Agriculture Task Team
1A. Regional agriculture marketing plan and network
Develop and maintain a regional marketing plan and network to provide year-round markets for local growers and producers.
1B. Agricultural infrastructure
Inventory, assess and improve the infrastructure needs for local growers and producers including the creation of greenhouses to allow for an extended growing season.
Meeting Minutes - Board of Directors
Monday, March 21, 2016
@ NW CT Chamber of Commerce
Attendance: Jocelyn Ayer, Peter Bevivino, Bill Burgess, Frank Chiaramonte, Susan Clayton, Fran Delaney, Lou Helt, Brad Hoar, Mark Lyon, Laura McCarthy, Pat Mechare, Rich Meinert, Doug Parker, Leo Paul, JoAnn Ryan, Dan Sherr, Dwain Snow, Don Stein, Sharon Waagner, Amy Wynn
Guests: Kay Carroll, Joe Ercolano (CT-SBDC), Jane Williams (NCCC)
II. NW CT Food Hub Feasibility Study Findings & Next Steps
Presented by Jocelyn Ayer (NHCOG), with additional comments by Kay Carroll & Bill Burgess (Sustainable Healthy Communities)
- There are over 350 food hubs in the U.S. in many different forms.
- The USDA defines a regional food hub as a business that actively manages the aggregation, distribution and/or marketing of source-identified products for the purpose of strengthening producer capacity and their access to markets.
- Less than 1% of food sales are to individual customers (e.g., farm stands, farmers' markets, CSA's)
- New Venture Advisors based in Chicago served as consultants for the study and were paid by an Agriculture Viability Grant from state.
- The grant was for $45,000 and was a matching grant requiring a 50% match which was provided with in-kind services from the NHCOG and Partners for Sustainable Healthy Communities.
- The study focused on regional supply and demand to determine the feasibility of creating a self-sustaining food hub for NW CT.
- The study revealed high demand (restaurants, private schools, grocery stores, public schools and other institutions), with less, but sufficient, supply.
- There were 28 regional growers interested in becoming suppliers and 21 interested buyers interested in more locally grown products.
- Sellers are seeking fair prices for their products and buyers are seeking low and competitive prices for those products.
- Food hubs can assist local producers with transportation, marketing & sales, promoting niche products, and certification & safety issues.
- Food hubs operate as the middle man in supplying the demand for local products.
- Operating a food hub can take different forms including for-profit, non-profit and co-ops.
- It was determined that a NW CT food hub would have minimum impact on existing farmers' markets and CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) participants.
- Factors for consideration include location, operational structure & management, storage & distribution, and marketing & sales.
- The next step is to seek a grant from the USDA and possibly the Community Foundation of NW CT to create a pilot program for the region.
- Long term goals: 30% increase in production, generate $2 million in revenue, $100,000 in yearly operating income, fully operational in 3-5 years
- Short term goal: break-even profitability within 3 years, revenue of $1.2 million
- Developing regional year-round growing facilities (greenhouses) will also be explored.
- Motion: A motion was made by JoAnn Ryan to endorse and support the concept of a regional food hub for NW CT and for NWCTEDC to support for grant requests to USDA and the state of CT to develop a pilot NW CT food hub. The motion was seconded by Lou Helt. It was approved unanimously with one abstention (due to a potential future conflict of interest).
III. Farmers' Forum
Kay Carroll described a recent Farmer's Forum held at Wamogo High School in January 2016.
- The event was a result of round table and informal discussions with over 20 NW CT farmers who identified things that would help them be more sustainable.
- The Forum was sponsored by The Farmer's Table, which, in 2015, became a program of Partners for Sustainable Healthy Communities, formerly known as Litchfield Hills Food Systems (organization that runs the Litchfield Hills Farm-Fresh Market).
- The first farmers table was held in 2011 in Warren, with subsequent annual dinners held in New Milford, Litchfield, Washington and Morris. The 2015 dinner, held at South Farms, generated $19,000 in excess funds to be applied toward those things farmers identified as helping them to be sustainable.
- Funding from the farmers' table dinners was used to cover the costs for the first Farmers' Table Forum at the end of January 2016 at Wamogo High School.
- There were 125 participants in the forum with a waiting list of 15 (due to space limitations).
- A series of eight workshops were provided and lunch was served by a local farm.
