Rhode Island Urban Agriculture

Final report for NERI14-001

Project Type: PDP State Program
Funds awarded in 2014: $20,000.00
Funds awarded in 2015: $20,000.00
Funds awarded in 2016: $20,500.00
Projected End Date: 10/31/2017
Grant Recipient: University of Rhode Island
Region: Northeast
State: Rhode Island
State Coordinator:
Heather Faubert
University of Rhode Island
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Project Information

Summary:

Rhode Island is an urban state, being the second most densely populated state in the country. Urban agriculture has been increasing in RI since Southside Community Land Trust (SCLT) started farming on a vacant lot in 1981. Currently 21 urban farmers in Providence produce vegetables and sell at city farmers markets, restaurants, wholesale markets and CSAs. The few traditional Rhode Island Ag Service Providers (ASP), including Cooperative Extension at URI, have not provided many services to urban growers. The new urban growers are seeking assistance from non-traditional ASP such as various non-profit organizations (NGO) working in Providence and other RI cities. In general, these non-traditional ASP come from a non-agricultural background and could become more effective ASPs if provided with agricultural training. The focus of this project was to find urban ASP and urban growers and provide technical farm training.

The approach for this project was to forge relationships with urban farmers and NGOs servicing these growers. While forging these relationships, ASP and growers participated in workshops as well as individual consultations and increased knowledge in soil health, soil fertility & plant nutrition, pest management, planting techniques, and selling at farmers markets. Over the three year project we held 13 workshops in various locations in Providence, servicing a total of 16 urban ASP and 62, mostly urban, farmers. In addition to workshops, we made 22 urban farm visits, many of these visits were with urban ASP. Follow-up evaluations were conducted, but the best measurement of verified outcomes is we (Andy Radin and myself) are continuing to work closely with urban ASP, especially the original RI urban ag organization, Southside Community Landtrust. We are currently scheduling workshops and training for 2018. This project has opened the door to a bright future of URI Cooperative Extension working with urban farmers and urban ASP.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Performance Target:

6 agriculture service providers (ASPs) will provide training to 25 urban farmers on proper crop production techniques relating to soil health, nutrient management, crop rotation, cover crops and pest control. ASPs will also promote farmer resources available through state and federal programs as well as RI grower organizations.

Introduction:

Urban agriculture had been increasing in Rhode Island without the involvement of URI Cooperative Extension. Ag Service Providers working with urban growers had very little training in agriculture. This project aimed to provide urban ASP and urban growers with agricultural education through workshops and individual farm visits.

Advisors/Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Andrew Radin
  • Rebecca Brown
  • Eric Boettger
  • Rich Pederson
  • Andrew Cook
  • John Taylor

Educational Approach

Educational approach:

This project provided educational workshops to urban farmers and urban ag service providers on pest management and soil health. Participants were supported after events with email communication and project team site visits to farms and farm markets.

Milestones

Milestone #1 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Year 1 Milestone Accomplishments

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
25
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
6
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
10
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
3
Proposed Completion Date:
October 31, 2015
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
October 31, 2015
Accomplishments:

YEAR 1 (October 1, 2014 – September 30, 2015)

  1. 25 Agriculture Service Providers (ASP) and 375 farmers receive advertisements for urban farming workshop in Providence. Flyers also distributed at urban community farms and at the urban indoor winter farmers market.
  2. 6 Agricultural Service Providers and 25 farmers attend workshop to learn about soil health in fields and high tunnels (Spring 2015).

Complete. 3 ASP and 10 farmers participated in workshop focused on running a profitable farmers market and speaking English. April 2, 9, 30, & May 7, 2015. The African Alliance of Rhode Island helped organize these workshops and informed us that the participants needed practice with English and help in running a farmers market booth. Our original plans of a workshop about soil health and high tunnels was too ambitious.

  1. 25 ASP and 375 farmers receive advertisements for urban farming workshop in Providence. Flyers also distributed at urban community farms and the 9 Providence summer farmers markets (Summer 2015).
  2. 6 Agricultural Service Providers and 25 farmers attend workshop to learn pest management techniques in fields and high tunnels (Summer 2015).

Complete. 3 ASP and 5 farmers met and discussed pest management. Earlier in the day attended opening of Prairie Avenue Farm, which was a new farm developed through the ‘Lots of Hope’ program. The state coordinator served on the review team for this program that selects lots for development into farms. July 10, 2015. Meeting occurred rather than workshop because growers were not advanced enough for an actual workshop. An informal meeting was more appropriate. We were still mainly working on developing relationships.

