News Bites: RI Food Policy Council New Member Applications / Newport Vineyards Brings Home Gold / October Farm to School Month / 2017 Outstanding Dairy Farm Escobar Farm

by David Dadekian
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Current news releases—Eat Drink RI is not the source for these items—please follow any links for more information.

The Rhode Island Food Policy Council (RIFPC) seeks applications for new Council members

Rhode Island Food Policy CouncilWhere we have been:
We have accomplished a lot in the past five years. Those early years were about helping build a network around food as a system, and in the last year we have been thrilled to be involved with the development of the first ever Rhode Island Food Strategy.

Where we are headed:
With the launch of the RI Food Strategy, the overarching task in the next year is to help drive execution and implementation of the Strategy, while also taking the opportunity for an internal evaluation.

The evolution of RIFPC:
The coming year will mark transition for the Council, and we seek innovative and energetic individuals to join and help chart the course. We will look to shift staffing, structures, and communications, as well as internal processes and organizational culture. We want to ensure that we are creating opportunities for all to come to the table and shape the next phase, with increased transparency both during and after the nominations process.

We acknowledge that the makeup of the Council has not matched the diversity of all Rhode Islanders, and we seek to improve on this thoughtfully and intentionally. We recognize the value of diversity in backgrounds and experience, and the importance of raising up voices that have historically been marginalized, as we all work together to a stronger and more resilient Rhode Island food system.

Deadline for applications: November 1, 2017, apply online here.

Newport Vineyards Brings Home Gold from the 13th Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition

Newport Vineyards in Fall, photo by Marianne Lee Photography

Newport Vineyards in Fall, photo by Marianne Lee Photography

Newport Vineyards, an award winning winery located in beautiful Middletown, RI, won Gold and Silver from the 13th Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition. Newport Vineyards 2016 Dry Rosé brought home Gold as the Best of Category for Vinifera Rose Wines and Silver was awarded for the 2016 Gewürztraminer in the Best of Category for Gewürztraminer. The Atlantic Seaboard Wine Association is one of the oldest wine organizations located on the East Coast. Both wines have been top sellers during 2017 and have sold out before the end of the season. Despite Winemaker George Chelf doubling the production of the Dry Rosé from last year, the wine was sold out before summer’s end.

Founded by brothers John & Paul Nunes in 1995, Newport Vineyards is the largest grower of grapes in New England. The winery produces nearly 30,000 cases of estate-grown wine each year through sustainable farming methods on 75 acres of historically preserved farmland. Following a multi-million dollar renovation completed in 2015, the winery has become a culinary and wine destination offering multiple experiences including daily tours and tastings, 100% from scratch culinary programs at Brix Restaurant and The Vineyard Café, The Marketplace, seasonal live music, private events and year-round public activities.

Whether you’re looking for a relaxing afternoon sipping wine and local beer with friends amid the vines, a leisurely lunch, enjoying a gourmet dinner, or hosting a private event, Newport Vineyards truly has it all. Located just 45 minutes from downtown Providence, experience the harvest at its finest on Aquidneck Island.

Governor Raimondo Declares October as Farm to School Month in RI

Farm Fresh RI Farm to School Gardening with Boys & Girls Clubs of Providence

Farm Fresh RI Farm to School Gardening with Boys & Girls Clubs of Providence

Governor Gina Raimondo has signed an official proclamation declaring October as Farm to School Month in Rhode Island. This is in alignment with National Farm to School Month, designated by Congress in 2010, as an annual celebration of food education, school gardens, and lunch trays filled with nutritious,local ingredients. “I am so pleased to celebrate Rhode Island Farm to School Month. Connecting kids to healthful, local food while also supporting our local agriculture and food economy is a win-win for the State,” said the State Director of Food Policy, Sue Anderbois. “This work is just part of the fabric of who Rhode Island is. A big thank you to Farm Fresh Rhode Island, our schools, and so many other partners who work so hard to make these initiatives successful.”