This survey is being conducted by the NW CT Economic Development Corporation (NWCTEDC) with the purpose of creating a regional agricultural inventory of farms, farm related businesses, and agricultural related services based in the twenty-one municipalities in Northwest CT. (NWCTEDC works closely with the Northwest Hills Council of Governments (NHCOG) and the NW CT Chamber of Commerce.) A NW CT Regional Agriculture Directory and survey results will be posted at www.nwctedc.com/agriculture. If you have questions please contact Rich Meinert at the UConn Agricultural Extension Center based at UConn-Torrington. Please forward to anyone in NW CT involved in agriculture. Click here to take the survey.
NW CT Economic Development Corporation
NW CT Agriculture Survey Responses
(as of March 9, 2015)
Averill Farm, 250 Calhoun Street, Washington Depot
Camps Road Farm/The Food Cycle, LLC, 33 Camps Road, Kent
CowPots, LLC, 324 Norfolk Rd. (Rt. 44), East Canaan
Freund's Farm Market & Bakery, LLC, 324 Norfolk Rd. (Rt. 44), East Canaan
Gresczyk Farms, LLC, 860 Litchfield Turnpike, New Hartford
Housatonic Valley Agricultural Education Program, 248 Warren Turnpike Rd., Canaan/Falls Village
Laurel Brook Farm, LLC, Canaan/Falls Village
Laurel Ridge Farm, 66 Wigwam Road, Litchfield
Middle Ridge Farm, 125 East Chestnut Hill Rd., Litchfield
Mountain View Farm, 309 Rt. 7 North, Falls Village
Ridge Runner Soap Company, LLC, 529 Litchfield Rd., Harwinton
Sugar Water Farm, LLC, 66 Town Hill Rd., Warren
The Grassy Knoll Farm, 552 Riverton Road, Riverton
Thorncrest Farm/Milkhouse Chocolates, 280 Townhill Road, Goshen
Whipoorwill Farm, 189 Salmon Kill Road, Lakeville
January 30, 2015
In 2012, 7.8 percent of U.S. farms sold food through local food marketing channels, including directto-consumer (DTC) marketing channels (e.g., farmers’ markets, roadside stands, u-pick) and intermediated marketing channels (e.g., direct to restaurants, institutions or to regional food aggregators). In addition to producing food, these farms must consider how they will market their output.
Growth in Certain Local Food Marketing Channels: Several local food marketing channels have experienced growth since 2006-7.1 As of 2014, there were 8,268 farmers’ markets in the United States, having grown by 180 percent since 2006
Regional food hubs are enterprises that aggregate locally sourced food to meet wholesale, retail, institutional and even individual demand (see box, “Regional Food Hubs”). Since 2006-07, the number of food hubs has increased by 288 percent
Farm to school programs have multiple objectives, ranging from nutrition education to serving locally sourced food in school meals. According to the USDA Farm to School Census, 4,322 school districts have farm to school programs, a 430-percent increase since 2006.
In response to member curiosity regarding Food Hub infrastructure, a value chain graphic and links to select food hubs should help. The goal and demonstrated potential is to grow the regional agricultural economy while addressing the critical food insecurity / food justice issue.
Web links for select rural and urban ventures underway or in advanced planning stage:
Video link for Veterans to Farmers and graphic below.
Minutes - Executive Committee
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
@ NW CT Chamber of Commerce
Attendance: Bill Baxter, Elinor Carbone, David Dean, Rick Lynn, Doug Parker, Leo Paul, Jr., JoAnn Ryan, Erin Wilson, Don Stein, Sabrina Beck, Dick Labich, Pat Mechare, Ned Moore
II. Task Team Updates
- Doug Parker indicated that an agricultural inventory was being developed for NW CT. Rich Meinert, Charlie Rowland and Doug met in the summer to begin creating the draft survey. It is hoped that the four regional agricultural schools (Wamogo, Housatonic, Northwestern Regional & Nonnewaug) will be able to support the survey data collection process. The survey would begin on December 1, 2014 with a deadline of March 1, 2015. Students would assist in the collection process based on their home communities with supervision by the agriculture teachers in the respective districts.
Regional Food Systems:
Doing right things right. Investing in regional food systems requires a commitment to the journey, not to a destination.
Local and regional food system work increasingly is moving to the mainstream. However, this does not mean that the work has become any easier.
