Continued from last week’s coverage on the Connecticut Agriculture Commission Conference.
John Waite, Executive Director of the Franklin County Community Development Corporation, greeted afternoon attendees following the lunch break at the the Third Annual Connecticut Agriculture Commission Conference on Saturday, April 5 in Hampton, CT. Waite manages the New England Food Processors in western Massachusetts, which processes raw ingredients from local farms to create value added product. Working agreements are made with each farmer selling to the processor. In season, this plant processes 2000-3000 lbs. of produce daily.
Care has been taken not to expand too rapidly, with the thought being that it is better to do a few products well rather than try to do many in a sub-par fashion. A unique feature of this plant is that the vegetables grown by a given grower are labeled with the farm of origin.
Winding up the day’s activities was the Local Initiatives to Develop Food Hubs panel. Darrow Vanderburgh-Wertz is a member of Wholesome Food and is affiliated with the hub located in Bridgeport. It functions to supply those who are in need of food with coupons redeemable for food at participating outlets. For those who have medical issues best addressed by dietary modification, there is a fruit and vegetable Rx program for which physicians can write a prescription. This program generates a significant amount of income for farmers and producers.
Jesse Stone from East Haddam is devoting her energy to the creation of a community garden with 12 acres already acquired for that purpose. The ultimate goal is to have a community ag center with strong emphasis on open space preservation.
Joe Dibbel wears at least a couple of hats within the Department of Agriculture. One of them is serving as the Director of the Regional Market. Joe reinforced the remarks made earlier in the meeting by the Commissioner regarding the renovations planned for that facility. This project can do nothing but bolster the marketing of all manner of agricultural goods if the plans now on the drawing board can be funded quickly.
Phoebe Godfrey is involved in the CLICK program in Willimantic. Phoebe is a professor in the sociology department at UConn. She brought forth some ideas from the group probing for the reasons for the poor dietary habits of so many people. CLICK (Commercially Licensed Cooperative Kitchen) is structured to assist those whose diets are marginal and whose culinary skills are poor to develop better eating habits with strong emphasis on locally grown produce.
Everyone took home something from this most informative conference. Modern means of instant communication can do much to disseminate information rapidly, but it cannot replace get-togethers such as this, where real people deliver information and the same people ask difficult questions.