Connecticut grown

CT Grown for CT Kids Week

apple and pear crunchOctober is National Farm to School Month – a time to recognize and celebrate the connections within communities to fresh, healthy food and local food producers by changing food purchasing and education practices at schools and early care and education sites. With fewer than two percent of Americans living on farms, the U.S. population continues to be more removed from the agricultural practices that sustain them. Programs and activities surrounding farm to school help to bridge the gap while fostering new relationships.

“Farm to school is a holistic approach to engaging students in experiential learning about food and where it comes from. It is a farmer delivering local food to a student’s lunch tray, as well as learning about that farmer and the communities that feed us; it’s all encompassing,” said Nyree Hodges, CT Farm to School Collaborative Coordinator. “The opportunities for cross-curricular integration are endless, even in a virtual learning environment. It bridges school and community by giving students agency to play an active role in improving our food system.”

Here in Connecticut, October 5-9 is CT Grown for CT Kids Week. Started in 2006 as a joint effort between the State Department of Education and Department of Agriculture, this week aims to celebrate and support local agriculture, public education, and their community commitment to the importance of healthy, nutritious meals in schools. Each year, legislators, food service directors, farmers, and students gather through farm to school activities and consumption of local products.

“The Connecticut Farm to School program ensures access to nutritious, delicious Connecticut Grown food for students while increasing market access for farmers throughout the state,” said Agriculture Commissioner, Bryan P. Hurlburt. “CT Grown for CT Kids Week highlights the abundance of locally produced foods in an engaging and fun way for families to establish healthy eating practices.”

While many of the activities this year will look different due to COVID-19, it’s also an opportunity to honor all who contribute to feeding children and their communities – farmers, harvesters, food hub distributors, school nutrition professionals, educators and many others.

“You can’t learn if you’re hungry. Ensuring continued access to nutritious meals provides a critical lifeline and stability for children and households grappling with food insecurity, health crises, job losses,

isolation, and adapting to new ways of learning,” said Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona. “In addition to teaching students about our food systems and where their meals come from, Farm to School month and CT Grown for CT Kids Week allows us to further celebrate the work of our farmers, food service heroes, and child nutrition partners to bring quality local foods to schools across the state – over 14 million since March.”

Students, families, and educators across Connecticut are invited to celebrate CT Grown for CT Kids Week by participating in the 5th annual HardCORE Apple and Pear Challenge. All you need is a Connecticut Grown apple or pear and to eat it down to its core. Post a photo or video to social media and use the hashtags #ctgrownforctkids and #applecrunch to be involved. Educational toolkits and more activities are available on the Put Local On Your Tray website.

“One of the best ways to reconnect to nature and healthy living is to consume foods grown in your own environment. Our bodies are designed to have that proximal relationship with our food,” said Herb Virgo, Founder and Executive Director of Keney Park Sustainability Project. “CT Grown for CT Kids Week is a great way to educate students and their families on the importance of local food consumption while supporting the local economy.”

According to a 2015 USDA Farm to School Census, 70% of Connecticut schools surveyed participate in farm to school activities. They invested more than $7.2 million in local food and 51% of the Connecticut districts surveyed planned to increase local food purchases in the future.

In 2016, the CT Farm to School Collaborative (F2S Collaborative) was convened. The F2S Collaborative is a multi-stakeholder partnership whose function is to pursue projects together that no one partner could do alone. Participating organizations represent the variety of stakeholders needed for collaborative work on Farm to School, including: Department of Agriculture, Department of Energy & Environmental Protection, UConn Extension, School Nutrition Association of CT, FoodCorps CT, New England Food & Dairy Council, Common Ground, and Hartford Food System.

Why We Need Local Food in our Schools

Robert Schacht photo of him talking about local food in Connecticut schools

Who wants local food in schools, and why? We’re partnering with 81 school districts in Connecticut through our Put Local On Your Tray program, and helping them to source local food from Connecticut farms. This short video explains the importance of local food in our schools:
 
#UConnImpact

Dress your Table with Connecticut Grown this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving meal featuring Connecticut Grown foodsPreparations are underway in many homes for the Thanksgiving holiday. Governor Ned Lamont and Connecticut Department of Agriculture Commissioner Bryan P. Hurlburt would like to recognize the many hands that play a role in putting food on your table, including the more than 5,500 farm families in Connecticut.

