RIFB Board of Directors- Bios
Please find below the bios of our directors which have been published in our newsletters.
Wayne Salisbury of Salisbury Farm in Johnston, Rhode Island has been farming since he was a young teen. Salisbury Farm was established in the 1850’s by Wayne’s great-great grandfather as a dairy farm. It continued as a dairy farm until Wayne’s father retired in the late 1960’s. At that time Wayne and his wife Lois began operating the farm. Wayne was a full-time Business teacher at Scituate High School making it difficult for him to continue the dairy farm. He and Lois converted it into a hay farm, gradually expanding their vegetable production and even planting a few strawberry plants to fulfill the requirements of their son’s high school project. Today Salisbury Farm continues to plant between 10 and 15 thousand strawberry plants each year, having started as a small project!
Retiring after 30 years of teaching, Wayne made additional changes to the farm operation. Vegetable production was enhanced and a pick-your-own pumpkin program was established in the early nineties. Starting with just one acre of pumpkins 23 years ago, they now grow 6-7 acres. The farm currently produces strawberries, raspberries, pumpkins and a variety of vegetables. In 1998 Wayne, Lois and their two sons opened the first corn maze in New England. This five acre corn maze remains the longest operating in New England, with new a design annually.
Before retiring and becoming a full-time farmer, Wayne was a Rhode Island State Representative for 14 years, and a Scituate Town Council member for 10 years . Wayne became a Rhode Island Farm Bureau Board Member in 2004, and was elected Vice President in 2014, where he has been at the forefront of supporting legislation that enhances and protects agriculture for future generations. Today Wayne serves on the executive committee of the New England Vegetable and Berry Growers Association, which, like Farm Bureau, advocates for programs enhancing agriculture in the region. Wayne is also on the RI DEM Division of Ag’s Produce Safety Grower Committee.
Joe Polseno operates Pippin Orchards in Cranston. Joe’s father bought Pippin Orchards in the 60’s, after leasing it for a number of years. The orchard has been around since colonial times. Joe began working at the orchard around the age of 8, when they moved to the farm in 1979. About 10 years ago, Joe started running the farm. One of the first things he did was to purchase a machine to create apple cider doughnuts, the first location in RI to make this delicious treat. Last year he purchased a slushie machine and began making apple cider slushies. Since the ‘80’s Pippin Orchard has made and baked fruit pies on site, using apples, peaches and blueberries from the orchard. They also make breads, cookies and homemade ice cream sandwiches to satisfy sweet tooths and provide holiday desserts.
Joe plants more & different varieties of trees every year, with a total of about 12-18 varieties of apples across the season. Pippin Orchards grows not only apples, but also peaches, pears, plums, nectarines & blueberries. They also grow a wide variety of vegetables to sell at the stand. In late winter they typically start thousands of hanging baskets for both wholesale and direct market. Joe was elected to the RIFB Board of Directors in 2014. He also serves on the FSA County Committee and the New England Greenhouse Growers committee.
Jean Helger-Bento was brought up on Patchet Brook Farm, originally a dairy farm, where she still lives in Tiverton. Her grandmother bought it in 1905 and ran the dairy farm, which Jean’s father took over in later years. Jean was always involved and helped her dad from the age of 12-14 on the farm. He passed away when Jean was still in high school and her mother converted it to a market garden. Jean always loved Christmas, and when her children were little she would take them to pick out their Christmas tree, each year talking to the owner about starting her own tree farm. In 1973 Jean bought 1000 trees, but soon realized it was a huge undertaking with four young children and lots of trees, each requiring a lot of care. Jean sold a few trees that made it, and in 1980, she went back to Leo Clark and his wife Janice, of Clark’s Tree Farm. The Clarks gave her lots of great advice and help, and that same year Jean went to her first field meeting as a new member of the RI Christmas Tree Growers Association. She served on the RICTGA board from 1982-2000 and was the first woman president of that group for four years, a rarity across the country. In 1993 Jean was elected to the RIFB Board of Directors where she served as treasurer for 20 years. Jean also served on the Tiverton Land Trust for 10 years, and is also a member of RINLA.
