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From Bill Duesing
Now that I have retired as Executive Director, I have the pleasure of working just part time and of being CT NOFA's organic advocate. This role is in keeping with my interests and passion, and I hope serves the needs of people and the planet. See "Why Organic is Important" to learn about the benefits of organic practices.
In this position, I am continuing to work on a People's Garden funded project with Knox Parks and The Open Hearth in Hartford. The Open Hearth has been helping homeless men since 1884. It is an amazing place.
Chef Evan Kennedy making new beds at the Woodyard. Garlic is thriving.
This year we are expanding the garden at the Woodyard near the Regional Market and working with the chef at Open Hearth to grow herbs and vegetables for his kitchen.
I'm also representing CT NOFA on panels and at other GMO educational events such as the Farmer, Mill, and Consumer Alliance and at the Children's Tree Montessori School in Old Saybrook on May 11.
I also continue to work on the Network Support Team for the Connecticut Food System Alliance whose tag line is "Together We Can Build a Better Food System." The Alliance's next gathering is on May 7 at Middlesex Community College. All are welcome. You can find a invitation and more information here and directions here.
Being part time, this position allows me time to do other things I like, including spending more time working on our Old Solar Farm and encouraging others to adopt organic practices and eat local organic food through talks to a variety of audiences.
Recently I talked to students at the University of New Haven for Earth Week and to the Garden Club in Middlebury. I've also been consulting with farmers interested in converting to organic and with high school students working on food system issues.
Greenhouses and tractor at Massaro Community Farm
It was especially nice to visit Massaro Community Farm in Woodbridge to give the talk, "Green Up Your Yard with Organic Land Care."
Massaro Farm is a wonderful place and a great example of the kind of thing that can be created by a group of dedicated volunteers.
The organization is just five years old, yet has accomplished so much. It seems like just yesterday that CT NOFA was writing a letter of support for the town-owned farm to be used as a community farm, instead of as the sports fields that some residents supported. I remember talking about the value of organic practices to the volunteers in a Woodbridge living room just after they had secured the land for farm use. Several of Massaro's board members participated in CT NOFA's past Community Farming Conferences as learners and later as teachers.
New growing areas at the north end of the farm.
Now Massaro Farm is a thriving agricultural enterprise that has reclaimed decaying infrastructure to annually produce lots of food for those who can afford it and also for those who can't. It is an important educational enterprise. On the Saturday I visited there was also a hands-on beekeeping class, one of a series,
in addition to the talks to encourage residents to use land care practices that are safe for bees.
The organization has rehabilitated the farmhouse and barn and recently nearly doubled the area under cultivation.
In 2006, CT NOFA's board included a Community Farm in every town as part of its 10 year Vision for Connecticut. Seeing Massaro only reinforced the many values of Community Farms, including getting interested citizens really involved in agriculture.
Stinging Nettles and Jerusalem Artichokes
Don't let the name deter you; stinging nettles taste great!
One of the spring crops we've been enjoying from our farm is stinging nettles. We've found wonderful recipes for these very nutritious plants.
Learn how to use them for pesto, spanakopita, lasagna, gundi, pie, aloo, ravioli and pizza here. Here's a soup recipe from England's Guardian newspaper, and another nettle soup recipe here.
Eat the nettles for good health and enjoyment or dry the nettles for a healthy tea.
We also created a delicious salad with Jerusalem artichokes. We just sliced the tubers and several carrots into quarter sized pieces and then cut those into four smaller pieces. We dressed them with a tasty aged Balsamic vinegar and olive oil, ground on a little pepper and served it. Delicious.
Although there is great bi-partisan support for GMO labeling in Connecticut, there is still a lot of work to do to get a bill passed this year. There are some serious roadblocks including the Speaker of the House, Brendan Sharkey of Hamden, and Governor Malloy.
Click here to get the latest action alerts. If you live in Speaker Sharkey's district, the north side of Hamden, your call or email to the speaker is very important.
It is always good to talk to your senator and representative about GMOs and your concerns and belief in the "Right to Know" what is in your food.
In the events tab on that web site, you will find three to five educational events about GMOs in the state.