The Problem: CT’s changed landscape (from meadow to lawn, from farmland to subdivision) poses a threat to the food production that remains in farms and gardens.  Crops rely on a robust population of pollinators to bring them into existence. The pollinators rely on native plants. With 19% of CT’s native plants listed as endangered and the remaining populations in declining numbers, we are facing a precipitous decline in our pollinator populations.

The Solution: We must restore native habitat to safeguard our food system.  Our initiative exists at the intersection of farms, gardens, land trusts, and public lands: we aim to increase the number of native plants growing in our region.  To do this, we are growing seed crops of Connecticut’s native pollinator plants, wild collected from our open-spaces, and bringing them to our nursery growers and homeowners so that we can produce the plants to restore native pollinator habitat.

Thank you to our partners in this work:

       

 A visit from Dr. Vandana Shiva to CT NOFA in May put the wind at our backs – and we have launched our Living Seed Bank Project across the state.  Dr. Shiva’s work with Navdanya and her commitment to the protection and cultivation of native seed twins with our initiatives to protect our pollinators.

With the generosity of the USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant we at NOFA are working, boots on the ground, to install and restore pollinator habitats on farm and gardens across our region.

Pollinator Health & Habitat Initative
The news of the “insect apocalypse” has made it into main-stream media, and an article in the New York Times last November shook many of its readers. We all can recognize when we look out at our farms and gardens that our successes, indeed for some of us our livelihoods, are intertwined with the work of these tiny partners. Scientists like Doug Tallamy refer to insects as “the little things that run the world.” Thus enthroned, the good bugs (pollinators, beneficials, etc.) have taken center stage at CT NOFA this year.
We have launched several programs to support our farmers, gardeners, and landscapers in increasing the number of native plants in our state: thus restoring habitat and protecting our food supply. Taking on an ecological challenge of apocalyptic proportions is no small task – and so we can’t do it alone. We have turned to our partners at The CT Agricultural Experiment Station, the CT Department of Agriculture, Pollinator Pathway, Xerces Society and many others to shape a plan for the long-term ecological health of our crops.

Habitat restoration

Plants are food and shelter. If they are not being eaten or nested in by someone then they are not serving their true purpose. Using the native plant nursery produced by John Campanelli, a doctoral researcher at the University of Connecticut, CT NOFA and the Pollinator Pathway have teamed up to build out 30 (so far) native plant habitat projects in public gardens and on community farms. The ecological services of these habitats support fruit and vegetable crop growers throughout the region. Follow our work on instagam and facebook to see these initial habitats taking flight.

Local ecotypes

Locally adapted species have a better chance of success: it’s all part of our “right plant in the right place” philosophy. For increased climate change resilience, Connecticut’s own wild varieties need to be captured and cultivated for service in Connecticut’s habitat restoration. We are working with conservationists and wild seed foragers to find and protect Connecticut ecotypes of native plants.

Living Seed Bank

We have launched the a Living Seed Bank project as a way of developing reliable farmer partners in the seed production of native plants. From home gardeners to nursery growers, the collection, protection, and promotion of our local ecotypes will be central to the success of our pollinator habitat restoration projects moving forward.
Let us be the beacons in our communities, in our ecosystems, for safe-haven. Organic farms and gardens employing native plant habitat initiatives can become sanctuaries for the insects upon which we all depend.

Pollinator Habitat Installation at Massaro Community Farm