Today Patchet Brook Tree Farm’s primary crop is Christmas trees. There are currently 20 acres in choose & cut trees, and about 10-15 acres in larger stock. They no longer wholesale, as they did when there were 40 acres in trees. Today, the farm only sells direct-to-customer. The farm also grows a few pumpkins, down from a large supply in the past, and buys the rest in due to a large deer problem. Because of the deer, Jean fences in the Christmas tree fields and the pumpkins she does grow. Patchet Brook Tree Farm also grows arborvitae and cut flowers. Besides selling Christmas trees, Jean sells a family experience for selecting a Christmas tree. Families are treated to hayrides ,sometimes with Santa, and can enjoy hot cider or hot chocolate with chocolate chip cookies. There is a shop with craft items, local honey, beeswax candles, maple syrup and jam. Jean’s children want to see Patchet Brook Farm continue, but have no definite plans to take over. She hopes that perhaps her grand-children or great-grandchildren will continue in the business in the future. In addition to Patchet Brook Farm, Jean also runs a small daycare.
Kevin Breene of Breene Hollow Farm in West Greenwich got his first calf at 7 years old and that’s when he decided he wanted to be a dairy farmer. He was a member of 4-H & FFA for several years and went on to get his associates degree in animal science from UCONN. In 1977 Kevin started milking cows in a small barn at his parents’ house, and in 1979 he purchased a piece of land in the west end of town and built a 60-cow milking parlor. The original farm had 130 acres and over the years Kevin has purchased surrounding land and the farm now totals 360 acres. He grows silage corn and hay and markets his milk through Agri-Mark Co-op along with his son, daughter and son-in-law. He has been on the RIFB Board since 2014. Kevin has been the WG Town Administrator for 19 years, was a RI State Senator for 12 years, was on the WG Town Council for 14 years, and served on ASCS (Agriculture Stabilization Conservation Service) State Committee from 1982 to 1994. He is currently on the State Farm Service Agency Committee. Kevin hopes that his children and grandchildren will continue Breene Hollow Farm into the future.
Tim Gallagher of Old Sawmill Farm in Coventry started working at Stamp Farms during high school, and after graduation began milking at Breene Hollow Farm in the afternoons. He was planting silage corn and hay, and that’s when he got the bug for farming. Tim graduated from SUNY Cobleskill in 1994 with a degree in Ag Engineering, and in the fall of 1996 he purchased property, opening for business in the spring of 1997. Tim grows tomatoes, corn, squash and other mixed vegetables alongside greenhouse crops- annuals, perennials and hydroponic vegetables. He sells his produce at retail at Old Sawmill Farm on Rte 102, and wholesale to local stands and produce distributors. Tim has been on the board of directors since 2015. He also served on the YF&R committee in the past and won a trip to Nashville. Tim hopes that his daughter will continue with the farm in the future.
Tyler Young of Young Family Farm in Tiverton fell in love with farming at the age of two while sitting on his grandfather’s lap as he drove his Ford 8N tractor around the farm. Tyler farmed summers and weekends helping his grandfather grow potatoes in Tiverton, Rhode Island. At the age of 16, Tyler gained more farming experience working on Verrill’s Dairy Farm located in Massachusetts and at age 18 he spent a summer working on a cousin’s dairy farm in South Dakota.
Tyler attended the University of Minnesota and graduated with a Bachelor of Agricultural Business Administration degree and a minor in Agronomy. In 1984 he married his college sweetheart and returned to Rhode Island to farm with his grandfather. In 1997, Tyler and Karla bought a 180 acre farm in Little Compton, RI. With one piece of used equipment and a few run down old barns they began growing potatoes and winter squash for the wholesale markets.