Intermediated markets (grocery stores, other retailers and restaurants) and institutional markets (hospitals, schools, residential living facilities, etc.) are buying high volumes of Iowa’s local food products. Institutions often are
unrecognized customers for local foods, yet they reported purchasing 17.5 percent of the total IIM local food purchases we measured.
Re-localizing the food system in new and innovative ways can help create jobs lost during the recession, increase retention of local food dollars, create a stronger economy and improve potential health outcomes.
$341,993 of all funds leveraged by RFSWG groups (45%) came from national sources. This is funding that made its way to Iowa that otherwise would never have been invested in the state.
July 17, 2014
Food Hub "Knowledge Bank"
Selected Food Hub 101 docs:
July 11, 2014
Agriculture Trending & Future Forecast
Over the past half-century, the fast-food industry, aided by government subsidies, has come to dominate the food marketplace. That development has given us an obesity epidemic and, with the growth of so-called factory farms, has degraded the environment.
More recently, in a reaction against fast food and Big Ag, the sustainable-food movement, with a focus on local food networks and healthy eating, has gained a foothold in restaurants and farms across the country. What began as an underground movement has now gone mainstream.
Looking forward, I believe that ever-growing numbers of Americans—led by passionate chefs, farmers and activists—will choose the latter of these two paths: a sustainable food future. Let me describe how I believe, ideally, that future will look.
The number of farmers' markets and young people taking up farming will multiply geometrically. As such, we will see at least one farmers' market in every town in the country and, in turn, the revitalization of many areas.
At the same time, small mom-and-pop restaurants will enjoy a resurgence. These owners—with little enthusiasm for franchises—will be interested primarily in quality of life and in building a community around their businesses. These restaurants will build relationships directly with farms and will want to increase the quality and variety of their produce. As a result, I expect to see a greater variety of fruits and vegetables becoming available in the market.
Growing demand will push farmers to be innovative, as will climate change. That will mean more greenhouses in the colder parts of the country, growing food in urban areas and choosing crops that can withstand extreme weather.
Amanda MarsalisThis movement poses a threat to fast-food businesses and industrial food companies, both of which I predict will continue to shape-shift and co-opt their values for profit. As long as their products continue to be supported by government subsidies, they will be successful. The reality is that the sustainable-food movement's reach will grow only to a point and ultimately will be limited to those with access, means and education—unless legislators dramatically change food and agriculture policy.
I think that those in government will come back to their senses in the coming years and begin to subsidize farms instead of factories. As access to real food becomes increasingly divided between the haves and the have-nots, food security will become even more of a social-justice issue.
Back to School
I am confident that we will see a growing consensus about the most effective way to transform food in America: building a real, sustainable and free school-lunch program. Decision makers will agree that the most sensible place to reach every child and to have the most lasting impact is with a program of "edible education." Having worked in that field for more than 20 years via the Edible Schoolyard Project, I know what's possible: Providing children with delicious meals made from organic ingredients transforms their attitudes about, and behavior toward, food for life.
Beyond the individual nutrition outcome of each child, an institutional food program with principled buying criteria (food that is locally sourced and organic) becomes a subsidy system for real food—a subsidy system that sees schools become the engine for sustainability.
I know that those on both sides of the political aisle finally realize that in food we find the root problem of many of our nation's ills. I am not sure yet that they realize that food has the solution.
Connecticut Agriculture Growth Gains National Attention
Connecticut may be the third smallest state in the nation, but it has a large agricultural presence – which led to the state being featured recently by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on the federal agency’s website.
Bucking the national trend, USDA reports, Connecticut farming has been growing for the past two decades. The state – based on the 2012 Census of Agriculture – has nearly 6,000 farms, which is a remarkable 60 percent increase from the 3,754 farms in Connecticut in 1982. At the same time, the state’s farmland acreage remained relatively stable, which means that the size of an average farm has been trending down, to an average of 73 acres.
More than 900 Connecticut farms harvested vegetables for sale in 2012, with bell peppers being the most popular crop. To meet the needs of East Coast homeowners and landscapers, in 2012, 880 of Connecticut’s nurseries, greenhouses, floriculture and sod farms grew and sold almost $253 million worth of those crops.
In addition, Connecticut’s coastal area has hosted shellfish farms since Colonial times. In 2012, the state’s aquaculture industry sold nearly $20 million worth of seafood, primarily shellfish from Long Island Sound. There is livestock as well, USDA notes, with 774 farms in Connecticut raising cattle and calves. Most of the sales on the livestock end come from milk, however. In 2012, the state’s farms sold nearly $70 million worth of milk from cows.
