FALL CONFERENCE 2012:  “FROM LAND AND SEA:  Food for the Good of Connecticut”


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What a beautiful black horse - we almost forgot the conference...WATCH VIDEO HERE
Group picture taken in the beginning of President Dunson, the three student winners, Commissioner Reviczky, faculty advisor (in back row) and at right, Asha Shipman, Fall Conference Committee.

A Black Stallion (above, left)
Skies were darkening as the Fall Conference began, the crowd came pouring in...

So many excellent questions so well handled!
Moderator Kay Maxwell kept things on schedule and fascinating, as you can tell in picture at the right...LWVCT ran out of programs (bigger crowd than anticipated);

We mentioned Lachat to the Commissioner and he suggested hydroponic farming!
Opening speaker was the CT Commissioner of Agriculture Steven Reviczky...who later discussed farming in Connecticut in terms of family-sized farms.  Recent news here.

Diabetes and other health problems related to diet
Yale's Dr. David Katz related some not very encouraging things about the lack of success in solving of food-health problems short of true relearning of eating habits.

Public-private efforts
A presentation by John Turenne on real sustainability - how can we make it make dollars as well as "sense" - he was interested in all aspects of this LWVCT program!

Legislative advocate
Ending hunger was the subject for the final speaker, Lucy Nolan.  D-Snap and other food-stamp-like programs can do a good job.  Along with school lunch standards.

In closing...
And then LWVCT President Cheryl Dunson introduced Asha Shipman to award the League's prize award to some very tall members of Trumbull High School's Ag team, who are entered in a statewide contest to put Connecticut on the map (as it should be) as an agricultural state full of small family farms (not "Agri Business").

Our future.  And things were actually brighter outside at the end - we thought we almost saw the sun!

“FROM LAND AND SEA:  Food for the Good of Connecticut”

Could Weston be more interested in a topic than this one?  We think not!  And to add to the excitement, President of the LWVCT attended Annual Meeting May 11, 2012 and made the following announcement - President Dunson reminded us of the upcoming October 27, 2012 Fall Conference entitled:  “From Land and Sea:  Food for the Good of Connecticut” - to be held at the Trumbull Agriculture High School.


Latest news:  Selectmen interviewing for membership in a new Select Committee - one that will include ex-officio members from related public agencies. 

With the final agreement on being able to use the Juliana Lachat Preserve for something other than the Lachat Nature/Education Center - which the ATBM quashed some years ago (beating P&Z to the punch), this magnificent "gateway" to the Nature Conservancy has gone to seed. 

The rebirth of interest in 2010 began when the Board of Selectmen posted yellow tape around the main structure (declaring it a hazard) - which seemed to inspire those in the community interested in historic preservation to raise funds to keep the main structure from being "razed."

After Special Town Meetings in 2011 and 2012, long term leases were exchanged between the partners - Town of Weston and the Nature Conservancy - and so the search is on for an acceptable public use for the land and barns!  A new "Gateway" to the Nature Conservancy and a gateway to nature and things rural!!!


A tradition in Weston
In Weston, come to Norfield Grange for the Winter Farmer's Market, "coffee house" mornings to discuss community, farming and Weston historic Grange history!  SOURCES:

More farms are doing business in Connecticut
By Kelly Catalfamo Day Staff Writer
Article published Mar 31, 2014

Kerry Taylor, 38, and her husband, Max, 27, decided three years ago to leave western Massachusetts and start their own farm in Connecticut, braving the state's notoriously rocky soil because it brought with it the opportunity for more independence and less competition.

"It's super rocky, it's awful," said Taylor, but "you just learn how to weld and fix equipment."

The Taylors' move to Salem made them part of a statistic recently publicized by the governor: a preliminary report of the federal census of agriculture shows that the number of farms in Connecticut has increased by 22 percent in the past five years. The full report will be available in May.

The 2012 Census of Agriculture, which documents a national decline in farmland, shows that Connecticut boasts the highest farming increase in New England. The average size of a farm, however, decreased from 83 to 73 acres, and the average market value of agricultural products sold decreased by almost 18 percent (from $112,195 per farm to $92,120).

The state Department of Agriculture confirmed that farming seems to be becoming more popular but also noted the trend may be somewhat exaggerated.

Department of Agriculture Chief of Staff George Krivda said the last five years have been an exciting time for agriculture in the Connecticut, but he doesn't want to draw hard and fast conclusions from the census numbers.

[Please read the rest of this article in the archives at THE DAY (New London, CT) website]

State's farmers feel left out of big clean energy programs
Jan Ellen Spiegel, CT MIRROR
February 18, 2013

Woodstock -- Paul Miller has two words for the watery cow manure being pumped from catch basins under his barns into a large tanker truck -- and those words, surprisingly, are not "that stinks!"