Once their wholesale market became successful, Karla wanted to begin a retail business selling Tyler’s crops. They began with the “On Your Honor” system selling strawberries from a white spool on their front yard. When the yard grew from one spool into wagons of plants, cut flowers, fruits and vegetables, they decided it was time to build a farm that operates seasonally from May thru November. Fall is their busiest time of the season when customers come from all over Rhode Island and Massachusetts to enjoy picking their own apples.
Today, Tyler grows and manages 300 acres of crops. They focus on wholesaling their crops directly to 13 grocery stores, a few specialty food distributors and processors. Tyler specializes in growing 100 acres of assorted potatoes which he sells to Ocean State Peeled Potato. He also grows approximately 500,000 pounds of winter squash, and specialty crops such as kale, cabbage, hot peppers and sweet corn. They have a five acre apple orchard with 1400 apple trees, 500 nectarine and peach trees, Asian pears, and strawberries. For the retail farm stand, Tyler and Karla grow annuals, perennials, cut flowers, hanging baskets and a variety of fruits and vegetables. They offer Pick Your Own strawberries, flowers and apples to their farm stand customers.
Tyler joined the RI Farm Bureau right out of college. He spent 10 years on the Board before being elected Vice President, a position he held for 20 years. Tyler took a break from RIFB to take the opportunity to sit on the largest vegetable commodity board in the country, Potato USA. He started off representing RI and now sits on the Domestic Committee as one of 10 representing the USA. Tyler spent six years on the Farm Family Board of Directors and eight years on the Farm Family Advisory Board. In 2018 Tyler once again was elected to the RIFB Board of Directors. Tyler manages his farm with his wife Karla. They have three daughters who have all graduated from college and have ventured off to pursue their own dreams. Their oldest daughter earned her Master’s in Business Administration at Melbourne University and now resides in Australia. Their two other daughters began their own floral business named Young Designs focusing on weddings and four-season flower containers for their customers in the surround Boston area. Both Tyler and Karla have dedicated their life to their family and farm.
Vinny Confreda’s grandfather started Confreda Farm in 1922. His dad and uncle took over the business, and his uncle has since retired. Vinny’s dad is still active and at 91 still walks the farm to see what is being done and to consult with Vinny. Vinny still goes to his dad for a second opinion using his years of experience in today’s decisions. Vinny has expanded the farm and developed new segments since he became an active part of the family operation located in Western Cranston.
In 1970, Vinny headed to the local lumberyard and bought some scrap lumber, using it to build his first greenhouse. He began growing tomatoes in the ground inside the greenhouse, and in 1972 added in potted tomatoes. Vinny began to market the tomatoes at farmers markets and it grew from there. Confreda’s began selling both wholesale and retail via word of mouth and soon gained customers. Today, social media has replaced most print and TV advertising.
Sweet corn is the number one item grown by Confreda Farms with 250 acres in production, followed closely by tomatoes, peppers, yellow and green squash using a large part of an additional 150 acres in mixed veggies. Confreda’s also grows pumpkins and all the hard squashes such as butternut, acorn, etc., and as it has renewed in popularity, they now grow 10 acres of eggplant. Confreda’s has a total of 28 greenhouses, both retail and wholesale.
Vinny’s three sons all work actively with him as the 4th generation of Confredas. They are keeping the family tradition going, expanding while creating a model where each of the sons has their own division but still operate as a unit. Jonathan works in the retail side, Corey works in wholesale and oldest son Vinny works with the entertainment part of the farm and the maintenance. They operate two mazes: one haunted, one not. Hayrides to the PYO pumpkin patch are offered on weekends. There is a farm barnyard area for kids, to teach them about animals. They also offer school tours to teach children—and adults too—about farming.