  1. Attendees of the two workshops receive and respond to a follow-up evaluation
    (Fall 2015).

Completion Note. It would have been inappropriate to try and measure learning accomplishments. The biggest accomplishment is that the farmers and urban ASP are beginning to trust URI Cooperative Extension and see we can be an asset. (see narrative below) 

  1. Heather Faubert and Andy Radin meet with ASP to choose topics for Year 2 workshops.

Narrative. The Rhode Island Urban Agriculture Project is amazing, and not at all what I expected or planned on. Let me explain what actually happened on this terrific SARE project. It started October 28 with going into the Rhode Island Adult Correctional Institution maximum security and talking with the inmates about their strawberry beds. This doesn't have much to do with Urban Agriculture and this project, but it is an example of how this project took off in unexpected directions.

On April 12, Andy Radin (URI Cooperative Extension Agricultural Agent) and I met with Julius Kolawole of the African Alliance of Rhode Island (AARI) and expressed our interest in working with him and the farmers of AARI. Julius was happy, but cautious and told us many times that working with immigrant farmers and AARI was all about building relationships. Towards building relationships with farmers and Ag Service Providers (ASP), I met April 2, 9, 30 and May 7 and together we discussed how to run a successful farmers market booth. The purpose of these meetings was two-fold; to learn better skills about running a farmers market booth and to improve English speaking skills.           

Through this SARE project, I got on the review team for the 'Lots of Hope' project of the City of Providence. The team selected a farm design for an empty lot at 433 Prairie Ave., Providence. The chosen design was constructed and Groundwork Providence won the bid to run the farm in collaboration with the AARI. I attended the Grand Opening of the farm on July 10th and celebrated with people from Groundwork Providence and AARI. Later in the day we held a workshop on IPM with 3 ASP and 5 AARI farmers. Only one of the farmers spoke English well and she interpreted for the other farmers.

Throughout the summer and into the fall I made many visits to the AARI farms and farmers markets to talk about IPM and strengthen relationships. I've told the AARI farmers and ASP that I am a permanent fixture, that I'm not going away, even once the 3 year SARE project is done. They are stuck with me!

Milestone #2 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Year 2 Milestone Accomplishments

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
15
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
6
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
18
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
5
Proposed Completion Date:
October 31, 2016
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
October 31, 2016
Accomplishments:

YEAR 2 (October 1, 2015 – September 30, 2016)

(update or add milestone accomplishment reports below each milestone)

  1. 25 APS and 375 farmers receive advertisements for urban farming workshop in Providence. Flyers also distributed at urban community farms and at the urban indoor winter farmers market (Spring 2016).

Advertised series of 4 vegetable production classes in Providence. Advertising was aimed at beginning, urban farmers through the Young Farmers Network.

  1. 6 Agricultural Service Providers and 15 farmers attend on-farm workshop to learn Beginning Farming 201. Curriculum topics will be similar to Year 1, but the training will be more advanced and in-depth. Additional topics will include crop rotation and an introduction to cover cropping for urban agriculture (Spring 2016).

Held 4 classes at the Brown Tri-Lab at 10 Davol St. in Providence on February 16, 18, 23, and 25, 2016 for urban farmers and ASP in conjunction with the Young Farmers Network. Topics covered included plant problem diagnosis, insects and diseases of vegetables, crop rotation and cover cropping. All four classes were attended by the same 4 ASP and 18 growers. A preliminary survey was sent to workshop participants to discover what were their most significant insect and disease pests and what management methods did they try, and were their efforts successful. Learning was assessed at the final class on February 25th.

  1. 3 ASP and 6 farmers use a group Facebook page established for the project to submit questions, receive answers, and obtain information about urban crop production (Spring/Summer 2016).

Answered questioned via email. Questions were about specific insect and disease problems found on crops. From one participant I've answered emails on 24 different farming topics since he attended our classes. Most questions are pest identifications and management recommendations. No Facebook page established.

  1. 6 urban ASP attend one or more farm visit to be conducted by URI Extension (2 farm visits/month planned) (Spring/Summer 2016).

