Farming is a significant economic power both in the state and on Aquidneck Island. Agriculture, agricultural related business, and landscaping suppliers like nurseries account for 6,765 jobs and $1.47 billion in annual sales1.
Farm Conservation Plan
In 2016 ALT completed a Farmland Conservation Plan that focuses on a way forward to protect farmland and increase viability of farming on Aquidneck Island. This project, funded by the van Beuren Charitable Foundation, used a combination of literature research, farmer surveys, farmer interviews, on-the-ground knowledge, and spatial data to inform its findings.
Based on the data collected, the plan presents the current challenges of farming locally; offers possible solutions to these challenges; creates a farm protection plan to guide conservation of high priority farmlands in the future; creates an index of partners and local expertise on farm issues; develops an advocacy policy to help guide ALT’s farm-related advocacy work; and compiles resources on topics such as succession planning and business planning.
Other components of our increased farm conservation efforts include a land-link database and increased collaboration with partner groups on workshops and resource offerings.
Why should we conserve farmland on Aquidneck Island and in the State of Rhode Island?
In comparison to residential subdivisions, farms require far less in municipal services and the costs associated. Farms require less than 50 cents in services for every dollar in taxes they pay while residential subdivisions costs more than $1 in services for every dollar in new tax revenue generated2.
The carbon footprint of eating local is generally significantly less than the carbon footprint associated with shipping foods across the country and world. Simply put, local food tastes better and is often of higher quality. In an RI Agricultural Partnership3 study, 93% of people visiting farmers markets in the state cited the primary reason for going was for the increased quality and freshness of the products.
As open space, farmland on Aquidneck Island and in the state does not just provide food. It also provides wildlife habitat, scenic value, educational opportunities, and contributions to the rural landscape of towns.
Local food hubs and community gardens create capacity for people of all communities to eat and live more healthily. For lower income community members, many farmers markets accept SNAP, and in RI these markets often offer discounts to lower the cost of healthy food and increase access.
Buying local food from local farmers supports members of the community and keeps money in the local economy.
Many of the farms on the Island abut surface water reservoirs or are within drinking supply watersheds. Conservation of farms within these areas improves water quality by preventing conversion from natural ground surface to impervious surface. It also provides the opportunity to establish better relationships with farmers and the potential to work with them to implement best management practices related to farm run-off into water supplies.
1 Sproul, T.W. (2015). The Economic Impact of Rhode Island Plant Based Industries and Agriculture: An Update to the 2012 Study. University of Rhode Island Dept of Environmental and Natural Resource Economics.
2 American Farmland Trust. (2016, January). Keeping Farmers on the Land: New Research Underscores Need to Address Farm Transition in Rhode Island. Retrieved from http://landforgood.org/wp-content/uploads/Rhode-Island-Gaining-Insights-AFT-LFG.pdf
3 Rhode Island Agricultural Partnership. (2014). Consumer Research Highlights. Acadia Consulting Group.
Middletown, RI 02842