Written by Phoebe Neel, a Markets Intern at Farm Fresh RI and farmer at Walrus & Carpenter Oyster Farm. This blog is part of a series on Sustainable Seafood in RI.
Vegetables or fruit might be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about local agriculture, but the highlight of this year’s first Armory Farmers Market was a Seafood Throwdown, the likes of which have rarely been seen on land. Representing the age-old rivalry between food trucks and restaurants, Chef Peter Gobin of Mijos Tacos and James Mark of North suited up for culinary showdown to cook a secret, local-caught fish from the Local Catch. Sponsored by the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance (NAMA), a sustainable fishing advocacy group, the chefs prepared the sustainably caught Acadian Redfish with other local and organic produce, maximizing on all that Rhode Island has to offer.
Rhode Island and northeast fishing at large are home to dozens of seafood species outside of the select few that are easily recognizable. Acadian Redfish, a– you guessed it - red-orange, a deepwater fish that can live up to 50 years or more – if it doesn’t end up at the Local Catch, that is. It may be relatively unknown to home cooks, but its firm, white flesh is very similar to haddock. Acadian redfish was well-loved in the 1940s and 50s, but changing seafood markets meant that in recent years, its often been lampooned as only good for lobster bait. Now, chefs and advocacy groups such as NAMA are working to highlight the redfish and other lesser-known unique seafood varieties as culinary standouts in their own right.
With twenty-five Fresh Bucks to spend at the market and their wits about them, the two chefs had fifteen minutes to select the choicest local ingredients to prepare the redfish. One hour later, Chef Peter Gobin had taken top prize, transforming the redfish into a deep magenta ceviche, colored with a lemon balm infused vermouth beet syrup. He also prepared a redfish filet, seared crispy with the skin on. Sauteed lacinato Kale from Greenleaf Farm accompanied caramelized sweet onions from Little City Growers to round off the meal. Chef James Mark with an incredibly close score, dazzled judges with his kombu cured aadian redfish with pickled green garlic, dashi poached radishes, raw radish, rhubarb, Thai basil, cilantro, amaranth and fish skin chicharrones. Everything was from the market except the kombu and dashi! While their dizzying fish preparations will not likely be replicated by most of us home cooks, their love of experimentation and commitment to sustainable agriculture – on sea and on land – are two examples for us to take home, along with the local catch.
Stop by the Armory Farmers Market each week from 3:30-7pm on Parade Street in Providence for fresh local seafood, fruits, vegetables, and more!
Do you know that according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, Providence County had the highest rate of direct agricultural sales of all counties in the United States in 2007? The total dollar amount was $3,270,000.
Even more impressive is the fact that, fruit and vegetable sales rose from 9.4 million dollars in 2006 to 15.6 million dollars in 2010.
So, who exactly is considered a farmer in Rhode Island? It depends on how you look at it.
The Rhode Island General Law Section 2-1-22 defines a farmer as “an individual, partnership or corporation who operates a farm and has filed a 1040F U.S. Internal Revenue Form with the Internal Revenue Service, has a state farm tax number and has earned ten thousand dollars ($10,000) gross income on farm products in each of the preceding four (4) years.”
But maybe to you, a farmer is someone who lives outside of the city and grows fruits and vegetables, or horticultural stock, silage, or has animals, regardless of income.
Or perhaps, you define a farmer as someone who lives on a certain amount of land. The USDA 2007 Census of Agriculture states that of the 1, 219 farms in Rhode Island (at the time, as the 2012 Census is not available yet), 353 farms in Rhode Island were less than nine acres in size.
No matter how you look at it, Rhode Island has a lot of farms for such a small state!
How are the years after 2007 shaping up? Some data is available from the 2011 Rhode Island Cash Receipts Report (USDA) but overall, it may be too early to tell. The United States Department of Agriculture publishes a comprehensive Census of Agriculture that has farm data from every state and territory every five years. The last one was for 2007 and 2012 Census of Agriculture data collection ends on May 31st of this year.
I hope we see even more positive momentum for our farms, big or small.
To learn more about the Rhode Island Cash Receipts Report, visit: http://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/New_England_includes/Publications/cashrec08.pdf
To learn more about the USDA Census of Agriculture, visit: http://www.agcensus.usda.gov
It is with gratitude that I dedicate this post to Dr. Steven L. Fales, Professor of Agronomy, Iowa State University. His guidance and thoughtful challenges enhanced my appreciation of Rhode Island agriculture and of the grit and determination of our farmers, past and present, far beyond what I ever imagined.
— Rachel S. Flaksman
The US Senate and House Committees will both be debating their versions of the 2013 Farm Bill this week! This is the third year in a row that lawmakers are attempting to pass the Bill, after Congress refused to pass it last year. It is an important time for agriculture across the country and the Bill’s passage will have (hopefully positive) impacts on local agriculture in RI. Below are a list of resources for learning more about the proposed versions of the Farm Bill and their impacts.
- A general overview of Farm Bill proceedings this week from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.
- A more detailed breakdown and comparison of the Republican and Democrat Farm Bill versions from Farmpolicy.net.