The state coordinator:

  • Visited African Alliance of RI farm with one ASP on October 1 & 12, 2015
  • Visited AARI farms alone on 6/6/16.
  • Visited growers and ASP at Armory Farmers Market in Providence with one ASP on 6/9/16, 8/18/16, 8/25/16, 9/1/16, 9/8/16, 9/15/16, 9/22/16, 9/29/16, 10/6/16.
    Farm visits centered on pest identification and management strategies. Visits at Farmers Markets were to build relationships and check with growers to see if there were any troubles on their farms.
  1. 25 ASP and 375 farmers receive advertisements for urban farming workshop in Providence. Flyers also distributed at urban community farms and at the 9 Providence summer farmers markets (Summer 2016).
    Did not hold urban farming workshop in Providence in summer, 2016. Since we conducted 4 workshops for the Young Farmers Network, we did not try to hold additional summer workshops with this group. My contacts established in Year 1 with African Alliance of Rhode Island and Groundwork Providence either left their non-profit organization or stopped talking to me. This was very puzzling and frustrating. I tried numerous times, making 10 trips to Providence and several phone calls, trying to establish or reestablish relationships with urban ASP and urban farmers. For the third year of my project I'm going to reach out to a different organization working with urban farmers, Southside Community Landtrust. The organizations working with urban farmers in Rhode Island do not appear to interact very much. Southside Community Landtrust has been working in Providence since 1981. I've worked with them slightly in the past and next year I will pursue them more directly.
  2. 6 Agricultural Service Providers and 20 farmers attend workshop to learn about Beginning Farming 202. Similar topics as Year 1 will be covered more thoroughly, as well as more advanced training in cover cropping (Summer 2016).
    Did not occur. See comments in #5.
  3. Attendees of the two workshops receive and respond to a follow-up evaluation (Fall 2016).
    Follow-up evaluations were obtained from winter workshop participants. Growers and ASP reported gaining significant knowledge and offered helpful suggestions for future workshops. The workshops were well received.
  4. 6 ASP meet with URI Extension to discuss advanced farming topics for Year 3 workshops (Fall 2016).
    Discussed future workshop plans with other ASP at URI and Southside Community Landtrust.
Milestone #3 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Year 3 Milestone Accomplishments

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
25
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
6
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
32
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
5
Proposed Completion Date:
October 31, 2017
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
October 31, 2017
Accomplishments:
  1. 25 APS and 375 farmers receive advertisements for urban farming workshop in Providence. Flyers will also be distributed at urban community farms and at the urban indoor winter farmers market.
    Advertised via email from Southside Community Landtrust and Young Farmers Network, Roger Williams Park Botanical Center Newsletter, Elmwood Neighborhood Association newsletter, and Meet Up.
  2. 6 Agricultural Service Providers and 25 farmers attend workshop to learn crop production techniques (Spring 2017).
    Three workshops were held on April 1st, April 18th, and April 29th. The April 1st workshop was on IPM and held at the Providence Botanic Center. The April 18th workshop was on soil science and took place at the Southside Community Landtrust center in Providence. The third workshop, on April 29th, was at a urban farm in Providence, Somerset Hayward Community Garden, owned by Southside Community Landtrust, and focused on building a field tunnel. Participants evaluated each workshop and reported they acquired new skills that they would put into practice on their farms.
  3. Facebook page continued for ASP, urban farmers and URI Cooperative Extension (Spring 2017).
    With a series of 3 workshops, we saw some of the same growers at all three workshops. The repeated contact built wonderful, lasting relationships!
  4. 25 ASP and 375 farmers receive advertisements for urban farming workshop in Providence. Flyers will also be distributed at urban community farms and at the 9 Providence summer farmers markets (Summer 2017).
    Advertising for the workshop was primarily through Southside Community Landtrust.
  5. 6 Agricultural Service Providers and 25 farmers attend workshop to learn crop production techniques (Summer 2017).
    Workshop on building field tunnels was held in Providence at an urban farmer's farm. The farmer had attended all three workshops in April and was excited to host this workshop.
  6. Attendees of the year’s workshop receive and respond to a follow-up evaluation
    (Fall 2017)
    In September and October went to 4 Providence farmers' markets to talk to growers and ASP that had attended URI Urban Ag workshops and to meet new growers and ASP. Also visited Harvest Kitchen in Pawtucket, RI and started a relationship with ASP who I intend to work with in the future.

Milestone Activities and Participation Summary

Educational activities conducted by the project team:

ActivityYear 1Year 2Year 3Total
Consultations 8 8 6 22
Curricula, factsheets or educational tools 2 2
On-farm demonstrations 2 2
Webinars, talks and presentations 4 3 7
Workshop / field days 5 4 4 13

Beneficiaries who particpated in the project’s educational activities and events:

AudienceYear 1Year 2Year 3Total Individuals
Extension 2 3 1 6
Nonprofit 9 3 4 16
Farmers / ranchers 12 18 32 62

Participation Summary:

14 Number of agricultural educator or service providers reached through education and outreach activities

Learning Outcomes

2 Agricultural service providers reported changes in knowledge, skills and/or attitudes as a result of their participation.
10 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
2 Ag service providers intend to use knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness learned through this project in their educational activities and services for farmers
Key areas in which the service providers (and farmers if indicated above) reported a change in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness::

Year 1 key areas of learning verified
It would have been inappropriate to try and measure learning accomplishments. The biggest accomplishment is that the farmers and urban ASP are beginning to trust URI Cooperative Extension and see we can be an asset.

