Kenneth D. Ayars was named chief of the Division of Agriculture and Resource Marketing of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) this week by DEM Director Andy McLeod. "Farming is an indelible part of Rhode Island's heritage and an important part of our future," said McLeod. "Ken Ayars is committed to agriculture in Rhode Island and to making the role of DEM in farming a very positive one, both economically and environmentally. Ken has a passion for agriculture and an impressive background in helping farmers increase production and protect the environment. Most Rhode Island farmers have worked with Ken, and will be pleased to learn of his appointment."
Ayars, who began his new duties this week, has headed the division's farm ecology section for the past eight years, assisting farmers with regulatory, zoning, and land use issues. He previously supervised the division's pesticide section, after working as a field inspector in the pesticide and animal health sections of the division.
As head of the farm ecology section, Ayars conducted the permitting program for agricultural activities in wetlands, assisted farmers with federal, state, and local environmental and regulatory matters, coordinated the state farmland preservation program, and in general, acted as liasion with farmers on many issues. "There are many challenges in addition to crop production that affect farm operations, including land use issues, zoning, and taxes for instance," Ayars said. "I have tried to assist farmers in dealing with those issues, for example, by helping them implement best management practices, and address environmental issues and regulations."
Looking ahead, Ayars wants to continue the same approach he has taken for the past eight years, working with the state's farmers on issues beyond production. "We need to preserve and enhance the industry, and develop a strategy to deal with development pressures," Ayars said. "For once we lose a farm, it's difficult, if not impossible, to regain it."
Ayars received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Rhode Island (URI) in 1983 with majors in agriculture and resource technology as well as zoology. He received a Master of Science degree, majoring in plant science, from URI in 1985.
Rhode Island agriculture has grown from a $38 million industry in 1980 to one with revenues in excess of $140 million today. DEM's Agriculture Division works with the state's 700-plus farmers, with municipalities, and with consumers in many ways such as preserving land, helping implement best management practices, offering conservation techniques, certifying health of livestock, inspecting pesticides and training applicators, providing mosquito detection and response, providing rabies awareness information, and promoting Rhode Island farm products under the theme, Rhode Island Grown–Just for You.