Saturday, Sept. 20 provided perfect weather for the Connecticut Department of Agriculture’s Farmland Preservation Celebration. Since 1978, The Farmland Preservation Program has permanently protected the prime soils of Connecticut, thus ensuring the future of agriculture in the state. At the 300-farm and 40,000-acre milestone, the celebration was planned.
The Lebanon Board of Selectmen approved the Department of Agriculture’s request to hold their celebration on the historic Lebanon Green. With Lebanon having the most preserved farmland in the entire state, it was a fitting location. Lebanon’s 5,000 acres of preserved farmland is more than 10 percent of all preserved farmland in the state, of which 2,000 has been preserved since 2006, showing the constant increase in the preservation movement. “The entire community should be proud,” states First Selectman Joyce Okonuk. “This event is a direct result of our town-wide efforts to promote and grow agriculture.”
With a cow-shaped bounce house, hay maze, face painting, “Touch-a-Tractor” and petting farm, the younger crowd was kept engaged. The teenagers of the Lebanon FFA Chapter volunteered to run the stations, as well as entertain. Breanna Shrewsbury was a big hit underneath her cow and apple costumes. Local grass-fed beef was served up on the grill along with just picked corn on the cob. Local orchards provided apples, and The Farmer’s Cow of Lebanon, CT was there to serve ice cream. Horse drawn hay rides for the young and old toured the Lebanon Green, stopping at several historic sites.
An impressive display of enlarged photographs of farms, farm families and cropland, adorned the large tents that housed maps and informational brochures from the Department of Agriculture and its partners in farmland preservation, including the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Connecticut Farmland Trust, the Town of Lebanon and the Working Lands Alliance.
“For more than three decades, Connecticut has been a national leader in preservation,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steven K. Reviczky, as he stood with Governor Dannel P. Malloy and Joyce Okonuk for a short dedication. “Today we pause to reflect on the good works of so many and give thanks to our elected leaders for their continued support, and to Connecticut’s farmers and others who have committed to protecting the working lands.” He is working to increase the number of farms protected per year with a goal of preserving 400 farms and 50,000 acres by 2020.
Connecticut leads New England in the growth of new farms over the past five years. “I am proud that we are able to help get farmers back in business and to get more acres into production,” said Governor Malloy. “Agriculture is part of our history and part of our culture and it must be preserved. It has to be a priority for the state.”