Ken Ayars, chief of the R.I. Department of Environmental Management’s Division of Agriculture, was recently honored with the Rhode Island Nursery and Landscape Association’s Award of Merit. The award was presented during the organization’s annual trade show and seminar held on Jan. 17 at the University of Rhode Island’s Center for Biotechnology and Life Sciences. Ayars, who has worked for DEM’s Division of Agriculture since 1987, has collaborated with RINLA on policy issues and solutions for green-related industry issues and needs. He was also issued a citation from the Rhode Island House of Representatives in recognition of the RINLA merit award, and for providing outstanding service to the state’s horticultural, agricultural and landscape communities. Ayars holds bachelor’s degrees in zoology, agriculture and resource technology, in addition to a master’s degree in plant sciences from the University of Rhode Island.
PBN: Can you tell us a little bit about the award you received?
AYARS: The Award of Merit was established in 1977 to honor those in the field of horticulture, agriculture and green-related industries that help promote, preserve and perpetuate the work of the Rhode Island Nursery and Landscape Association.
PBN: What are some of the ways that the DEM’s Division of Agriculture collaborates with RINLA?
AYARS: There are a number of collaborations between DEM and RINLA, including, most recently, the funding of an economic-impact study of the green industry through the University of Rhode Island, which showed an impact far more substantial than previously measured by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. The study demonstrated very conservatively that the 2,500 green-industry businesses in Rhode Island sustain 12,300 jobs and contribute $1.7 billion dollars to our state’s economy.
PBN: Why is it important to continue to advocate for agriculture and the green industry?
AYARS: The green industry is a vital part of the Rhode Island economy. A vibrant green industry – and natural resources-based industries in general – mitigate the development pressures on farmland and open space, preserve quality of life and the environment, and are very closely connected to a strong tourism industry. •