From the Executive Director
Labor Day Weekend 2011
Last month, before Irene hit and made most everything a little different, I had two opportunities to meet with Governor Malloy and see his interest in agriculture.
On August 24th, I participated in a meeting on Jobs and Agriculture with about 30 farmers and agricultural leaders held at Prides Corner Farm in Lebanon. The Governor was accompanied by Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Reviczky and Catherine Smith, the Commissioner of Economic and Community Development.
I prepared some recommendations for the meeting, and was able to mention a few of the ideas during the session. I stressed the importance of local food for our future (in the face of coming challenges), of protecting farmland, including the urban and suburban parcels used to grow food, and encouraged the state to honor and assist the incredible enthusiasm and energy people are investing in growing food in the cities and other places where it is needed. This last got positive responses.
Here are my recommendations. Here is a story about the meeting.
Two days later I was invited to the Capital to witness the signing of a bill that creates portability of health permits for farmers who sell at farmers markets in more than one health district. CT NOFA was one of the supporters of this bill that hopefully will ease a cost to farmers and one of the bureaucratic impediments to a vibrant food system. LINK to bill.
Irene brought to light the new role of the Food and Drug Administration in food safety regulations as farmers and the media comprehended FDA’s rule that any produce contacted by flood water is considered contaminated and must be discarded. There can be nasty stuff in those raging brooks and rivers.
Although there haven’t been a lot of specifics, I sense that farmers in Connecticut didn’t suffer as badly as those in New York and Vermont. There was some terrible destruction in those states.
Irene also brought out the need to understand that the future may be more like the days right after the storm than the more bucolic and stable days of the last few decades.
Beginning Farmer Program
If you read my recommendations to the Governor, you’ll see that CT NOFA is starting a three-year Beginning Farmer program in conjunction with other NOFA chapters and MOFGA. Kristiane Huber will be coordinating this program. Look for more details soon. It’s a good sign that almost every week I get a call from someone who is starting to farm or planning to ramp up a garden to be able to sell produce.
School Gardens and Farms
We are very happy to receive funding from Westport’s Green Village Initiative (GVI) to support CT NOFA’s work to build a strong school garden network in Connecticut. We will create and distribute a survey and a quarterly e-newsletter and build a web page of valuable resources for those who are interested in school gardens. (Proposal here) This is a response to inquiries we received from teachers, parents and principals this spring and the enthusiasm with which an initial School Garden email was greeted.
GVI has created or supported school gardens in Westport, Ridgefield and Bridgeport. Besides GVI, we’ll collaborate with organizations such as New Haven Grows, FRESH New London, the Rudd Center and others to work toward CT NOFA’s vision of a garden in every school and a school farm in every town.
We are happy to welcome two new employees this month. Jenna Messier will take on the role of Director of the Organic Land Care Program. She has a good background in farming and land care and enthusiasm for our work. Our new Public Ally, Melissa Gabso, will take on some of the media and communications work that Kristiane has been doing, as well as help coordinate events. We are very happy to be working again this year with this Americorps program that has a goal of creating environmental leaders.
We are sorry not to be presenting Taste! Organic Connecticut this year, but we decided there are better uses of our resources. When Taste! started in the 1990s, an organic farmers market with music, food tasting, educational workshops and a wonderful community didn’t exist in Connecticut. Now there are many or all of the elements of that experience at a number of markets in Connecticut every week.
Among the benefits of not doing Taste! is the greater amount of time and attention that Teresa Mucci our events coordinator can give to the 30th Annual Winter Conference on March 3, 2012. That promises to be a very exciting conference, with Jeffrey Smith providing a keynote presentation on GMOs and workshop tracks for Beginning Farmers and on Winter Food for farmers and consumers.
New Farm and Food and Organic Land Care Guides
We hope those of you who are members have received and are using the two guides we recently mailed. If you appreciate our work, we’d appreciate a donation. We included a return envelope with the guide mailing. There is also a post card reminder of the opportunity to support NOFA’s regional policy work when you shop by signing up for a NOFA Credit Card.
If you didn’t get the guides, you can access them, and a donation button, online at ctnofa.org and organiclandcare.org. If you would like copies of one or both of the guides, please send a donation of $5 or more to cover postage and let us know where to send them. We’re also happy to send multiple copies to distribute to your friends, acquaintances, at the library, your church or club. These two guides are a good way to introduce folks to CT NOFA, Connecticut’s Organic Farms and Organic Land Care.
I welcome your comments and suggestions.