local food

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.

Connecticut Seafood Survey Can Help Guide Industry

cover of Connecticut seafood survey publication

The final report from the Connecticut Seafood Survey: Assessing Seafood Consumption, Knowledge, Behaviors and Preferences of Connecticut Seafood is now published.

This new report from Connecticut Sea Grant includes findings from a survey of Connecticut residents about their seafood related consumption, knowledge, behaviors and preferences.

Read the report at: https://seagrant.uconn.edu/?p=6305

Looking for Open Farm Stands? Use this Map

map of open farms and farm stands in Connecticut

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, CT Northeast Organic Farming Association has partnered with the CT Dept of Agriculture to expand the list of farms, farmers’ markets, and farm stands beyond the current CT NOFA membership – free of charge and online. It is a joint effort to promote the availability of all Connecticut farmers who can provide food and other farm products in this time of crisis. Note: Read all signs and use caution when visiting farms, markets, and grocery stores and be sure to stay away from all food establishment if you feel sick. View the interactive map.

Maple Syrup Time in Connecticut

The sap is running and sugar houses are boiling. The maple syrup industry is alive and well when the weather cooperates, providing warm days and cold nights to signal the sugar maple trees to make sap. Maple syrup makers will have to collect 40 gallons of sap to boil down to make one gallon of syrup. March is filled with opportunities to visit sugar houses and festivals around the state.

 

For information about Connecticut Maple Syrup events follow the link below.

https://www.ctvisit.com/articles/maple-sugaring-connecticut?inf_contact_key=b3ed6f4a71d5c3886b582dba04ca631b

Some may be offering delivery or other options for products during current closures.

Rooting for Root Vegetables

illustration of root vegetables with the text root recipes under it

We’re rooting for winter with root recipes from our Put Local On Your Tray program. Visit https://putlocalonyourtray.uconn.edu/root-recipes/ to find some warm, filling and nutritious ideas for how to cook carrots, parsnips, beets, radish, or another root vegetable.

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

Job Opening – Communication Coordinator

rows of vegetables with black plastic

Job Opening – Communication Coordinator

(Accepting applications until Feb 12, 2020)

 

UConn Extension’s Sustainable Food Systems program is actively seeking to fill a newly created position of Communication Coordinator. This is an exciting opportunity for the right person who is versatile, responsive, and demonstrates an interest in local food and farms in Connecticut. 

Download the full job description and application instructions.

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.

Survey could help efforts to get more seafood eaten in CT

people eating seafood outside at picnic tables
Photo: Judy Benson

If you’re an average Connecticut resident, you probably didn’t eat seafood more than once in the last week.

But you might, if you knew more about how to prepare different types of fish, shellfish and seaweed, and where to buy local seafood. You’d also be inclined to have seafood more often if you knew more about its safety.

Those are some of the key findings of the Connecticut Seafood Survey, a 2½-year project to better understand current eating habits and how best to make of all types of seafood – but especially the shellfish, seaweed and fish from local waters – a more frequent part of state residents’ diets. Half the residents surveyed said they eat seafood just once a week – which is out of sync with the Food & Drug Administration’s recommendations. The FDA says adults should eat two or more servings per week to get all the nutritional benefits their bodies need.

Read more….

Article and photo by Judy Benson

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