Contrary to history and stereotype, in 2012 more than 25 percent of all Connecticut farms were operated by women as principal operators. That is an incremental increase from 23 percent in 2007. Overall, the 2012 Census counted more than 3,700 women farmers in the state.
Connecticut farmers have also stepped up their efforts to get agricultural products into consumers’ hands, the USDA report indicated. With the growing “buy local” movement, nearly a quarter of Connecticut farms market human food products directly to consumers. About 10 percent of the farms in the state now market their products directly to retail outlets such as restaurants, stores, and institutions; and at the same time, 218 of our farms participate in community-supported agriculture programs allowing local residents to partake in their harvest.
Although the USDA did not specifically mention the longstanding “Connecticut Grows” campaign from the state’s Department of Agriculture, it has served as a lynchpin for intensified efforts using technology.
The CT Grown Program was developed in 1986, during the administration of former Gov. William A. O’Neill, when the now-familiar green and blue logo was created to identify agricultural products grown in the state. During nearly three decades, the CT Grown Program has blossomed into a multifaceted campaign that promotes these products through a diverse array of avenues in local, regional, national and international markets.
It now features CT Grown producer listings and brochures, connections to farmers markets, the CT Seafood Council, CT Farm Wine Development Council, CT Food Policy Council, CT Milk Promotions Board, and other related councils and commissions.
More recently, the website www.buyctgrown.com was established as “a place to connect people who are ready to discover CT Grown foods and experience Connecticut agriculture.” buyCTgrown is a program of the non-profit CitySeed and receives support from our partners including UConn Extension, CT Farm Bureau, CT NOFA, and the CT Department of Agriculture.
The website’s “CT 10% Campaign” asks people to spend 10 percent of their existing food and gardening dollars on locally grown goods.” Individuals and businesses can sign up to “take the pledge” on the website, and will receive ongoing information about locally grown products.
NWCTEDC Minutes - Board of Directors
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
@ NW CT Chamber of Commerce
Attendance: Bill Burgess, Elinor Carbone, Frank Chiaramonte, Susan Clayton, Fiona de Merell, Fran Delaney, Brad Hoar, Dick Labich, Leona LeJeune, John Maxwell, Patricia Mechare, Rich Meinert, John Morici, Doug Parker, JoAnn Ryan, Steve Silver, Larry Sweeney, Sharon Waagner, Erin Wilson, Pam Pinto, Bruce Pinto, Tara Jo Holmberg, Charlie Rowland, Todd Gelineau, Ben Paletsky, Jessica Fowler
Meeting Focus: Agriculture
Bill Burgess, Litchfield Hills Food System:
Defined a Food Hub as a business or organization that actively manages the aggregation, distribution and marketing of source-identified food products, primarily from local and regional producers, to strengthen their ability to satisfy wholesale, retail and institutional demand. There are 230 food hubs nation-wide. Hartford does have a food hub. The goal is to have one in each thirty mile radius. We should connect to Hartford until the supply of food is sufficient to be a stand alone hub. Funds are available, but you need the infrastructure first.
Current food hubs: 34% non-profit, 13% co-op, 47% for profit
Food hubs assist in connecting producers with consumers; product transportation; supplying to schools, hospitals and other larger institutions.
There are now 8,000 Farmers Markets nationally today compared to 1,700 ten years ago. Farmers markets also promote farmland protection.
Pattern for local producers has been to progress from farm stands to farmers' markets to community supported agriculture (CSA).
CT Dept. of Agriculture has a goal to have 5% of food consumed in the state locally produced in the state.
There is an organic farmer education program at Naugatuck Valley Community College.
Ben Palesky, South Farms, Morris
South Farms (150 acres, fourth generation family owned) hosts the Morris MarketPlace where over 15 different vendors meet on Sundays (11am-2pm) to sell their locally grown and hand-made products from mid-June to mid-October.
They specialize in grass-fed beef using Galloway cattle. The 20,000 square foot dairy barn is also part of the CT Barn Trail. They are also involved with hops production. South Farms is the original name of Morris when it was still part of Litchfield.
Agricultural Place-Making is creating an economic environment where something unique can only be done in that place. Agricultural tourism is a growing economic driver in rural areas of CT.
