Growing our Regional Food System starts with Strong Data
To identify where barriers exist and what's possible for food systems change, you need a thorough understanding of what's currently on the ground. An accurate, comprehensive mapping of food-related assets in Southern New England is critical to our ability to plan, grow and sustain a regional food system.
When Farm Fresh began in 2004 with limited resources and almost no budget, we believed that one of the quickest, cheapest and most effective things we could do would be to create an online, searchable, in depth catalog of the RI/MA/CT food system. It would allow anyone – consumers, farmers, chefs, potential farm interns, policymakers, town planners, journalists – to have 24/7 access to local food information on the web for whatever their purpose.
Over 1 million people now use the FarmFresh.org database every year. That's 1 million people carrying out our mission of connecting local farmers and eaters, of building a better food system, just by putting local food info at their fingertips.
Farm Fresh RI collaborates with regional partners, SEMAP and CISA, to maintain a database of active farms, what they grow and where they sell in Southern New England. The database also catalogs non-farm businesses that intersect with farms and food, such as specialty food processors and grocers and restaurants that source from local farms. Linkages between farms and buyers are specifically noted to show how products are currently being distributed through the regional food system.
The FarmFresh.org database is constantly being updated. It can be hard to keep track of so many individual businesses and everything they're up to. There are people working on each region in the database. Also, to enhance accuracy, many farms, businesses and farmers markets update their own listings. Since the database also helps everyone promote their businesses, it's within everyone's interest to make sure their listings are up to date.
FarmFresh.org is custom built web software developed by Farm Fresh Rhode Island to map out the food system. The database started in 2005 with RI farm information from the RI DEM Division of Agriculture. In 2007, it expanded to MA with information from the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture (MDAR), Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA), and Southeastern Massachusetts Agricultural Partnership (SEMAP) and then Essex Buy Fresh in 2008. In 2009 the database added CT farm information, and has since added an increasing number of farms along southern VT, NH and ME. There are new farms added to the database every week!