“Connecticut farmers are an essential segment of our state’s economy—but also a critical component to the wonderful food that many of us gather around each Thanksgiving,” Governor Lamont said. “That is why, when preparing for this year’s Thanksgiving dinner, consider using Connecticut Grown products–from delicious turkey to incredible deserts and other beverages, Connecticut farmers provide families with affordable and nutritious food options. Make this year a true Connecticut Thanksgiving with Connecticut Grown.”

According to the National Turkey Federation, 46 million turkeys are eaten each Thanksgiving. Now is the time to place your order for a Connecticut Grown turkey. More than a dozen Connecticut turkey producers can be found at www.ctgrown.gov offering fresh or frozen, heritage or grass-fed, pastured raised birds. Nearly all of the ingredients for your appetizers, sides, beverages, and desserts can be found by stopping by a holiday farmers’ market, farm stand, farm winery, brewery, or your local grocery store that features products from neighboring farms.

“From a Connecticut Grown turkey to potatoes, winter squash, Brussel sprouts, root vegetables, cranberries, greens, cheese, milk, beer and wine, we can, and do, produce it here,” says Department of Agriculture Commissioner Bryan P. Hurlburt. “Farmers are the backbone of our nation and we are fortunate to have a diverse array of agriculture in Connecticut creating a bountiful harvest.”

If you are looking for ways to prepare your Connecticut Grown food, there are hundreds of recipes on our Pinterest board for you to try. We have you covered with traditional dishes, modern twists on a long-time favorites, and ideas for using up leftovers. Find those recipes, and more, by clicking here: https://www.pinterest.com/GrowCTAg/boards/

As you sit down with family and friends to celebrate all that you are thankful for, remember to thank a farmer.

Red, White & Blueberries

Celebrate our Nation’s Independence with Connecticut Grown Food

Connecticut grown strawberries, cheese, and blueberriesAs you celebrate our nation’s independence this Fourth of July, choose Connecticut Grown foods for your holiday gatherings. “Farmers are the backbone of our nation and we are fortunate to have a diverse array of agriculture in Connecticut,” said Bryan P. Hurlburt, Connecticut Department of Agriculture Commissioner. “Stop by your local farm store or farmers’ market as you prepare for the holiday weekend. Your purchase will support a local family business and nothing tastes as good as fresh, local, Connecticut Grown food on your picnic table.”

Berries are in full swing with blueberries and raspberries just starting and strawberries finishing up. Combine all three to create delicious desserts, salads and even breakfast casseroles. We’ve pulled together some of our favorite recipes from triple berry trifles to spinach berry salad on our Connecticut Grown Pinterest page with a “4th of July Treats” board featuring an array of red, white and blue dishes.

This holiday weekend also heralds the availability of sweet corn. While the early spring weather has put sweet corn a few days behind schedule, some farmers started picking this past weekend in anticipation of the upcoming holiday to stock farm stands. Others, like Dave Burnham of Burnham Farms in East Hartford, CT, will have it available this weekend. “Starting Saturday we will have sweet corn available,” he said. Stop by a farm stand or farmers’ market to pick up early butter and sugar sweet corn.

For the grill masters, Connecticut farmers offer a range of meats including chicken, lamb, and beef, as well as, bison and turkey. Whether you prefer wings, steak, burgers or sausage, rest assured there is something for everyone.

Use local honey or maple syrup to make your own marinade and toss together a salad using fresh Connecticut Grown greens as a healthy side. Find a meat, vegetable, honey and maple syrup producer near you at www.ctgrown.gov.

If a clambake is more your style, Connecticut’s coastline is home to an abundance of seafood, including oysters and clams. Shellfishing is an important component of Connecticut’s economy along with recreation and tourism industries. When selecting shellfish look for names such as Copps Island, Stella Mar, Mystics, and Ram Island or places including Fishers Island Sound, Noank, Norwalk and Thimble Islands.

Complete your appetizer trays with an award-winning Connecticut cheese and include ice cream, yogurt or milk from a Connecticut dairy farm family in your desserts.  Don’t forget to visit a Connecticut farm winery or brewery for your favorite adult beverage to enjoy responsibly with friends and family.

From all of us at the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, we wish you a happy and safe Fourth of July celebration.

Article and photo: Connecticut Department of Agriculture

Connecticut Grown Strawberries Ripe for Picking

fresh Connecticut grown strawberries in containers at a farm standFresh from the field, Connecticut Grown strawberries are now ripening and ready to eat. Strawberries are the first fruit available in Connecticut and signal the arrival of summer for many residents who look forward to visiting one of the state’s pick-your-own farms.

