by George Looby
The Eastern Connectocit Resource, Conservation and Development Area, Inc. held its Annual Meeting on Monday, June 24 at the Tolland Agriculture Center located in Vernon, CT. President John Guszkowsky opened the meeting shortly after 11 a.m. citing some of the accomplishments of the past year. The organization has grown to encompass almost two thirds of the towns in the state and is ready to accept those in the western half of the state who are supportive of the mission of the organization. In its mission statement it states that it champions partnerships and initiatives that sustain our natural and agricultural resources while strengthening our economy. The vision of the organization is that it be recognized as a leader in promoting and facilitating the promotion and support of agriculture in eastern Connecticut.
President Guszkowsky reviewed the way in which the organization has grown and thanked all of those who played a part in that growth. He spoke about the emphasis that has been placed on soil health and the Agvocate program. A highlight of the morning’s activities was the recognition of the Partnership Award recipients. The president was recognized for his leadership role in bringing together the many groups that make up the organization and focusing them on achieving the goals of the Eastern CT RC&D. Also recognized were Heidi Cerrigione, Ray Covino and Dawn Pindell. Each of these individuals has played a significant role in advancing the cause and mission of the organization.
Election of officers for the upcoming year followed and the members chose to retain the present slate based on their performance over the past year. Re-elected were John Guszkowski, president; Lois Bruinooge, vice president; Margot Burns, secretary and Barbara Kelly, treasurer. The newly appointed Director of the Farm Service Agency, Bryan Hurlburt, spoke to the group about his role and his hopes for a successful tenure as he settles into his new position. Lisa Coverdale, newly appointed State Conservationist for the USDA, summarized her role in coordinating the many activities that fall under the umbrella of her section.
There are several activities that make up the goals of the organization, one of which is the promotion of the viability and profitability of Connecticut agriculture. Viable agriculture enhances the quality of life for the state’s residents through the strengthening of the economy, preserving cultural heritage, protecting natural resources and increasing food security. The environmental review team is another group within the organization whose activities will be reviewed in a moment. Fostering and developing greenways within the state is another focus of the RC&D. Greenways may be defined as corridors of open space that serve a variety of uses including scenic, historic and recreational. Assisting communities in becoming sustainable is yet another activity carried out by the organization with the goal of preserving the unique quality of life enjoyed by the citizens of eastern Connecticut.
Following an excellent catered lunch, Amanda Fargo-Johnson outlined for the group the present uses of the property that makes up Tolland Agricultural Center and plans for the newly preserved Gunther property which adjoins the Agricultural Center. Among the uses and functions currently in place are the Annual Tolland County4-H Fair, a Llama show, a wool/fiber show and a weekly antique auction. Future plans call for the development of a demonstration plot for area Master Gardeners, a rain garden, greenhouses and a turf plot featuring various management practices. The plans for the use of the Gunther property are currently in the exploratory stage with many excellent ideas being reviewed as to how best utilize this most valuable acquisition.
Amanda next gave the attendees an overview of a program called the Connecticut Environmental Review Teams (ERT), a program designed to assist communities in making appropriate environmental decisions. The make-up of the teams is as diverse as are the questions they are asked to study. Among those making up any given team may be soil scientists, archaeologists, foresters and recreational specialists among many others. The teams are funded by the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) with the Eastern CT ERT serving 86 towns in eastern Connecticut and the so-called King’s Mark Team serving the 83 towns in the western portion of the state. All recommendations of the teams are advisory in nature and are not mandatory or regulatory, all final decisions are left to the designated town board or commission. Making use of a team will usually help a town from making costly errors in their land use determinations.
Ray Covino, soil scientist in the Eastern Connecticut office of the USDA NRCS, gave a two part presentation addressing issues relating to soil health. Ray defined soil health as the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals and humans. It is estimated that by 2050 there will be 9 billion humans on this planet and the question is: how they will all be fed? Today 40 percent of the corn crop goes to the production of ethanol which is burned in gasoline. The question is whether this is the best possible use of this crop. Sequestration is a word getting a lot of play lately and in the area of soil science, carbon sequestration is viewed as critically important as it relates to the water holding capacity of the soil. The rule is that as soil carbon increases soil health increases. There are some fundamental rules by which good soil health can be returned and maintained. This list includes minimizing soil disturbance, maximizing the diversity of plants in a rotation, keeping living roots in the soil as much as possible, and keeping soil covered with plants or plant residue at all times.
The scope of the RC&D makes it an excellent resource to be used by any and all whose areas of interest and concern may fall within its overview.
by George Looby