Business challenges: agricultural-tourism friendly policies; adaptive re-use of historically significant buildings are cost-prohibitive under current policies; need a clean/safe/accessible area hotel (comparable to a Hilton Doubletree) to accommodate day/weekend travelers; labor is an issue.
Pam Pinto, Act Natural Health & Wellness, Torrington
Pam and her husband Bruce recently opened a new store in downtown Torrington called Act Natural Health & Wellness ( 24 Water Street ). Act Natural Health & Wellness is a provider of vitamins, supplements, essential oils, herbs, homeopathy, vegetarian, vegan & gluten free products along with local artisan products.
Pam & Bruce work with local farmers and producers to provide fresh, locally grown products for their Bulk Buy Local Pickins' Club and Case Share Hub.
Farmers indicate what products they will have available and Pam posts it on the live Bulk Buy Local Pickins' Club page of their website.
Bulk Buy club members can order online from Monday through Wednesdays with pick-up on Thursdays, at the store. (pre-pay via PayPal)
Very beneficial to farmers because they can identify products (and quantities) which are available on a weekly basis thus connecting produce availability with local consumers. Absolutely no waste, minimal packaging, and guaranteed payment.
Beneficial to Bulk Buy Local Pickins' club members since they know which fresh, locally grown products are currently available. A unique way to purchase from farmers across the state with one convenient pick-up location.
Charlie Rowland, Region 6 Agriculture Science Tech. Dept. Coordinator
He works with students involved in agriculture education at Region 6 (Wamogo HS).
There are four schools in the region that have agriculture education programs; Housatonic (Region 1), Nonnewaug (Region 14), Wamogo (Region 6) and Northwest Region 7 (New Hartford, Colebrook, Hartland, Barkhamsted, Norfolk).
Doug Parker suggested that a regional (NW CT) agricultural assets inventory would be very beneficial. He asked Charlie to attend this meeting to see if the agriculture educational schools might be interested in participating in creating that inventory.
Charlie indicated he would be willing to help develop the inventory working with FFA groups in the four regional agriculture schools.
Doug asked Board members what should be included in the inventory.
The suggestions included: type of farm (how long they have been operating), owners, major products, location, contact information (phone, web, email), visiting hours (farm stand), number of employees (full time, part time, seasonal), farm to table events, farmers' markets, internship opportunities, labor needs
Todd Gelineau, General Deputy, CT State Grange
They are a support group to farmers. They promote farmers and lobby on behalf of farmers.
There are 52 Granges in CT. They do 75,000 hours of community service and support 14 agricultural and 4H fairs.
Some Granges also grow food for food banks.
Membership is not limited to farmers. Anyone age 5 and older can join their local grange. They involve agricultural students in the grange whenever possible.
NWCTEDC Minutes - Executive Committee
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
@ NW CT Chamber of Commerce
Attendance: Jocelyn Ayer, Elinor Carbone, Rich Meinert, Doug Parker, Leo Paul, Jr., JoAnn Ryan
I. Task Team Updates
Agriculture: Rich Meinert
1. Two college students will be creating a survey and inventory of meat production in NW CT. They are being supported by two local producers to help identify the current issues and challenges facing meat producers.
2. Jocelyn also indicated that the NW Hills Council of Governments will be applying for a matching $50,000 ($25,000 needed for the match, which can include in-kind services) Agriculture Viability Grant. It would include creating an inventory of current farmers' markets and potential marketing strategies. It would also explore the possibility of creating incubator farm experiences and apprenticeship programs.