The words are: "liquid gold."

For the record, the manure does stink, and by all accounts would be even worse if the temperature wasn't in the low teens this frigid morning. But stinky or not, the manure, which each of Miller's 1,600 cows produces to the tune of 100 pounds a day, does indeed have the potential to be liquid gold as a way to pay his farm's $150,000-a-year electric bill.

And then some.

The problem for Miller, whose Fairvue Farms in the state's northeast corner is one of the dairies in the Farmer's Cow cooperative, is that state laws and regulations don't make the economics of his manure-to-electricity plan work.

What Miller wants to do is install an anaerobic digester. This would essentially decompose the manure, and/or other organic waste such as food, in a closed container that largely eliminates the nasty odor that comes from two gases the manure releases, ammonia and methane.

The digester turns the gases into electricity and heat. What remains in the digester is a non-smelly residue that can be used for fertilizer. Miller currently uses his manure for fertilizer, though in a much more malodorous form.

The anaerobic digester Miller has been trying to put in place for the better part of 10 years would make 20 to 40 times the 50 kilowatts of electricity he needs.

"We would like the possibility of doing a community digester where neighboring farms would bring the manure in, digest it, and then in turn we would bring the manure back to them and spread it on their fields," he said.

[Please read the rest of this article in the archives at the CT MIRROR website]

Blizzard delivers crushing blow to Connecticut agriculture
Jan Ellen Spiegel, CT MIRROR
February 13, 2013

Patti Popp of Sport Hill Farm in Easton was at least managing to laugh a bit as she described the collapsed hoop house.

"It's mess," she said. "I went inside praying it didn't fall on me."

Popp is among Connecticut farmers who for about the half-dozenth time in less than three years are taking stock of major weather-induced damage. This time hoop houses and high tunnels like Popp's -- made from heavy duty plastic over metal ribbing -- took the brunt of last week's blizzard.

The toll, while incomplete, is already well beyond 100 structures collapsed or seriously damaged.

"It's everywhere," said Bob Heffernan, executive director of the Connecticut Greenhouse Growers Association. His members are largely non-food growers and at $1.1 billion account for half the agriculture industry in Connecticut, representing 3,000 businesses and 48,000 employees. "The issues for some of these people are that they can't even get there yet to actually see the damage. It's very dangerous."

But the fallout from storm damage goes beyond the structures to the plants and the production processes to grow them. With the local food movement entrenched in Connecticut and a number of farmers' markets and community supported agriculture programs running year round, indoor growing has become increasingly popular through the winter. The structures are also used for what's known as season extension -- the ability to add a month or two on each end of the season by growing indoors.

"It's good for us when you're trying to make a living off of farming," said Popp who had expected to be able to sell arugula, mustard greens and beets at the winter Westport famers' market from her now-destroyed 96-by-30 foot hoop house. "We want to be able to have the revenue."

[Please read the rest of this article in the archives at the CT MIRROR website]

Retiring Lawmaker Invites Lawsuit Over GMOs
by Hugh McQuaid | Dec 12, 2012 4:57pm

Earlier this year, a bipartisan bill that would have required a label on foods that contain genetically modified organisms was tabled for fear it would provoke a lawsuit. At a Wednesday rally, the bill’s proponent, retiring Rep. Richard Roy, said “Let them sue us.”

Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are crops have been genetically engineered not to die when sprayed with herbicide. They’re commonly used in the production of soybeans, corn, canola, and cotton. While more than 60 countries have required that consumers be notified that they’re purchasing food containing GMOs, the United States has not.

If it passed, Connecticut’s legislation would have been the first of its kind as an attempt to regulate an area of the food industry that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has — more or less— chosen to ignore. The FDA argues that genetically modified food is generally recognized as safe and therefore does not warrant a label for consumers.

It’s a position that some dispute. But advocates say it’s irrelevant whether GMOs are safe for consumption because consumers deserve to know what they are eating.

[Please read the rest of this article in the archives at the CTNEWSJUNKIE website]

Task Force Tackles Genetically-Modified Food Labeling
by Elizabeth Bowling | Jul 3, 2012 5:30am

A bill which would have required growers and producers to label any genetically modified food products sold in Connecticut passed the Environment Committee in March by a 23-6 vote, but it never came up for a vote in the House before the session ended in May.

Rep. Richard Roy, D-Milford, who was one of the bill’s biggest proponents, said the labeling provision was stripped after opponents threatened a lawsuit and said any forced labeling provision would be unconstitutional.  Roy said public information on the food industry is minimal because genetically modified products are patented and because of the lack of independent testing.  Many crops, such as corn and soybeans, grown in the United States have been modified to resist pesticides or insects. Corporations that grow the food often patent their techniques.

