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News Release

RI Department of Environmental Management

235 Promenade St., Providence, RI 02908

(401) 222-2771 TDD/(401) 222-4462

For Release: May 8, 1998

Contact: Andy McLeod 222-2771

Stephanie Powell 222-2771 ext. 4418


PROVIDENCE - Kenneth D. Ayars was named chief of the Division of Agriculture and Resource Marketing of the Department of Environmental Management today 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 begins his new duties Monday, 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 liaison 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 in 1983, with majors in agriculture and resource technology as well as zoology. He received a Master of Science degree, majoring in plant sciences, from URI in 1985.

His family, from southern New Jersey, has a strong farming background. His mother grew up on a farm. Although he was raised in Rhode Island, Ayars spent many childhood visits with relatives on south Jersey farms. He and his wife, Julie, now live in South Kingstown with their eight-year-old daughter, Alisabeth.

"I wish to extend the gratitude of many Rhode Islanders to Steve Volpe, who served admirably as acting division chief," said McLeod. "Steve has guided the Division ably during a period of transition and has enabled Ken Ayars to assume the position under favorable circumstances. I look forward to Steve's continued contribution to DEM. Thank you, Steve."

Rhode Island agriculture has grown from a $38 million industry in 1980 to one 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.

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