NWCTEDC Minutes - Board of Directors
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
@ NW CT Chamber of Commerce
Attendance: Bill Burgess, Lew Chappel, Frank Chiaramonte, Susan Clayton, Lou Helt, Brad Hoar, Leona LeJeune, Patricia Mechare, Rich Meinert, Ted Murphy, Doug Parker, JoAnn Ryan, Steve Silver, Larry Sweeney, Sharon Waagner, Steve Zarrella, Elinor Carbone, Erin Wilson, Rob Rubbo, Clint Thorn, Howie Bronson, Mark Harran, Charlie Rowland, Kay Carroll, Ben Freund, Jim & Catherine Jerram
Mark Harran - Brookside Farm II, Maple Syrup
Mark has been involved in agriculture for his entire lifetime (he grew up on a farm in upstate NY). In addition to running Brookside Farm in Litchfield, Mark also serves as the President of the Maple Syrup Producers Association of Connecticut and as Vice President of the Board of Directors of the International Maple Syrup Institute. There has been a drastic change in maple sugaring as a result of advances in technology. Maple syrup production is more cost efficient and less labor intensive today. There is a big opportunity to increase production in CT by tapping more trees. Currently only 1/10th of 1 percent of the trees in CT are being tapped, which compares to 4% in Vermont and 33% in Quebec. Revenue could increase from $1 million to $20 million with increased access to maple trees. While an estimated 90% of the syrup consumed in CT comes from out-of-state and is purchased from supermarkets and similar big box chain stores, over 90% of the syrup currently produced in CT is sold through farm markets and farm stands. Therefore, as maple syrup production increases, maple syrup producers need to get into the big box stores to expand their markets. Mark estimates one needs a $40,000 to $50,000 investment to generate approximately $60,000 to $70,000 per year of revenue with about 2000 taps. Grants are available now and more may be coming with the recently passed Agriculture Bill, which for the first time includes authorization for maple production.
Kay Carroll - Market Master, Litchfield Hills Farm-Fresh Market
The Litchfield Hills Farm-Fresh Market first opened in June 2007. This is an all volunteer organization and consists of a summer market (Litchfield Center School parking lot) and a winter market (Litchfield Community Center). It is operated by the Litchfield Hills Food Systems (a non-profit 501c3) - educational organization. They also work with the Kids Marathon and Edible School Gardens programs. It is a CT Grown Market and all vendors must be approved by the CT Dept. of Agriculture. They feature 18-20 vendors at each market and work with a total of 32 farms/vendors. Annual vendor sales total about $300,000 per year. The cost of operating the market is covered by vendor fees. The challenge is providing a wide variety of products throughout the year. The market includes art spaces for children, musicians, chef demos, a non-profit tent, a weekly newsletter. Spaces are also provided for local artists, hands on workshops and demonstrations focused on sustainability. Feedback from customers highlights the community building aspects of the market. It is recognized as a well organized and efficiently managed market by the customers and participating vendors. With the availability of a winter venue to sell, several farmers have increased their cold storage capacity and/or extended their growing seasons via high tunnels, hoop houses and green houses.
Charlie Rowland - Region 6 (Wamogo High School) Agricultural Science Technology Department, Department Coordinator
The Wamogo Agricultural Science and Technology department currently has about 160 full time students enrolled, up from 95 a few years ago. The program consists of three parts including classroom instruction, leadership (FFA) and supervised agricultural experience. All of the students are required to participate in a work experience, either as a placement at an agricultural related business or as an entrepreneur. They turn away students every year because of demand. Program offerings include veterinary science, animal science including equine science, plant science, natural resources, and agricultural mechanics. Including the four programs in Northwest CT (Wamogo, Nonnewaug, Housatonic, Region 7) there are approximately 794 students enrolled. Tuition is charged to sending towns (in Wamogo's case all those outside of Warren, Morris, and Goshen), currently at $7,200 per student which is a change from $7,900 last year. Other towns sending students to the Wamogo program include Litchfield, Thomaston, Torrington, Plymouth/Terryville, Harwinton, and Burlington. Finding a variety of practical experiences for students, labor laws, and consistent state funding are the greatest challenges.
Rich Meinert - UConn College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
Litchfield County Cooperative Extension Center Educator
The Litchfield County Agriculture Extension Center supports 4H clubs throughout NW CT including a 4H Fair at the Goshen Fairgrounds in late August. Adult Programs include Agricultural Nutrient Management, Commercial Greenhouse IPM and the Master Gardener Program.
Ben Freund - Freund's Farm, Inc. & CowPots, LLC East Canaan
The Freund family has been operating the farm since 1949. The current operation consists of dairy farming, vegetable farming, a farm market, catering and production of cow pots from manure. Dairy farming operates under federal milk market orders that establish pay prices based on utilization. They also produce cow pots. Local farming cannot provide all the nutrition required by the population. Large commercial farms are essential to provide 90% of the nutritional requirements. One percent of the farming population provides the vast majority of the food. 15.5% of dairy products are exported. Development of alternative energy is necessary, but is still heavily subsidized by the taxpayers and ratepayers. GMO's (Genetically Modified Organisms) are an important tool in crop production. In 1996 the Canaan Valley Agricultural Cooperative, Inc. (7 farms) was created with the help of a USDA grant to explore better ways to manage manure and nutrient issues in the Canaan Valley.