Vinny works with three seed companies, traveling down south several times in the winter to look at different seed trials and discuss what can be grown in the northeast. They plant trial plots here to see what will grow, and some varieties that don’t do so well in the south will grow well in the northeast. Vinny participates in an effort to be cutting edge, and to help out other northeastern farmers by supplying information on new varieties that may produce well here, using photos and harvest records to document the growth.
Vinny was elected to the RIFB Board of Directors in 1996. He has been on the RI Farm Service Agency State Committee for two stints totaling 15 years, stepping down last year after three years as chair.
Brenda Frederickson’s grandparents bought a farm on Central Avenue in Johnston in the 1950’s. Her parents remodeled one of the houses on the property and the family moved in when Brenda was five. Her dad tried dairy, Herefords, pigs, hay, and corn, then phased into a full-time job running the farm as a part-time hobby farm. The family grew two acres of mixed vegetables and would sell them at farmers markets in Providence and Scituate. Visits to her grandmother’s friend’s tobacco farm in Ontario Canada inspired Brenda to stay in the agriculture field. With no ag programs available at her high school, Brenda switched to a different school. She joined 4-H in her early teens and achieved the Key Club Leadership Award, and in 1982 attended 4-H National Congress representing RI as a state winner in Ag. Brenda was inducted into RI 4-H Allstars in the 80’s.
Brenda attended URI to study Plant & Soil Sciences, transferring to Business Administration when the bank she was employed by offered to pay for the Business degree. Both have have helped with her current businesses. In 1999 she and her husband purchased property on Chopmist Hill Rd. in Scituate, starting with greenhouses which was the easiest transition to become an active farmer. They worked for 20 years to establish plant-able fields to raise crops, which they do today. Brenda and her husband are currently working on creating pastures to raise beef animals. In 2014 they established the retail side of Frederickson Farm, 1/8 of a mile down the street from their home farm. The Fredericksons opened a farm to table café, a pellet and wood stove business and sell seasonal plants. Brenda was elected to the Scituate Town Council in 2001 and was elected to the Rhode Island Farm Bureau Board of Directors in 2012. In 2015 Brenda completed the AFBF Women’s Communications Boot Camp. So far 210 women have graduated from the program which provides Farm Bureau with a passionate and persuasive group of advocates who connect with influencers on the local, state and national levels.
Henry B. Wright III, of Wright Hill Farm, was born on his family’s farm in West Greenwich, RI. His father taught him about cutting-edge farming from the 1800’s through to when Henry was born. At age four, accompanied by his dad, Henry began driving and harnessing horses before the farm transitioned to all tractors. Their farm was one of the first in the area to grow hybrid corn which piqued his interest, especially with the tremendous yield improvement that the hybrid variety provided. Henry joined 4-H at the age of eight with chicken, veggie, and calf projects. He went on to become a junior leader in 4-H and became President of the 4-H Allstars at 18. He was also active in FFA, obtaining the rank of State Sentinel. Henry attended the University of NH studying soil water conservation, leaving after 2 ½ years to join the service. He graduated the 7th Army Non-Commission Officers Academy and the Army of Europe Combat Engineers Non-Commission Officers Academy and was appointed to the rank of Sergeant.
After the service Henry went on to finish his degree at the University of New Hampshire. He then worked for Hull Forest Products on and off for 20 years as a certified hardwood lumber grader, having graduated from the UMASS Hardwood Grading short course. Henry was also in charge of inputs for the sawmill, of chip brokering for power plants and pulp wood in New England. He designed and manufactured a wood & coal burner which he sold to wholesalers in the East and Canada. Henry raised a small herd of Black Baldies before switching to Scottish Highlanders, marketing them through cattle dealers as pets and custom farm beef. He was involved with custom farming, selling seed and crop consulting.
