| Hartford, Connecticut, November 20, 2008—Farmers, legislators, conservation and food security organizations and state agency officials gathered at the Capitol in Hartford on Wednesday for a locally-grown lunch and annual meeting of the Working Lands Alliance—a coalition of more than 200 organizations and businesses working together to highlight the need to save Connecticut’s valuable and vanishing farmland. The Working Lands Alliance (WLA) is a project of American Farmland
The event showcased local foods to underscore the strong link between local food and farmland protection. The luncheon featured a mix of fall harvest dishes prepared by students and chefs at from Bloomfield High School Agri-Science and Culinary Arts Program, New Haven Public Schools Food Service, and University of Connecticut Local Routes program. The popular ‘Dinners at the Farm’ chefs attended; Jonathan Rapp of the River Tavern and Drew McLachlan of FEAST catering served a braised brisket with potatoes, cabbage and apples. Jiff Martin, Project Director of the WLA said: “The diversity of local food and culinary talent at the event was inspiring!”
Representatives Craig Miner (R-CT 66) and Richard Roy (D-CT 119) were honored at the meeting for their legislative leadership on behalf of agriculture and farmland in 2008. Awards had an agricultural flavor: Miner received a “caring cauliflower” award, while Roy received a carton of The Farmers Cow milk to complement his white moustache. Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Gina McCarthy, who recently bemoaned the 2000 food miles typically traveled by broccoli in the United States, was presented with a head of Shelton, CT-grown broccoli from farmer and WLA Chair Terry Jones.
Also receiving awards from WLA and the Connecticut Trustees of the Eastern States Exposition for their contributions to farmland preservation were: Linda Francois of Cooper, Whitney, Cochran & Francois (outstanding individual); the New Milford Farmland Preservation Committee (outstanding group); and the “Dinners at the Farm” series created by chefs Jonathan Rapp and Drew McLachlan (educational leader).
Cris Coffin, AFT’s New England Director and vice-chair of WLA, introduced the coalition’s legislative agenda for 2009. The coalition will urge state leaders in January to maintain the state’s current financial commitment to farmland protection and to strengthen state law to reduce the loss of farmland from state-sponsored projects. “We realize that this is a difficult budget climate, but farmland protection is a critical public investment,” says Coffin. “An acre of farmland lost to development is not just one less acre available for future food needs, but an acre lost for water filtration, flood prevention, carbon sequestration and renewable energy production.”
Commissioner of Agriculture Philip Prelli noted that his agency is currently receiving up to four applications per month to the Farmland Protection Program – the highest level of interest in the program in over a decade - and that most of these applications represent highly-productive land.
The keynote speaker, George Hindinger of Hindinger Farm in Hamden, said that his father and grandfather’s decision to protect their land in 1979—making the farm one of the very first to be enrolled in the state program—“might have had the most far-reaching effect of any decision that’s ever been made about the long-term future of the farm.” Hindinger spoke of his family’s progression from wholesale to retail farm marketing, noting the benefits of living in a town with 52,000 consumers. Hindinger also expressed confidence in the experience and talent represented on the newly created Farmland Preservation Advisory Board, which he currently chairs. The Board works with the Commissioner of Agriculture to review the state’s progress toward meeting farmland protection goals.
Terry Jones, WLA chair, presented WLA Project Director Jiff Martin with a “golden potato” for her hard work on behalf of the coalition, noting that early Spaniards who had come to South America in search of gold had left instead with something they realized was more valuable—the potato. Declared Martin: “It was one of the best annual meetings WLA has ever had. Serving a delicious locally-grown meal prepared by chefs and students who worked hand-in-hand with the farmers who grew the food helped highlight the need for farmland protection.”
American Farmland Trust is the nation's leading conservation organization dedicated to protecting farmland, promoting sound farming practices and keeping farmers on the land. Since its founding in 1980 by a group of farmers and citizens concerned about the rapid loss of farmland to development, AFT has helped save millions of acres of farmland from development and led the way for the adoption of conservation practices on millions more.
AFT's national office is located in Washington, DC. Phone: 202-331-7300. For more information, visit www.farmland.org.