“Visiting a Connecticut strawberry patch to pick your own is a wholesome, family fun activity,” said Bryan P. Hurlburt, Connecticut Department of Agriculture Commissioner. “This type of activity supports local farms and farm families while generating millions of dollars in agritourism for the state’s economy. And, the best part of it all is that you get fresh Connecticut Grown strawberries to eat at home.” 

While it’s early in the season, producers are reporting that picking is quite good. “Despite the amount of record breaking rain in April and early May, the strawberries crop is now experiencing excellent weather for maturing to ripening. The season is off to a great start and it appears that the production will be right in line for a successful strawberry season,” said Nancy Barrett, owner of Scantic Valley Farm in Somers, CT.

It’s a good idea to call ahead, or check the farms website, for daily updates as weather conditions impact availability. Sweet and juicy strawberries are also available now at farmers’ markets and farm stands throughout the state. Find one near you at www.CTGrown.gov/strawberry.

When ripe, strawberries smell wonderful and taste even better. As members of the rose family, this perennial plant is a good source of vitamin C, manganese, folate, and potassium. They are also loaded with antioxidants.

Strawberries should be plump and firm with a bright red color and natural shine. The color and fragrance of the berry, not size, are the best indicators of flavor. Once you get your strawberries home, wash them and cut the stem away to store in a cool place. If you plan to keep them in the fridge for a few days, wait to clean them until you plan to eat them. Rinsing them speeds up spoiling.

Strawberries can be used to make jams, jellies, shortcake, pie and more. They can also be pickled, especially when picked green or unripe, or frozen to use later in smoothies. Find more recipe ideas to create your own delicious dishes by visiting our Pinterest page at https://www.pinterest.com/GrowCTAg/.

Make plans to visit a Connecticut strawberry patch this weekend to create lasting memories and delicious, healthy dishes.

Article by Connecticut Department of Agriculture

Locally Sourced Food – Even in Mid-Winter

By Diane Wright Hirsch, MPH

Senior Extension Educator, Food Safety

 

vegetablesAfter a not-so-local food-filled holiday season (including, I must confess, raspberries, grown somewhere in South America, in a fruit salad), it might be a good time to get back on track. Though it can be more difficult in the winter, eating locally sourced foods is far from impossible in these mid-late winter months.

Eating seasonally can get a bit tedious over the long hard winter if your supply is limited by either amount or variety. But, many farmers are now extending their growing seasons with greenhouses, high tunnels and other production methods. You may find the fruits of their winter labor at a winter farmers’ market near you. Actually, there are at least 9 of these markets in the state—one is likely not far from you. Included are the Fairfield Winter Market; the Litchfield Hills Farmers’ Market in Litchfield; the New Milford Farmers’ Market; CitySeed’s indoor farmers’ market in New Haven; Stonington Winter Farmers’ Market; Coventry, Ellington, and Storrs Winter Farmers’ Markets in Tolland County; and Stonington Farmers’ Market. Check with the local market near you for hours, days and times: they are easily searchable on the internet. Some meet only once or twice a month, others continue to be open weekly.

Keep in mind that shopping at the farmers’ market in the winter is different than in the summer—or than in a super market in the winter. The food choices will be different. You might find beets, carrots, celeriac/celery root, Jerusalem artichokes, kohlrabi, parsnips, potatoes, radishes, rutabagas, salsify, sweet potatoes, turnips, and winter squash. If you are not familiar with, let’s say, kohlrabi or rutabaga, type the name into your favorite search engine (or leaf through a good general cookbook) and you will be sure to find a tasty recipe or two.

You might also discover Belgian endive, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, chicories, curly endive (frisée), escarole, kale, radicchio, and spinach or other greens that are being produced in high tunnels or greenhouses.

Hearty leafies like escarole, chicories, endive and radicchio make a great base for a winter salad.  Because they have stronger flavors than the usual romaine or ice berg, they make a great base for other seasonal foods. Try escarole or arugula with pears and walnuts. Or try making a coleslaw with red cabbage and shredded kale—it is really delicious with dried cranberries or chunks of fresh apple added.

Flavor your winter veggies with leeks, onions and shallots. They can pretty much all be used interchangeably, but there are subtle flavor and pungency differences that may lead the eater to favor one over another. Try them raw, in salads; cooked, in just about any soup, stew, stir fry or casserole; or roasted, alone or mixed with other winter vegetables.

