The Schartners came to America through Ellis Island in 1880 to pursue the American Dream and began farming the land in Rhode Island in the 1920’s. For over one hundred years, their vision was to offer their neighbors fresh food, locally grown, at a great price.

It hasn’t always been easy, though. Local farms and farmers have dealt with a plethora of issues, and specific to us, a fire. And like a phoenix rising from the ashes – we are rising again. It’s a rebirth for Schartner’s Farm with a greenhouse being built and operated by my company, RI Grows.

In Rhode Island, the best day to farm is July 27. Using controlled environment agriculture (CEA), advanced greenhouse technology, computer monitoring and robotic assistance, we can recreate July 27 every day. Imagine same day delivery of fresh produce, ripened right on the vine, instead of a tomato from outside the country on a two-week transit. We can do that – right here in Rhode Island.

Utilizing CEA technology, the RI Grows greenhouse project will create 88 year-round, full-time jobs, with benefits and profit sharing. This will be a game changer for our employees – greatly improving their own ability to pursue the American Dream in Rhode Island.

When complete, this will be the greenest farm project in the Northeast. We’ll need less land – 25 acres of greenhouse is the equivalent of a thousand field acres. We’ll collect 100% of rainwater, and only consume 2% of the water we would in a field. We’ll need less fertilizer and use no pesticides. We have blackout screens to capture over 99% of our supplemental lighting. When all is said and done, the greenhouse will produce a negative carbon footprint – the equivalent of taking 6,000 cars off the road. And, the best feature, in keeping with the rural character of the town, the greenhouse will appear to be a barn, with over 500 feet of field agricultural screening.

We’ve partnered with URI and New England Tech to assist in implementing our state-of-the-art curriculum and technology. The farm, once again, will not only be the perfect site for field trips, but also a training site for school-aged children taking part in a STEM curriculum.

Most importantly, we want to give back. When our farm burned down, the outpouring of support from the community and our neighbors was overwhelming. With this new project, we can once again provide food security with locally grown produce for our neighbors in need.

Finally, I’m a farmer, not an investor. As a fourth generation farmer, I want this farm to be around for the next four generations in our community as a leader in agriculture.

Let’s do this, Rhode Island!

The author is the Chairman and Chief Management Officer of RI Grows. He’s a lifelong Rhode Islander, a 4th generation farmer, and a veteran.

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