- An article posted on the New York Times today, May 14th.
- A blog from Farm Fresh RI partner, the Wholesome Wave Foundation, that highlights our recent efforts in Washington, DC to include funding for incentive programs such as Bonus Bucks in the Farm Bill.
The first Rhode Island Farmers Market Manager Conference, Sustaining Our Markets, takes place tomorrow April 16th at the DEM headquarters - 235 Promenade Street, Providence, RI.
Market managers and supporters from all over Rhode Island will be gathering to share best practices and review food safety procedures for the 2013 farmers markets.
If you are interested in attending, please register online ASAP.
Let’s get ready for the summer farmers market season in RI! Photos of the conference to follow this week.
Since September, Flora Silva, a senior at The Met high-school in Providence, has been interning with us at Farm Fresh. She’s been a huge help, and here is some info about what she has been working on! Check out some of the pictures she took while volunteering at the Pawtucket Wintertime Farmers Market.
How long have you been working at Farm Fresh?
I have been working at Farm Fresh RI since the summer of 2012, but started officially interning here regularly in September of 2012.
What types of activities have you been working on?
I have done various activities with both Kayla Ringleheim and Kimberly Clark. With Kimberly I have gone to various elementary schools and helped her teach kindergarten through 1st graders about farms and why eating healthy is important. We have also ran an afterschool program for middle school students called “Meals in Minutes” which taught kids how to create healthy snacks and meals with every day foods in just a few minutes. With Kayla I have gone to several meetings related to bringing healthy food to the communities around us. I helped with creating excel sheets and graphing data given to me about different programs Farm Fresh runs; for example, for the Healthy Foods, Healthy Families program, I documented their answers to the pre and post questionnaires.
Why did you decide to intern at Farm Fresh?
I decided to intern at Farm Fresh RI because one of the students in my classes’ father came in and talked to us about the food revolution. The moment I heard about it I was hooked, and wanted to find an internship related to promoting healthy eating and good eating habits. I was then connected with Kayla Ringleheim who introduced me to the organization more in-depth and took me in as an intern.
What are 3 things you have learned since working at Farm Fresh?
I’ve learned a lot more than three things, but some of the things that come to mind when this question is asked are:
- Supporting local agriculture is helpful to the local economy.
- The Farm Bill, is a bill that was created to support farmers and help them sustain agriculture.
- Factory farming is different from traditional farming in that animals are confined in small spaces their whole lives and never breath fresh air.
5. What has your favorite part of your experience here been so far?
I am a very hands on person, so my favorite experience was being able to teach the middle school students about how to make healthy meals in minutes. Also going into the elementary schools and teaching the kindergarten to 1st graders about farms and just hearing what they know about farms and eating healthy. It’s always great to see kids who know they are supposed to eat vegetables and fruits and that actually enjoy it because those are the ages that they need to be taught about healthy eating so it sticks. I love teaching young kids about healthy eating!
We have most of the equipment, but need some “glue” to complete the buildout.
Help make our new RI kitchen facility a reality.
Yes! I’d like to contribute now.
Big harvests, big impacts, and we’re just beginning.Just 3 years ago, we had an idea about helping farmers find value from extra crops while helping youth in the juvenile justice system find value in their work and their potential.
Since then, Farm Fresh’s Harvest Kitchen has helped 45 Rhode Island youth on probation or parole gain culinary skills, life skills and confidence by producing simple products from local farms’ harvest and selling the products at farmers markets around Rhode Island.
Thousands of jars of applesauce later…
We needed our own space. In February 2013, we contracted to rent a new kitchen near the Wintertime Farmers Market in Pawtucket. This is the first time Harvest Kitchen will have 24/7 control over its kitchen (vs just 16 hours per week previously) and the possibilities are big.
We’re hoping to raise $12,000 from the community in the next 30 days as part of the necessary $40,000 investment we’re making this spring. It will help us grow from our tiny prior kitchen space into a stable, robust setup that enables us to teach more youth and better, and to produce more delicious local products. Everybody wins.
Please donate today. A contribution of any amount will help. We have some donors lined up, but that won’t yet cover it. The equipment and wiring is relatively simple, but they will yield an abundant harvest for Rhode Island farmers, eaters and for these youth for many years to come.
Below is a snapshot of what Harvest Kitchen did last year. With our own space and more hours to use, we can dream even bigger for the teens, the farmers and all of us who get to taste the incredible results.
- Last year we mentored 21 youth across three 15-week sessions.
- The Harvest Kitchen youth recidivism rate is 1/4 of normal rate.
- Youth made 2,000 jars of applesauce and 1,500 jars of pickles, turning bushels and bushels of local apples, carrots, green beans, cranberries, strawberries into products that can be enjoyed the year round.
- Harvest Kitchen products were sold at 8 farmers markets and a limited number of grocery stores since we were not been able to keep up with demand in our prior kitchen.
Help the new kitchen spring into action… Your donation can make it a reality!
Because everyone has a stake in good food,
Noah, Sheri, Ryan, Jen, John, Billy, Hans, Lori, Leanne & the Farm Fresh team