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If you fancy farm-to-table freshness, look no further than the Blackstone Valley. Farmers in the towns of Burrillville, Cumberland, Glocester, North Smithfield and Smithfield are producing fruits, vegetables, herbs, meats, dairy products, maple syrup, honey, baked goods and wine—essentially, all you need to stock your refrigerator and pantry, according to a press release by Leadership Rhode Island 2016 class members.
To help you navigate northern Rhode Island’s rolling hills that are dotted with farms, a group of Smithfield residents—Scott Boyd, Maria Caliri, Nick Loring, Patrick Reddy and Eric Wagner—along with nearby Massachusetts residents—Vicky Benson and Michele Leone—created The Blackstone Valley Crop Stops Loop. An interactive map identifying farms, their products and hours of operation, the Crop Stops Loop is the result of a months-long project that these Leadership Rhode Island (LRI) 2016 class members devised to heighten awareness of the area’s natural resources.
“LRI is dedicated to supporting existing and emerging community leaders, so it tasked the 75 members of its 2016 class to develop a sustainable project designed to promote the state’s 39 cities and towns,” says Boyd. “Last year’s LRI class collected data that indicated that northern Rhode Island residents think that our towns’ farms are hidden gems. Using this information, we decided to promote our farmers and their goods, especially since there’s growing interest in food safety and seasonality and the buy local movement.”
The group’s efforts also complement the state’s plans to develop a food strategy that will link farming, aquaculture, food insecurity, hunger, restaurants and culinary institutions. A key element of the plan is to meet the “50 by 60” goal that aims for half of the food New England consumes to be locally sourced by 2060.
To help the plan come to fruition, Governor Raimondo appointed Sue AnderBois as the first director of food strategy for the state. Tasked with crafting policy for the entire food system in Rhode Island—from farms to supermarkets to restaurants—she will work with the governor’s office, the Department of Environmental Management, the Department of Health and the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation.
Upon learning about the LRI team’s project, AnderBois applauded the group’s endeavors.
“The Blackstone Valley Crop Stops Loop is a wonderful resource that will help Rhode Islanders visit and support nearly 20 different farms and farmers markets in Blackstone Valley. Agriculture is a vital part of Rhode Island’s identity and economy—and I know I’m looking forward to using this guide to help me buy vegetables, fruit, wine, and more directly from the producers in Blackstone Valley.”
The LRI team hopes that, like AnderBois, residents of northern Rhode Island and beyond will use the map to discover new fresh food sources while enjoying the area’s scenic vistas.
“Fall foliage season will soon be upon us,” says Loring, “and for many, that means leaf-peeping and apple picking in northern Rhode Island. By following the Blackstone Valley Crop Stops Loop, you’ll be able to enjoy those activities and so much more.”
A copy of the map is included in this issue of The Smithfield Times. It can also be found at the farms and farmers’ markets on the map; the digital version is available on the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council’s web site at www.blackstonevalleytourismcouncil.org.