J. Farm Fresh exists at the intersection of farm viability and food access. We help the agricultural community of Rhode Island and the surrounding region find markets for the food they are growing, and we are very concerned that every Rhode Islander have equal access to fresh produce.
L. Right now we run the largest indoor winter farmers market in New England; we get 3,000 to 4,000 people in a 4-hour period on a Saturday. It reminds people that farming doesn’t stop in October. Even though the market is only one day a week, it provides an income source to entities that often see winter as a slow season. We’ve heard that it often allows a farm to keep an employee on all year around.
J. Harvest Kitchen is our job-training program for youth in the juvenile justice system and foster care. It is a job-training program that also works to prevent food from going to waste. The youth help make applesauce, pickles, frozen soups…things that are sold at our farmers market and through our wholesale system. It’s a holistic system that benefits the farmers and the youth.
L. We’re building a 60,000-square-foot one-story building. Half that space will be for our current programs — like Harvest Kitchen and the farmers market. There is outdoor space, too, so we can run the farmers market year around.
We are renting the remaining 30,000 square feet to local one-of-a-kind farm and food businesses that somehow use local products in what they do. For instance, a local Mexican restaurant will be making their own tortillas both for their restaurant and for wholesale distribution.
J. We hope people find more connection to the food in the process.
L. Yes, BlueHub got involved because the financing for this project is very complicated. Our largest funding source is New Markets Tax Credit equity, which requires that all other project funding is in hand before that final source comes into the project. We also have a solar grant and two storm water grants, a brownfields remediation grant, plus state Re-Build Rhode Island tax credit equity, all of which will be paid after the project is completed. The bridge loan from BlueHub enabled us to close on the New Markets Tax Credit transaction. The project couldn’t have happened without them.