Winter fruits and vegetables are not the only edibles to be found at the winter markets.  Connecticut producers of beef, lamb, pork, chicken and even, in one market, duck, are found at all of the winter markets. Pick up potatoes, carrots, onions and beef or lamb for a Connecticut grown stew! Connecticut shoreline sourced seafood, including clams and lobster, is sold at several markets. Eggs, milk, yogurt and a wide array of artisan/farmstead cheeses are available as well. Locally produced animal protein foods can be a bit more pricey than the supermarket variety, but one taste and you will know that is was worth it. Give them a try and you will be hooked.

Finally, you might be lucky enough to find maple syrup, honey, locally produced cornmeal, dried beans, or pasta sauces made from Connecticut grown tomatoes, pickles and relishes made from a variety of vegetables from local farms.

And, keep in mind that the mid-winter diet calls for some seasonal vitamin C. While not grown locally, citrus fruits are certainly a seasonal food. It makes sense to add them to your grocery list at this time of year-even if you know they won’t be found at your local farmers’ market. First of all they provide vitamin C and other nutrients that might be difficult to find in a limited seasonal diet. Look for those grown in the US, including Texas, Florida, Arizona, and California, if that will make you feel better (local can be defined as you see fit, here!). Sliced oranges are great in winter salads made of a mixture of radicchio, escarole and endive. The sweetness of the oranges offsets the bitterness of the greens. Finish with some balsamic vinegar and a little olive oil. You can also use dried cherries or cranberries in this salad along with some walnuts or pecans.

Sprinkle orange juice over cooked beets or carrots, or use the rind in cranberry bread. Limes and their juice are often used in recipes that are Indian, Central American or Caribbean in origin. A bit of lime juice along with a handful of cilantro will make a black bean soup even better.

For more information on eating locally and seasonally, contact the Home and Garden Education Center at ladybug@uconn.edu or 1-877-486-6271 for more information.

The Dean’s Chair

Article by Tom Worthley

bench tag
Photo: Defining Studios

Sometime early in 2016 a sugar maple tree died somewhere on campus and was removed by the UConn arborist crew. Knowing that our UConn student Forest Crew runs a portable bandsaw mill on occasion, arborist John Kehoe arranged to have some of the larger logs from the tree dropped off at the wood yard, thinking they might be of interest.

The logs remained there on the ground throughout the summer while the Forest Crew worked on other projects.

In October of 2016, for the annual Cornucopia fest, the Forest Crew set up their portable band saw mill on the corner of the quad as part the Forestry exhibit and to conduct a sawmilling demonstration. Needing logs for the demonstration, Professor Worthley suggested that the crew, “Bring over a couple of those old maple logs that have been laying around.”

Now, some sawyers will tell you that making the first cut into a sawlog can be like opening a gift package – sometimes you find something special – and such was the case here. The maple lumber from this not-so-special log exhibited some very interesting figure and color and a bit of “spalting” (a black meandering line that can be seen in spots), all characteristics that are prized and valued by woodworkers. The lumber was stored away in the shed to wait for some special purpose to present itself (or, perhaps, for some wealthy wood-working customer to come along).

Dean with chair
Photo: Defining Studios

When Dean Weidemann announced his retirement and with that announcement came the topic of a recognition gift, the question arose as to whether something could be made from “UConn wood”, and lo and behold, a special purpose presented itself. So pieces of the Cornucopia-fest maple were loaded onto the old Ford pickup and delivered to the artisans and craftsmen at City Bench, in Higganum. There they were kiln-dried, planed, turned, book-matched and assembled into the bench we are proud to present today.

The “Product of UConn Forest” and “Connecticut Grown” brands provide recognition that raw materials in this item were locally grown and produced following sustainable forest management practices.

Eat Local This Thanksgiving

turkeyThanksgiving is right around the corner. Did you know that you can buy a Connecticut grown turkey? Check out the Buy CT Grown guide to Connecticut turkeys. Even if you don’t eat a Connecticut grown turkey, there are lots of great suggestions for how to add some local flavor to your holiday meal. Check out the recipes for sweet corn casserole and pumpkin muffins at the bottom of the page.

Pledge to go 10% Local

ipad-landscape

The Live Local! App invites consumers to discover and experience Connecticut’s local food and agriculture. Take the pledge to spend ten percent of your food and gardening dollars on locally grown products.

With the Live Local! App you can:

  • Find out the season’s top ten
  • Get the lowdown on food and farm events
  • Share pictures of in season goodies
  • Take the 10% pledge
  • Instantly log your spending