After 16 years at Farm Fresh Rhode Island, Co-Executive Director Sheri Griffin will be stepping down in December 2022.
In Sheri’s time at Farm Fresh RI, the organization has grown from a student-led project in shared office space in a basement at Brown University to an organization with a staff of 50 and a newly built 60,000 square-foot food hub in the Valley neighborhood of Providence. Sheri has helped to grow Farm Fresh from a small group with good intentions and limited resources into a nationally recognized leader in the good food movement.
Message from Co-Executive Director Sheri Griffin
I have been with Farm Fresh since January 2007, and my experience has been rewarding beyond my greatest hopes. When I began volunteering for Farm Fresh in 2005, I was drawn to the idea of preserving farms and developing a broader range of food choices for us all. I wanted my children to grow up knowing about agriculture: that vegetables have seasons, that dirt is incredibly important, that the sun powers everything that we are. And I wanted to share this with as many people as possible.
When I started as a volunteer with Farm Fresh in 2005, I understood that enacting the mission of Farm Fresh could be a life’s work, and I was ready to take on that challenge. With so much good fortune, I was able to take this journey with incredible people, from co-founders Louella Hill and Noah Fulmer who are my life-long friends, to farmers, funders, program partners and amazing customers. Creating a healthy food system is a group project. I am grateful to have been part of the work.
In 2007, there was no winter farmer’s market in the region. There was no infrastructure to allow restaurants and institutions to order directly from farmers. As Farm Fresh built these opportunities, farmers found new markets for their work. Many expanded their acreage and went from seasonal to year-round. These innovations changed business models, changed lives and allowed more Rhode Islanders to participate directly in the work of feeding one another.
I am stepping away from the organization to pursue other passions and interests, as well as to be more available to my family during a time of important transitions. I am eager to see the new ideas, opportunities and pathways that Farm Fresh can follow with an evolution in leadership.
Farm Fresh is in a strong position for funding at this time, with state and federal funding at an all-time high, an enthusiastic donor base and a development staff now available to take these elements to a new level.
It has been my pleasure to serve as a leader of Farm Fresh, and I look forward to being a friend and supporter of the organization for many more years. I will never stop being a passionate ambassador, advocate and customer of Farm Fresh, and it will never stop being a part of me.
Message from Board Chair Kristine Merz
I am writing on behalf of the Farm Fresh Board of Directors to express our deepest gratitude and appreciation for Sheri’s dedication to Farm Fresh RI.
For 16 years, Sheri has poured her passion, energy, and talents into furthering Farm Fresh’s mission to strengthen local farms and connect all Rhode Islanders to the health benefits and quality of locally grown and produced food. Her work has had a profound impact on the local food system in Rhode Island and New England and is evident in every Farm Fresh program, project, and event.
With gratitude for all that she has done, the Board of Directors wishes Sheri the best as she focuses on pursuing other passions and interests and time with her family.
Since 2013, Sheri has served as Co-Executive Director of Farm Fresh with Jesse Rye. The Farm Fresh Board is pleased to announce that Jesse Rye will become the organization’s Executive Director starting in 2023.
First as a volunteer, then as Program Director, and finally as Co-Executive Director, Sheri has played a critical role in developing Farm Fresh’s programs to what they are today. Specifically, Sheri’s leadership and vision helped to establish:
- Farm Fresh’s Wintertime Farmers Market, begun in 2007 at AS220 — The first wintertime market in Rhode Island, this market (now year-round) continues at 10 Sims Avenue in Providence, after a successful decade at the Hope Artist Village in Pawtucket.
- Bonus Bucks — Since its inception in 2009, this $1-to-$1 match for low-income shoppers using SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits at farmers markets has succeeded in connecting over $3M in federal benefits to local farmers across Rhode Island.
- Market Mobile — What started in 2009 as a local food ordering platform and logistics facility in Pawtucket now connects a vast regional network of local farmers and food producers with local restaurants, schools, hunger relief agencies and households. Since its start, Market Mobile has enabled over $30M in sales for local farmers and producers and is nationally recognized as a model for transparent local food distribution.
- Harvest Kitchen — This processing kitchen and job training program for under-served teens began in 2010 in an effort to help farmers extend their season with value-added products, while teaching youth culinary skills. Harvest Kitchen has since trained hundreds of youth to join the workforce, while creating thousands of gallons of signature products like apple sauces and pickles, and many excellent meals at the Pawtucket cafe. Harvest Kitchen will be opening a larger scale processing facility at 10 Sims Ave in early 2023.
As Co-Executive Directors, Sheri and Jesse have collaborated on a shared vision for the success of all Farm Fresh programs and activities. Their efforts have resulted in a dynamic organization that is well positioned to continue to explore new ways to connect farmers and eaters into the future. The culmination of their shared leadership is on display every day at Farm Fresh’s newly constructed headquarters in Providence — a 60,000 square-foot food hub on a 3.2-acre parcel of land adjacent to the Woonasquatucket River in the Valley neighborhood. Sheri and Jesse put together a team that was able to deliver on the early dreams of the organization to have a home to call its own where local food and agriculture are always center stage.
Co-Executive Director Jesse Rye was hired by Farm Fresh in 2012 as the Managing Director and was promoted to Co-Executive Director in 2013. He has had the opportunity to help guide the organization as it has evolved during that time. The board’s decision to promote Jesse to Executive Director recognizes nearly a decade of experience at Farm Fresh and his volunteer engagement with organizations like Farm to Institution New England, Food Solutions New England, Red Tomato, and the RI Food Policy Council. Jesse’s vision and decisive leadership will ensure that Farm Fresh’s mission, financial objectives, and focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion will drive the organization toward continued success.
Photo at top courtesy PBN PHOTO/MICHAEL SALERNO