To celebrate Farm to School Month, schools across the state are hosting events to bring awareness to Farm to School work in Rhode Island and highlight the connection between local farmers, eaters, and food literacy. Providence Public School District is gearing up for the Great Apple Crunch Day, a day-long celebration of Rhode Island grown apples. Anderbois will be in Providence on Thursday, October 12, at an Apple Crunch event at Lima Elementary School to read the governor’s proclamation and congratulate the district for its continued commitment to supporting local farmers.

Schools and districts can participate in Apple Crunch Day by purchasing and serving Rhode Island grown apples in their meal programs and by “crunching” into apples together as a way to bring awareness to fresh, local produce. Pell Elementary School in Newport is also hosting school-wide Apple Crunch festivities on October 27. For the past several years, the Newport Public School District has celebrated its commitment to Farm to School by hosting an Apple Crunch to bring awareness to the importance of fresh, healthy, and local food in school meals.

“Our Farm to School program provides great opportunities for local farmers to have access to institutional markets and expand their operations to help meet the needs of the community,” said Thea Upham, Community Access Program Director at Farm Fresh Rhode Island. “When school kids are the recipients of fresh, local foods, they are more likely to eat meals at school and actually enjoy them.”

Members of the National Farm to School Network, the RI Farm to School program is part of a much larger landscape of nutrition education, food access, and market-building programs operated by Farm Fresh RI. RI Farm to School enriches the connection communities have to fresh, local food and empowers youth to think critically about the food they eat, to learn about nearby farms and how food is produced, and to taste for themselves that nutritious, fresh foods can be super delicious.

Escobar Farm in Portsmouth Named 2017 Outstanding Dairy Farm

Rhode Island Department of Environmental ManagementThe Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) today announced Escobar Farm in Portsmouth has been named Rhode Island’s 2017 Outstanding Dairy Farm by the Rhode Island Green Pastures Committee of which DEM is a member.

“As one of Rhode Island’s finest dairy farms, Escobar Farm is most deserving of this recognition,” said Ken Ayars, DEM Chief of Agriculture. “Our state has a rich agricultural heritage, and increasingly, local food and agriculture are hotbeds for innovation and growth – spurred on by a growing demand by consumers to know their farmers and benefit from quality, local products. Dairy farming, however, has experienced a decline in recent years in Rhode Island – as elsewhere nationally. This awards program shines an important light on the value of dairy farming to our state. Kudos to Escobar Farm and the Green Pastures Committee for their commitment to the viability of this important local industry.”

DEM continues to work across many fronts to strengthen Rhode Island’s green economy and to promote local agriculture. The state’s green industries account for more than 15,000 jobs and contribute $2.5 billion to the economy each year. And local agriculture continues to be an area ripe for growth – with the number of farms in Rhode Island on the rise and a growing young farmer network. Escobar Farm, owned by Louie and Jane Escobar, was selected for this year’s award given the owners’ involvement in dairy farming advocacy and growth, community ties, and commitment to farming best practices. Escobar Farm was started by Louie Escobar’s father in 1937. Louie helped with farm chores as a youngster and continued working the farm until he took over in 1972.

Escobar Farm is a member of the Rhode Island Dairy Farms Cooperative and the Agri-Mark Cooperative. Milk from its 95 cows is used in Rhody Fresh Milk and Cabot dairy products. Along with the dairy farm, the Escobars also operate an artificial insemination company that serves dairy farms in the East Bay area of Rhode Island as well as Southeastern Massachusetts. The Escobars were featured, along with several other dairy farms from New England, in the documentary film The Forgotten Farms. The film explores the roll and challenges of the commercial dairy farm in the day of farmers’ markets and artisan cheese.
The Escobars are known as farmers who often open their farm to visits from local schools and people from the local communities that surround their farm. In addition to the dairy farm, the Escobars operate a corn maze that helps supplement the dairy income and introduces about 15,000 visitors a year to the farm.

The Outstanding Dairy Farm of the Year award is sponsored by the New England Green Pastures Committee, made up of government and industry members. Membership in Rhode Island’s Green Pastures Committee is coordinated by the Rhode Island Agricultural Council and the DEM Division of Agriculture. Winning dairy farmers from each New England state will be honored on September 15 at the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, Massachusetts.

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