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Right here in Rhode Island, we have a most effective and innovative organization working to create a sustainable food system. Farm Fresh RI (FFRI) is a nonprofit whose mission is to “grow a local food system that values the environment, health and quality of life of RI farmers and eaters.”

They accomplish this through several comprehensive programs . . .

1. Farmer’s Markets – FFRI has helped organize farmers markets all over the state. The large winter farmers market held at the Hope Artiste Village in Pawtucket is a really wonderful activity for those cold, dreary weekends when you miss the smell of fresh produce and plants.  A few years ago, this was the only farmers market held in the winter, now RI  has several.

2. Market Mobile Program – The Market Mobile Program makes it easier and more efficient for local businesses to get direct access to locally grown produce.  A weekly inventory of items is published online – chefs and business owners select what they want, and the items are brought to a central location where they are inventoried then delivered to the customers. In 2012, this program had $1.5 million dollars in sales and at least 100 customers each week.

3. Veggie Box Delivery – Through the veggie box program, you can get a box of fresh, seasonal produce delivered to your workplace for only $20.00 a week. I subscribed to this program this year for the first time and I can attest that you get a lot of produce for the money! It was fun to see what you would get each week and they also provide recipes, storage tips, and information about some of the more “unique” items you may not have seen before  (like kohlrabi).

In addition to those described above, FFRI has numerous other initiatives to support their mission, including a Harvest Kitchen Program t0 involve at-risk youth in entrepreneurial food production, a Fresh Bucks program to increase low-income families’ access to fresh food,  and an Open Kitchen program that aims to create affordable commercial kitchen space for local food entrepreneurs.

I been a huge fan of the FFRI ever since I found out about them, but last week I attended their annual Local Food Forum and became an even bigger admirer of their efforts. The theme of this year’s forum was “Center of the Plate: What Makes Meat and Seafood Sustainable.”  When I first found out about the theme, I was hesitant to attend. I don’t eat  meat, and though I do eat some seafood I feel a little guilty about it.  I do believe there can be a place for meat and seafood in most of our diets, if it can be done sustainably and I thought I already knew what that meant. But I was very surprised and inspired by the creative solutions Farm Fresh RI and their partners have devised to support and promote the sustainable production and consumption of meat and seafood, but I will have to save that for another post.

In the meantime, I recommend you visit and bookmark the Farm Fresh RI website – it’s a great resource to learn more about these programs and the farms in southern New England, even if you just want to find a good place to go strawberry picking this summer!