|From the Executive Director
CT NOFA was notified by the Connecticut Department of Agriculture that we were awarded a two-year USDA specialty crops grant for a project titled: Winter Food: Growing, Storing, Marketing and Cooking Specialty Crops for the Cold Season. Designed to increase the availability, sales and consumption of locally-grown, organic and sustainable fruits, vegetables and herbs in the winter, for two years Winter Food will build on CT NOFA’s educational and communications resources to 1) educate farmers in the best practices for growing, storing and marketing winter crops, and 2) educate consumers about the availability, flavor and nutrition of those fruits, vegetables and herbs.
In case you were wondering, according to the USDA, specialty crops are all the crops other than the big commodity crops (such as corn, soybeans, wheat and cotton) which are the inputs for the industrial food and fiber system. Basically they are the crops that we eat. (See the discussion below of this issue.)
We’re excited about this opportunity to increase the production and consumption of food in the winter. The work starts on October 1. If you are interested in being on the planning committee or offering your farm, root cellar or kitchen as a site for a workshop, or sharing your favorite winter recipes through our newsletter, let the office know. Look for workshops at the Winter Conference as well as on farms and in kitchens. Look for recipes and instructions in Gleanings and in the press.
This is the season we specialize in hands-on and on-farm workshops. Be sure to consider the on-farm workshops scheduled for late August, the Advanced Organic Land Care workshops this summer, fall and winter and our home garden education workshops. They are great learning opportunities with some of the best practitioners/teachers around.
I hope to see many of you at the NOFA Summer Conference at UMass from August 13-15.
Click links to see pictures from: More explanations are below.
1. May 12, Eastern Connecticut including FRESH New London, Bill and Anita’s farm and Wayne’s Organic Garden.
2. June 9, City Farm and Garden Planning Tour, including Common Ground, Yale Farm, Bioregional Garden, Edgerton Community Garden and the Chinese Grandparents garden
3. June 13, Coventry Farmers Market
4. June 14 Community Farm of Simsbury
5. June 21 FRESH workshop, New London
6. June 28 and 30, Community Farm Meetings
7. July 7, Heritage Wheat Field Day
Here’s more about the pictures:
1. On a beautiful day in May, Deb and I visited FRESH New London to plan for an on farm workshop there. The organization’s mission is fantastic. It’s work is even better. Pictures include their offices at the Food Center, New London’s food bank, edible landscaping and community garden plots around the parking lot there, and their main teaching and community garden in the center of things.
Next we visited Bill and Anita at Hidden Brook Gardens in Ledyard. Both formerly worked for Pfizer. Bill took a year, apprenticed with Wayne Hansen and learned enough to be doing very well now. He is passing on the knowledge to a young farmer who just returned to some family land to start growing organic vegetables. When I talked to him about his plans this winter, I suggested that he seek out Bill and Anita in his town or other organic farmers to share knowledge and equipment with. It seems to be working out. Hidden Brook is Certified Organic and sell through a variety of channels.
Then we made it almost to Rhode Island to visit Wayne’s Organic Garden. Wayne’s been certified longer than all but one other farm in Connecticut. Here he shows us ready to harvest greens and greenhouse tomatoes, his new heated greenhouse for winter production and more.
2. On a beautiful day in June, Deb, Ashley and I visited some of New Haven’s agricultural treasures in preparation for the City Farm and Garden Tour on August 7. In New Haven, there are educational farms serving students from pre K through college!
3. The Coventry Farmers Market continues to be one the stars of the vibrant Connecticut Farmers Market community. I was asked to lead a tour of vendors highlighting the various certifications and pledges that indicate growing techniques. IPM, Certified Naturally Grown, Farmer’s Pledge and Certified Organic. It was wonderful to have the farmers talk about their methods to the tour participants.
4. The Community Farm of Simsbury this year started an incubator farmer program and a series of farm camps. We will hold an on-farm workshop at the farm on August 30.
5. Our first on-farm workshop this year was held at FRESH New London. What an inspiring organization! It was great to have the participation of Tom Rathier who as a retired scientist from the Agricultural Experiment Station is working with FRESH and other community gardens to evaluate safety of soils, especially relating to heavy metals.
6. Community Farm meetings filled library meeting rooms that week. These pictures are from Glastonbury where many long time NOFA members are interested in bringing such a farm into existence. Two days later nearly 100 people gathered in the library in Southport to hear Annie Farrell from Millstone Farm speak in support of the Fairfield Organic Teaching Farm which is hoping to obtain use of town farmland for an Organic Teaching Farm. Congratulations!
7. Eli Rogosa for growseed.org, organized a heritage wheat field day in Massachusetts. Connecticut organic grain farmers Andy D’Appollonio who grows wheat in Coventry and Bill Walsh who is growing certified organic rye for seed were among the Connecticut people who attended. The day before I’d seen a field of wheat (actually a vacant lot) in downtown Hartford. There are lots of reasons for increasing the production of grains in Connecticut.