This is a story about a university, its faculty, staff and students, the State of Rhode Island, some Master Gardeners, and a food bank. It’s also about testing new vegetable cultivars, and bringing many diverse interests together to grow good food, and lots of it.
For the past several years, University of Rhode Island Plant Sciences professor Dr. Rebecca Brown and research associate Carl Sawyer, with help from some URI students, have been growing fresh produce for the Rhode Island Food Bank. This year, the project has undergone a significant expansion. Dr. Brown needed more help, and a team of volunteers headed by Master Gardeners Hal Morpeth and Charlie Samson got involved. With help from some URI and other student volunteers, they made the transition from “gardening” to “farming,” planting hundreds of cucumbers, lettuces, peppers, cabbages, carrots, potatoes, and onions.
Vegetable trials are also part of the project. One of these, partially funded by the RI Department of Environmental management, is testing blight-resistant tomatoes.
Bringing so many diverse groups together seems to benefit everyone. The trials will produce research data, the volunteers – including Master Gardeners – gain valuable experience, and the Food Bank gets the fresh produce. Sounds good to me.