Henry became an RIFB Board Member in 1994 and was elected President in 2014. For 20 years he was the legislative representative to the Congressional Delegation for the Disabled American Veterans. He was their state department inspector for 25 years and state department commander for 2 years. Henry has been on the RI 4-H Foundation since the 80’s and is a past president; he has been on the Board of Trustees for the Big E since 1990. Henry is the past president of the State Fire League, past chairman of the state Forest Fire Advisory Committee, is currently First Vice- President and is a past president of his local fire department. He is past E Board president of the RI Fish and Game Protective Association. Henry still sells hay, sells seed to farmers in RI and eastern CT, and does custom work.
Ann Marie Bouthillette, of Blackbird Farm in Smithfield, grew up on a twelve-acre family farm in Glocester, RI. Her father had a love for animals, but his own father told him “no animals”, to which he replied, “One day I will have so many animals you will not be able to count them.” Her dad grew up to run a dog kennel and raise cattle. Ann Marie was a 4-H and FFA member, and at the age of 16 worked for Rachel Breck at Hedgerows Farm in West Cornwall, CT. Mrs. Breck was sometimes referred to as “First Lady of the Angus Industry” and was inducted into the Aberdeen Angus Hall of Fame. At Hedgerows Farm, Ann Marie showed cattle and learned about pedigrees, embryos, etc. In her later years Mrs. Breck told Ann Marie she always knew she would be someone important in the Angus business.
Ann Marie attended Davies Vo-Tech for three years where she studied horticulture, animal science, and floriculture, and then studied Animal Science at UCONN. In 1984 she married her husband, Kevin, and moved her few Angus cows to 4 acres that he already owned. About thirteen years ago, with the economy failing, Kevin told her they would have to downsize their 25 cattle. Ann Marie told him they could turn it around and become profitable, and they gave themselves 4 months. She then noticed a reference to FarmFresh.Org in the RIFB newsletter and contacted them. Farm Fresh RI set her up online where she connected with chefs from various restaurants. This quickly led to insufficient inventory which meant she needed even more cows and more land.
Today the Bouthillette family raises 75 Black Angus cows and 40 American Heritage Berkshire sows and 4 boars on over 215 acres. They have had hardships along the way, but Ann Marie and her husband have a great partnership. She learned years ago you either want to be productive or you don’t. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic they have been successful with plans they have implemented over the last couple of years. Ann Marie believes their success is due to treating their customers fairly. Today their son Brandon and his wife, Sarah, have picked up the day to day operations for the farm, continuing what Ann Marie and Kevin began so many years ago. Their son Troy manages Kevin’s business, Intercity Contracting, where their daughter Sam works as well while running a small flock of poultry. The farm is Ann Marie’s passion, and she feels as if she is living her second childhood. Ann Marie was elected to the RIFB Board of Directors in 2017.
Peter Gavitt, of Turf Inc. in North Kingstown, started working at McBurney’s Potato Farm in South Kingstown in 1968 at the age of 14. In 1972 the farm was sold to a turf farm and Pete began working for them. Pete enrolled in URI’s Natural Resources program in 1972, and by 1975 began working for Tuckahoe Turf. Pete was married in 1976 and graduated from URI’s world-renowned Turf Grass Management that same year. Pete became production manager at Tuckahoe farm, and left in 1978 with the goal of revitalizing Turf Inc. Pete and his wife bought the business out in 1982, starting with just 22 acres; Turf Inc. now owns and operates 400 acres.
Turf Inc. markets both wholesale and retail, and while they do not install, they do provide recommendations for installation. Word of mouth has been their best sales tool, in combination with a good location right across from Schartner Farms on Rte 2.
Pete was elected to the Board of Directors in 1996. He is a past president of New England Sod Producers, and is a member of TPI (Turf Producers International) RI and New England Nursery Association.
Pete has two children. His daughter, Cody, started mowing at the farm at the age of 10 and now owns and operates a 18 horse boarding facility where she provides dressage lessons. Cody is the mother to Pete’s twin grandsons. Pete’s son, McKay, graduated from Roger Williams University in Business and helps in production on the farming operation.