“It’s a matter of education and secrecy,” Roy said.

But some members of the task force, headed by Rep. Philip Miller, argued that the public has a right to know about what they consume and will create another bill that they hope will pass next year.

[Please read the rest of this article in the archives at the CTNEWSJUNKIE website]

Weston students are fed up with the size of school lunches
Weston FORUM
By Patricia Gay on November 20, 2012

“We are hungry!”

That’s the cry of Weston High School students who signed a petition complaining about the size of their school lunches.

After noticing that his burrito and other entrées were smaller than last year, Connor Gorkin, assisted by friends Asher Lee-Tyson, Ethan Lee-Tyson, and Kei Pritsker, circulated a petition asking the school to increase the size of its lunches.

The boys got more than 200 signatures from fellow students on the petition.

“Food portion sizes have dramatically shrunk this year due to new federal laws. For some of my friends, it takes three lunches to get full,” Connor said.

The students presented the petition to Andre Santelli, director of dining and food development for Chartwells, the school district’s food service.

Mr. Santelli acknowledged that lunch portions are smaller than last year. He said changes were made in accordance with the government’s new nutrition standards — part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 — that went into effect in 2012 as a bid to combat childhood obesity and promote healthier eating.

[Please read the rest of this article in the archives at the Weston FORUM website]

Lawmakers Resolve Differences Over GMO Labeling
by Hugh McQuaid | Jun 1, 2013 8:22pm

Following attempts by both chambers to pass their own versions of legislation regarding the labeling of genetically modified foods, the Senate voted unanimously Saturday to approve a compromise bill supported by House leadership and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

Advocates have pushed throughout the session to see Connecticut enact first-in-the-nation legislation requiring the labeling of food containing genetically modified ingredients. But they rebuffed a bill passed last week by the House, which scaled back considerably legislation approved earlier by the Senate.

The agreement passed Saturday by the Senate was endorsed by Tara Littman-Cook of GMO [genetically modified organism] Free Connecticut, a group which lobbied against the version of the bill passed by the House. In a press release from Senate Democrats, she called Saturday’s compromised legislation “historic.”

“Today’s GMO labeling agreement is historic and Connecticut will now set the standard for states around the country to follow,” Littman-Cook said.

The legislation does not require companies to label foods containing GMOs outright, rather it requires that four other states pass similar legislation in order to “trigger” Connecticut’s labeling requirement. One of the states must share a border with Connecticut and their combined population must equal at least 20 million people.

The trigger provisions are a compromise between the original Senate bill and the version passed by House, which would have required more states and a higher population total as a trigger. Unlike the Senate’s first attempt, the bill approved Saturday does not include a “stand-alone” clause, which would have triggered Connecticut’s requirement in a few years even if no other state had acted.

[Please read the rest of this article in the archives at the CTNEWSJUNKIE website]

Senate Backs Bill To Label Genetically Modified Foods
The Hartford Courant
By DANIELA ALTIMARI, altimari@courant.com
10:20 PM EDT, May 21, 2013


A bill that would require food made with genetically modified organisms to carry labels cleared the state Senate late Tuesday night.

The Senate's approval, on a 35-1 vote, gives new energy to a measure that had strong grassroots backing but appeared stalled at the Capitol this year. But its prospects in the House of Representatives are murkier.

"I'm concerned about our state going out on its own on this and the potential economic disadvantage that could cause,'' House Speaker Brendan Sharkey said. "I would like to see us be part of a compact with some other states, which would hopefully include one of the bigger states such as New York."

Sharkey said he is taking a vote count to see if there is sufficient backing for the bill in his chamber.

Even if the bill passes the House and is signed into law by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, it would not take effect until at least three other states pass similar legislation. GMO labeling legislation is pending in more than a dozen states.

Some food would be exempt from the labeling mandate: food served or sold in a restaurant for immediate consumption, as well as alcoholic beverages and farm products sold at farmer's markets, roadside stands and pick-your-own farms.

Still, supporters hailed the bill as a victory for consumers.

"We're not banning anything, we're not restricting anything, we're not taxing anything," Senate Republican leader John McKinney said at a press conference on the Capitol steps several hours before the vote. "We're just saying let moms and dads know what's in the food their buying for their young kids. … That's not a lot to ask."

[Please read the rest of this article in the archives at the Hartford COURANT website]

Farm Fresh: New Generation Of Farmers Feed A Demand
The Hartford Courant
BY STEVE GRANT, Special To The Courant
August 26, 2012

Embedded in the dense suburbs that encircle Hartford is a small farm in Newington that could have disappeared, as so many other Connecticut farms have in the past 50 years. But the Eddy Farm has been re-energized by a new generation with a vision.

