What’s In The Ground: Good Soils

There are several reason why Rhode Island farmers aren't growing commodity crops, such as corn and soy, to the same scale as farmers in the midwest. Rhode Island's hilly landscape is dominated by deciduous woodland, and is punctuated by wetlands, rocky outcroppings, and towns and cities. The farms that do exist are usually fairly small, rarely over 100 acres. Rhode Island farms are more profitable growing diverse produce for New England markets, rather than commodity crops. These maps examine where existing agriculture occurs, and where good soil indicates potential for agricultural expansion.

Good Soils and Existing Farmland

This map shows the USDA-certified “prime” and “important” agricultural soils in Rhode Island in green, and all existing agricultural land in pink. USDA Prime and Important are the two highest classifications denoting suitability for farming; in Rhode Island, these categories are functionally very similar, as they simply indicate soils that are good for farming. 21.4% of agriculture in Rhode Island is conducted on soil that is not classified as ideal for farming. Farmers face obstacles such as rocky land, waterlogged or too-dry areas, and steep slopes. There is a lot of land – 168,468 acres – that has prime or important soil and proper conditions, but is not being used for farming. This map points towards the conclusion that there is plenty of room for profitable expansion of agriculture in Rhode Island.

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