I understand Rhode Island NRCS wants to initiate programs with urban growers. I anticipate wonderful cooperation with NRCS ASP in the future.

Year 2 Key areas of learning verified
Learning evaluated by post workshop survey in diagnosing plant diseases, cultural pest management techniques, tomato diseases identification, biological control implementation at the four urban farmer workshops held in conjunction with the Young Farmers Network and attended by 18 growers and 4 ASP during the winter, 2016. Participants completed evaluation survey. Formal learning verification at a later date did not occur. African Alliance RI farmers did not participate in the 4 workshops.

Year 3 Key areas of learning verified
Post workshop evaluations were completed by participants at four workshops held in conjunction with Southside Community Landtrust. I contacted two ASP that had participated in our workshops and talked to them about changes they had made. Both ASP said they feel more comfortable assisting farmers with production problems because of the workshops. More importantly, the ASP said they will refer growers with production problems to URI Cooperative Extension in the future. This is a major accomplishment! Because of this SARE PDP, URI Cooperative Extension is in a much better position to assist RI urban farmers and urban ASP.

Performance Target Outcomes

Performance Target Outcomes - Service Providers

Activities for farmers conducted by service providers:
ActivityYear 1Year 2Year 3Total
Consultations 0 0 4 4
2 Total number of agricultural service provider participants who used knowledge and skills learned through this project (or incorporated project materials) in their educational activities, services, information products and/or tools for farmers
5 Farmers reached through participant's programs
Total amount of production these farmers manage:
3 acres
Performance target outcome for service providers narrative:

Year 1 Narrative

I did not attempt to collect verification data. I am concentrating on building relationships with Urban ASP and Urban growers. See Milestone Report for more details.

Year 2 Narrative

I feel as though I was not successful building relationships with AARI ASP. Perhaps I improved my relationships with some AARI growers by talking with them at the Armory Street Farmers Market on 8 Thursdays in August-October. I also gave them samples of specialty amaranth from URI's Agronomy Farm grown by a URI graduate student testing varieties of amaranth. The AARI farmers tried cooking with the amaranth at home and selling it at the farmers market. They especially liked a few varieties that were quite different from varieties they grew.

We did improve our relationships with farmers and ASP from the Young Farmers Network and met new ASP at Southside Community Landtrust because of the 4 winter workshops.

Year 3 Narrative

Year 3 was much more rewarding than Years 1 & 2, though it took Years 1 & 2 to fully connect with urban farmers and Southside Community Landtrust (SCLT). The four workshops this year and last year, plus visiting several different farmers markets have given us the opportunity to become very comfortable with the urban farming environment, and them to become comfortable with URI Cooperative Extension. I look forward to working closely with the urban agricultural community, both farmers and ASP, in the future. This project turned out to be an incredibly positive experience. Two SCLT personnel said they used information learned at one of the four FY2017 workshops to assist urban farmers with production problems.

 

Performance Target Outcomes - Farmers

Target #1

Target: number of farmers who will make a change/adopt of practice:
25
Target: the change or adoption the farmers will make:
- Contact URI Cooperative Extension for farming assistance. - Participate in educational workshops regularly. - Take soil samples to assess soil conditions. - Apply soil amendments based on science-based soil test results. - Scout for insect, disease and weed pests - Make pest control decisions based on scouting and other IPM techniques - Plant one new crop in plot or high tunnel - Plant cover crops in plot or high tunnel
Target: total size/scale of farmers these farmers manage:
12 acres
10 Farmers made a change/adopted a practice as a result of this project
Size/scale of farms affected by this project:
5 acres
Performance target outcome for farmers narrative:

Farmers completed evaluations after each workshop. In the fall of 2016 and 2017, a total of 10 Farmers were contacted to verify if their practices changed. Farmers were contacted by phone or visited at urban farmers markets. All farmers responded they had made positive changes with regards to pest identification, improved soil health, or their desire to extend the growing season. I feel the most positive change is these urban farmers will contact URI Cooperative Extension for farming assistance.

