Last year, my husband and I subscribed to a season’s worth of produce from a local farm. Every Thursday one of us went over to collect that week’s pickings. In the beginning weeks we made a lot of jokes about bok choy and greens we’d never heard of. It had been two generations since people like us were relying on local food.
But by the time Thanksgiving came, and the frost was visiting that farm’s rows, we were attached to our routine of seeing what was growing that week. We were telling everyone we knew about Jerusalem artichokes—incredible nutty, crunchy roots native to southern New England—and relishing the last of the heirloom tomatoes, blackberry preserves, autumn olive jam (yes, made from the fruit of the invasive vine that chokes our highways) and—yes—bok choy.
When Connecticut’s local food movement started picking up steam only a few years ago, I wondered if it would only last a short time, or be a hobby for the rich. I was wrong. Each year more farms crowd the list of local growers and although Connecticut is not to the point where it could feed its population with local food, many thousands now are doing so. Community gardens and backyard gardens are on the rise, too.
Local food is good for society. It is fresher and therefore contains more vitamins and minerals. It reduces the numbers of trucks and planes importing food from afar. Food grown locally keeps more land in farming. It would be a dead state where the land is all lawns and buildings and asphalt. Finally, local food ensures that a critical mass of people understand how to feed ourselves even if an emergency blocked highways.
The state’s farms account for about 7 percent of the land, but farming acres increased slightly from 2002 to 2007 (according to the United States Census of Agriculture). An increase sounds promising, but some of that increase came from how shellfish beds are calculated, Connecticut’s Working Lands Alliance said.
The subscription produce my family ate last year came from a “CSA,” a farm that sells shares called Community Supported Agriculture. We joined dozens of others who helped keep that farm going with our installment payments. Every county has CSAs now—some more than others—and they are inspiring more people to grow vegetables, now that they know what they look like. At my house, I grow blueberries, tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers. This year I will experiment with all manner of greens because our CSA farmer has inspired me. I haven’t planted Jerusalem artichokes yet, but when the tubers can be bought in the fall, I’m putting in a patch.
Not all Connecticut farms are organic, and those that are organic sometimes choose to forego the onerous federal organic certification program. So, if you are unsure and want to know whether a farm uses chemicals or has certification, ask the farmers.
Madison Farmers’ Market
Friday, 3-6 pm., May 7-October 29
Madison Town Green
27 Meeting House Road
Dudley Market at the Dudley Farm
June 5-October 23
Corner of Routes 80 and 77
2351 Durham Road