Kip Kolesinskas, Consulting Conservation Scientist, talks about CT Farming: Past and Future
Despite being the fourth most densely populated states in the country, Connecticut is well suited for agriculture.
•Agriculture in Connecticut has always been diversified and innovative. The state was famous for growing red onions, for growing tobacco, and at one point the state raised more sheep than any other northeast state. We were the first commercial fruit growers, the first to plant corn hybrids, the first to establish an agricultural society and the first to create an extension service.
•How we planted: Seventy-five per cent of the land in Connecticut was cleared for farming and pasturing by the 1800s. By 2007, it was down to 2 million acres. Today, the state has 284,100 acres in cropland and pasture, almost as much as Vermont. Thirty-nine per cent of that is forested; 34 percent is agricultural fields and grass; 22 percent is developed with small farms within developments.
•Farmland is more than soil: It supports agricultural products, local economies, sustainability, habitat, biodiversity, flood storage and protection, scenic beauty, cultural resources and quality of life. Twenty-eight percent of the northeast’s food producer are beginner farmers; 14 percent of the nation’s food is generated in the Northeast.
•Complex soil landscape: Some of the state’s best soils are in flood plain areas. Our diversified climate is also good for growing different types of crops, this combination of soils and climates make our agriculture special and gives our food “terroir” – the flavor of the region.
- Recent Climate Changes: Warmer temperatures mean changes in plant hardiness, along with a longer growing season and more precipitation. All good indicators for Connecticut farmers.
- New England Production Capacity: Less than 10 percent of our fruits and veggies are produced here; and barely 50 per cent of milk and cheese. We can do better.
- We’re at the heart of the marketplace: Within 2 hours of Connecticut is New York and Boston. Local food is a trend, not a fad. The state is well positioned for this because historically our agriculture land has been expected to do so much beyond just growing one crop.
- The state’s farmers will excel: By using innovations, understanding the market for local foods, and using the support systems like those listed below:
CT Dept of Agriculture, Governor, Legislature, CT Congressional Delegation
CT Ag Experiment Station
UConn, UMASS, URI, UVM, UNH, Cornell, Yale
Agriscience programs, magnet/charter schools
USDA NRCS, FSA, RD as partners
S&W Conservation Districts, Eastern CT RC&D
Ag organizations, CTFB, CTNOFA, NEW CT Farmers Alliance
Land Trusts, National and State Conservation organizations
Ag Commissions, some municipal officials
Growing public interest and support