Additional Project Outcomes

Number of grants applied for that built upon this project:
Year 1Year 2Year 3Total
1 2 1 4
1 New working collaboration
Additional Outcomes Narrative:

Year 1 Narrative

I am thrilled to report about the new working collaboration with the African Alliance of Rhode Island, the Lots of Hope project with the City of Providence, and Southside Community Landtrust. In the URI Plant Sciences Department, a new graduate student wants to work in Urban Agriculture and I will work closely with this student. My colleague, Andy Radin, applied for a grant to research season extension of African vegetables. The grant was not funded by the granting agency, but we feel confident it will be funded in 2016. I've collected seed from three African vegetables and these will be planted at the URI Agronomy Farm in 2016.

 

Year 2 Narrative

The IPM workshops held in Winter, 2016, were successful, but no AARI ASP or farmers participated. Conducting workshops or other types of training about crop production with AARI and immigrant farmers was derailed in Year 2 by my inability to engage partners at AARI, and the loss of personnel at other organizations to work with. I have not yet decided if I will continue to work with AARI for Year 3 of this project or switch to working with the Narragansett Indian Food Sovereignty Initiative. The Narragansett Indians are starting a farm in Westerly, RI, and the leaders of this initiative are anxious for agricultural training to share with their tribal members. I visited their budding farm on two occasions in 2016 and look forward to working with them in the future.

Year 3 Narrative

Though this project did not follow an expected path, the winding path it took was challenging and fulfilling. We have established relationships with many urban growers as well as with urban ASP at Southside Community Landtrust and the Young Farmers Network. We will continue to work with farmers of the AARI and did form relationships with a few AARI growers. We expect to continue working with all these growers in the years to come.

Though not mentioned elsewhere in this report besides the Year 2 Narrative above, we have started working with some Narragansett Indians on their Narragansett Food Sovereignty Initiative. Their farming plans are ambitious and we look forward to helping them achieve their goals.

 

Success stories:

On year 3 we conducted workshops in conjunction with Southside Community Landtrust. Through this organization we were introduced to several farmers that attended all 4 workshops offered. This culminated in the final workshop taking place at one of the urban grower's Providence neighborhood yard which has been turned into a farm. We look forward to continuing to work with this grower and other growers that we met through this SARE project. This project has also introduced us to many nontraditional ASP and organizations where we can now reach out to to connect with additional urban growers in Rhode Island.

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

I was rather unprepared for what was ahead when starting this project. Though at times it was frustrating, overall it was a very positive experience and I look forward to continuing to work with urban ag service providers and urban farmers. Before this project I knew one urban ASP and one or two urban growers. I've been introduced to a whole new world of farming and it is very exciting to serve this new world! My next 3 year SARE project is training growers and ASP to build and use caterpillar tunnels. Though this isn't exclusively for urban growing, I will take extra steps to include urban farmers and urban ASP. Thank you, SARE, for this opportunity.

SARE Outreach

Outreach about SARE:

Information about SARE grant programs and information resources was shared through the events and activities listed below.

Year 1 (2014-2015) SARE Outreach Activities

Event/Activity

Number of Contacts with:

Farmers

Ag. Professionals

NRCS working group meeting

0

11

Keeping it local, Shannock Village farming

2

3

Beginning Farmer Business Workshop

35

4

RI Nursery & Landscape Association meeting

5

3

Washington County Fair Ag Council display

Unknown

unknown

Talk with individual farmers about SARE

15

5

Year 2 (2015-2016) SARE Outreach Activities

Event/Activity

Number of Contacts with:

Farmers

Ag. Professionals

9 Winter moth & caterpillar workshops

120

21

RI Women in Agriculture Conference

50

10

3 Master Gardener presentations

0

3

Washington County Fair display

Unknown

Unknown

2 Greenhouse growers meetings

40

6

3 Fruit growers meetings

85

5

Year 3 (2016-2017) SARE Outreach Activities

Event/Activity

Number of Contacts with:

Farmers

Ag. Professionals

10 talks/workshops besides SARE project

60

10

URI Spring Festival

20

20

3 Master Gardener presentations

0

3

Washington County Fair display

Unknown

Unknown

5 growers meetings, greenhouse, fruit (2), Christmas tree growers, RI Raised Livestock Assc.

230

10

Beginning farmers meeting & NRCS Narragansett Indian Tribe farm meeting

20

15

Recieved information about SARE grant programs and information resouces:

Audience Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Total
Service providers 26 45 58 129
Farmers 47 275 330 652
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.