Clint Thorn - Thorncrest Farm, Goshen; Goshen Agricultural Council
In 1968, there were 23 dairy farms in Goshen. There are only 22 milking cows in Goshen today. Thorncrest Farm is a multi-faceted organization consisting of a saw mill, customized wood art & furniture production, dairy farming and a unique old style European chocolate process. They make very specialized chocolates from fresh milk that they have cultivated from genetically bred cows to provide an exceptionally sweet flavor. The quality of the chocolates has been recognized globally. Clint also serves as the chairman of the Goshen Agricultural Council. The Council sponsored an Open Farm Tour last year in addition to a Farm to Table Dinner featuring Goshen grown products.
Howie Bronson - Maple Bank Farm, Roxbury
He and his wife farm 55 acres (acquired in 1980) in Roxbury. They employ 12 seasonal workers and have worked closely with the "Save Our Farms" land trust. They sell their products mostly at a farm stand and at the Bethel Farmers' Market. They have 4 greenhouses where they grow tomatoes, bedding plants, and vegetables (including sweet corn). They also grow blueberries and have an apple orchard. They have a few sheep (enabling wool products) and cows. They sell their products at an active farm stand. Their biggest challenges are in procuring a reliable workforce and local zoning regulations. Howie cited affordable housing as a major deterrent in attracting younger residents to Roxbury. It is difficult to encourage younger families to go into an agricultural lifestyle.
Jim and Catherine Jerram - Jerram Winery, New Hartford
They started making wine in 1986. They began selling wine to the public in 1999. Jim emphasized the need for "patience, persistence and passion." It has been very labor intensive requiring support from their children. You need cold hardy grapes, climate is a challenge in NW CT. They make 11 wines (6 white & 5 reds) of which 60% of the grapes are locally grown. There are 9 wineries in Litchfield County and 33 statewide. They sell 85% of the products in their tasting room. They are actively involved in the CT Winery Passport Program and the CT Vineyard & Winery Association.
NWCTEDC Minutes - Board of Directors
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
@ NW CT Chamber of Commerce
Attendance: Susan Clayton, Patricia Mechare, Doug Parker, Lauren Smith, Sharon Waagner, Fran Delaney, Anthea Disney, William Baxter, David Dean, Ted Murphy, JoAnn Ryan, Rich Minert, Joann Brogis, Jocelyn Ayer, Frank Chiaramonte, Leona LeJeune, John Maxwell, Richard Labich, Bill Burgess, Lew Chappel, Fiona de Merell, Lou Helt, Rick Lynn, Stephen Silver, Larry Sweeney, Susan Dichter, Rob Michalik
II. Task Team Reports
A. Agriculture & Conservation- Rich Minert
- 15 people have committed to serving on the task team; plan is to meet in the 2nd week of December.
- Rich is trying to get a broad spectrum of representation on the team.
- Some challenges from producers are capacity, regulations, and people not working together.
NWCTEDC Minutes - Executive Committee
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
@ NW CT Chamber of Commerce
Attendance: Bill Baxter, David Dean, Lou Helt, Doug Parker, Rich Minert, Rick Lynn, Leo Paul, Pat Power, Lew Chappell, Sherri Dadomo
3. Task Team Updates
Agriculture Task Team- Rich Minert gave the update. Rich is in the process of seeking members for the task team. Once their busy season slows a bit, they will meet on a regular basis over the winter months.
NWCTEDC Minutes - Executive Committee
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
@ NW CT Chamber of Commerce
Attendance: JoAnn Ryan, Lauren Smith, Bill Baxter, Lew Chappel, Rose Ponte, Leo Paul, Doug Parker, Lou Helt, Domenic Carazza, Rick Lynn, Rich Minert, David Dean, Jocelyn Ayer
II. Task Team Reports
A. Agriculture & Conservation
1. Rich Minert gave the report.
2. The group has not met yet, but Rich is in the process of finding out who's interested in being on the task team.
3. The plan is to collaborate with the state on marketing materials instead of re-inventing the wheel, state is in process of developing a new Agriculture plan.
