, the program is provided in future seasons at multiple Farm Fresh RI farmers markets annually. The program offers hands-on multicultural workshops about food and nutrition to low-income families receiving federal SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits.
Fresh Bucks Are Born
When Food Stamps changed from a paper coupon to an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card in the late 1990s, many Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients were left unable to use their benefits at farmers markets. Farmers didn’t have the infrastructure to accept EBT cards, so customers had to shop elsewhere.
To address this, Farm Fresh RI creates the Fresh Bucks token system. With two types of tokens designed by a RISD student and produced in the US, and one centralized card terminal at the Market Manager’s table, vendors become able to accept currency from SNAP/EBT shoppers and credit card customers alike!
The Wintertime Farmers Market Comes to Life
We host our first-ever Wintertime Farmers Market, thanks to the generous donation of space by AS220 (the farmers market takes place inside the gallery!).
Around this time, Louella Hill returns to Rhode Island and works with Providence Specialty Products on developing an artisanal cheese project. Together they launch Narragansett Creamery, one of the vendors at the first wintertime market along with other early Farm Fresh RI supporters: Hill Orchards, Simmons Farm, Matunuck Oyster Farm, Earth Essence Herbals, Wishing Stone Farm, Jack’s Snacks, and Whispering Elms Farm.
Farm Fresh RI Becomes a 501c3
A friend and mentor, Sheri Griffin, begins helping Louella Hill with grant writing and consolidating her works into a full-fledged organization. Together with Noah Fulmer, they incorporate Farm Fresh RI as a 501c3 nonprofit, based out of the Urban Environmental Lab at Brown University. Louella’s original advisory committee becomes Farm Fresh RI’s first Board of Directors, and Jessica Gordon joins the team.
Having realized her vision, Louella turns her sights to new opportunities (like studying cheesemaking!). Upon her leaving Rhode Island, Noah Fulmer moves into the role of Executive Director, with Sheri Griffin coordinating farmers markets in downtown Providence, Hope Street, Brown University, Armory Park, Woonsocket, and Central Falls.
The Local Food Guide is Born
Louella teams up with fellow Brown University student and Sustainable Food Initiative member Noah Fulmer to create an online database of local farms, farmers markets, restaurants, grocers, and other businesses sourcing and serving locally grown foods. The Local Food Guide enables consumers (aka “eaters”) to easily locate local foods. They also begin hosting annual Local Food Forum B2B meetings at Brown.
Farm Fresh Rhode Island Takes Root
As an undergraduate at Brown University working on her thesis project, Louella Hill begins asking questions about our local food system. She’d noticed a disconnect between local farmers and eaters in our region, and wants to address it. With help from her advisory committee — including key community stakeholders like Virginia Dunleavy, Ken Ayars, Skip Paul, and Nicole Vitello — Louella establishes the Sustainable Food Initiative.
The initiative makes an impressive impact, sending students out to help local farmers and increasing locally sourced foods served by Brown Dining Services. Thanks to funding from the Rhode Island Foundation and the Environmental Protection Agency, Louella is able to continue her work after graduating from Brown — kicking off what is to become the popular “Monday Market” local foods market in downtown Providence’s Kennedy Plaza.