Haley Fox, granddaughter of Roger Eddy, the inventor, author, legislator and farmer who cultivated the land for decades, took over the farm more than a year ago with her fiance, Andy Billipp.

Fox and Billipp cultivate only three of the 60 acres so far, doing almost everything themselves. They grow a variety of about 50 vegetables, without herbicides or pesticides, and raise free-range chickens and heritage pigs, the old fashioned, flavorful pig breeds ignored by factory farms.

Farming is in the midst of a renaissance in Connecticut. And Fox and Billipp are emblematic of the bounding new energy in Connecticut agriculture as farmers seize the opportunity to meet growing public demand for fresh, safe and locally produced vegetables, fruits, meats and poultry.

In all likelihood, agriculture in Connecticut — and some say the country — is more exciting, more dynamic than at any time in recent decades, if not a century or more.

"What I see is a very exciting trend where you have folks across the board in Connecticut agriculture striving to meet that demand" for fresh, locally grown foods, said state agriculture commissioner Steven K. Reviczky. "It is an upward spiral. As consumers are voting with their dollars, farmers increasingly are seeing an opportunity."

[Please read the rest of this article in the archives at the Hartford COURANT website]

Fraud happens at Connecticut's farmers' markets -- but not often
Jan Ellen Spiegel, CT MIRROR
August 3, 2012

Rick Macsuga has heard the allegations for years. That "jobbing" -- farmers buying produce to sell as their own -- occurs regularly and illegally in the farmers' market system he oversees for the Connecticut Department of Agriculture.

"Does it happen?" he asks semi-rhetorically. "Most likely it does happen."

But not much, he and others agree.

"I think people should feel pretty confident that farmers' markets are abiding by all the rules," Macsuga insisted. "The general feeling is that 99.9 percent of the farmers are doing the right thing here."

Several farmers, however, say otherwise, though most do so anonymously. The truth? Well, it's a bit squishy.  With the state arguably at farmers'-market saturation --at least 130 markets compared with 22 when Macsuga started in 1986 -- some feel there are too many to monitor adequately with diminished resources and an inherently problematic dynamic: how do you distinguish New Jersey tomatoes from New Milford tomatoes in a huge pile?

Having many markets means more competitive pressure for farmers, a situation some think is pushing growers to take liberties in the interest of making a living.  That said, the rules for farmers' markets in the state are less stringent than many might imagine. In fact the vast majority of markets allow farmers to purchase produce and resell it. Up to a point, anyway.

[Please read the rest of this article in the archives at the CT MIRROR website]

Heat wave causes harvest issues
Peter Kirby, Westport NEWS
Updated 11:53 p.m., Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The July sun baked residents, crops and lawns alike on Tuesday, as another day of heat lengthened a stretch that the National Weather Service has deemed the worst nationwide drought in the past 50 years.

On Tuesday, temperatures reached as high as the mid-90s across the region. This month, meanwhile, rainfall in Bridgeport has been nearly half an inch less than the average.

And while the Northeast hasn't been hit as hard as other parts of the country facing drought conditions, area farmers, greenskeepers and homeowners are all feeling the effects of the dry weather.

Fred Candee, of Candee Farm on Morehouse Road in Easton, said that the lack of rain would mean delays for his tomato crop.

"We don't have irrigation, so the fertilizer we've laid hasn't reached the roots," he said. "It's probably set them back by at least two weeks."

[Please read the rest of this article in the archives at the Westport NEWS website]

Bringing local food to schools: a hard nut to crack

Jan Ellen Spiegel, CT MIRROR
April 22, 2013

Deep River -- The cafeteria at John Winthrop Middle School is a picture of healthy fresh food. On this pasta Wednesday, the special is homemade lasagna with tomato or a vegetable-spiked meat sauce. Gorgeous green salads with precisely cut grape tomatoes and cucumbers are lined up for quick grabbing during blitzing-fast lunch periods.

There are fresh strawberries, cantaloupe, pears and apples. And there's a full salad bar and sandwich station that includes turkey roasted in the gleaming kitchen a few feet away.

But there's one thing almost none of this food is: local.

"Right now what would be available local is apples and butternut squash," said Thomas Peterlik, an Austrian-trained chef who took over as food service director for Regional School District 4 -- Deep River, Essex and Chester -- two-and-a-half years ago.

That Peterlik -- a 10-year veteran of Yale's famously locally sourced dining operation -- has yet to substantially crack that barrier for a Connecticut public school system speaks to just how challenging the concept of farm-to-school is here.

[Please read the rest of this article in the archives at the CT MIRROR website]