4. The group plans to become more active during the winter months.
NWCTEDC Minutes - Board of Directors
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Freund’s Farm Market, East Canaan
Attendance: Tim Abbott, Susie Clayton, David Dean, Fran Delaney, Dan McGuinness, Ted Murphy, JoAnn, Ryan, Win Smith, Doug Parker, Roberta Willis, Bill Pratt, Gina Scherbner, Sue Voghel, Shelley King, Mark Harran and Jay Harran
Topic: Sustainable Agriculture
Guest speakers: Matt and Theresa Freund, owners of Freund’s Farm Market
How long has your family been involved in agriculture?
The farm has been in the Freund family for multiple generations. The current business is operated by Matt, Ben and Theresa Freund. Additional acreage and adjoining properties have been acquired to expand the farm’s operations. The farm now consists of 450 acres (an additional 200 acres is also managed).
What are the major products grown or made at your farm?
The business is divided into three parts – dairy, farm market and CowPots. Matt and Ben manage the dairy operation and production of the CowPots. (Theresa manages the financial aspects of the market & catering enterprise, the dairy & CowPots are managed by Matthew's brother Benjamin.) They have three daughters and son who have also been involved with the business since their early years.
The farm market features products that are locally grown or produced on the farm. The market features produce, milk, baked goods, ‘prepared’ foods using farm products, flowers and floral arrangements. It is estimated that 80% of their customers are part-time residents or weekend visitors. A decision was made to not seek certified organic designation primarily due to the high cost. Instead they opted to be designated as a ’locavores’ market applying pest control techniques based on effectiveness, product quality and cost. They use an integrated pest management system without pesticides and frequently use beneficial insects.
How has your farm operation changed or evolved over the years?
A $40,000 Farm Enhancement Grant was used to help build a $175,000 greenhouse. The greenhouse is also used for events including weddings and class reunions. Another greenhouse is used to grow a wide variety of tomatoes year round. The addition of radiant heat in the greenhouses was considered a wise choice and has proven to be highly cost effective. The greenhouses total 15,000 square feet.
The dairy operation currently has a herd of 265 cows. Matt and Ben use a systematic approach to continually improve all aspects of the dairy operation. The low stress environment features free stalls and constant attention to creating the most comfortable conditions possible for the cows. Milking takes place at 12:00 am and 12:00 pm every day. Every aspect of the milking operation has been analyzed and modified throughout the years to maximize production while enhancing the quality of life for the cows.
The CowPot operation grew from a need to lower the impact of manure on the surrounding neighbors. A grant from the USDA supported the development of a manufacturing facility to create ‘CowPots’ from manure. The CowPots can be used with seedlings and placed directly in the soil. The nutrients in the cow pots enhance the growth of the plants.
This unique process of using of manure to create the CowPots has been featured nationally. Matt and Theresa were interviewed by Larry King on his show in Los Angeles as a result of a segment on the Discovery Channel’s "Dirty Jobs" hosted by Mike Rowe. Production has increased from hundreds to thousands as they continue to refine the manufacturing process. While they are currently meeting market demand, they are always exploring options to expand the operation if deemed profitable.
Matt credited CT State Representative Roberta Willis and CT State Senator Andrew Roraback with supporting efforts to expand farm operations on multiple occasions. State and federal grants have been used to build greenhouses and the facility for the production of the CowPots. Another grant was used to insure that the water quality of the stream running through the farm was not polluted. They have received grants from USDA, DEP, SBIR, SARE and Rural Development. All of these grants required a major financial commitment from the Freund family. Matt cited that the water is actually cleaner after the farm than it is before reaching the farm. Local high school students have helped to substantiate the high quality of the water during field trips with science classes.
What are the challenges of earning a living in agriculture?
While the Matt and Theresa Freund have been able to support their family with both of them involved in agriculture, it is consumes a great deal of their time to monitor and maintain the daily operations. They are hopeful that their three daughters and son will stay actively involved with the business. Their constant attention to detail and improvement have helped them to build a sustainable agricultural enterprise, but it has required a great deal of time, effort and money.
What are your future directions toward sustainability?
Matt and Theresa would like to have their daughters and son take a more active role in the operation of business in the future. They have been involving them in the decision making process since their teenage years and they hope to increase their role in daily operations. The CowPot enterprise continues to grow and expand. Expanding sales to new markets and continuing to expand sales to existing markets is the long term goal.
There are currently 10 full time and 3 part time/seasonal employees. They have partnered with horticultural departments at numerous colleges and universities to share their ‘on-farm’ experiences. The close attention to detail and desire for continuous improvement were highly evident throughout the tour.