Windham County Farm Service Agency in Connecticut has taken an innovative approach to connect consumers with their local farmer.
Through the state’s AGvocate program — a program designed to make farming viable in Connecticut towns — the agency received funding to promote agriculture by creating committees and commissions to help residents understand the importance of supporting local farmers.
“We started off holding community meetings and discussing what these communities can do to expand, enhance and protect agriculture in their town,” said Dawn Pindell, FSA communications coordinator and one of the founding members of the program. “Before this effort there were no agriculture commissions, now most of the towns have active commissions.”
In fact, 14 towns in the county have joined the program and launched various programs and events. “We created brochures working with each town to showcase their agriculture products and services,” said Pindell. “We also developed a ‘Farms in our Community’ brochure and a ‘Living Next to a Farm’ brochure to teach residents how to be a good neighbor to a farmer in 10 easy steps.”
FSA hosted a workshop and regional forum along with the Future Farmers of America at the Killingly High School and Regional Vocational Agriculture School to share the value and need of agriculture in the community and to also give farmers an opportunity to get to know their customers.
The newly formed Canterbury Agriculture Commission hosted a tour of the Wanungatuck Farm to share the benefits of having the land protected through the Purchase of Development Rights Program to help preserve farmland. Nearly 100 residents participated.
The Town of Brooklyn hosts a weekly farmers market and regularly promotes its meetings throughout the community. “They invite a local farmer or agricultural service person to each of their monthly meetings and invite residents to learn more about the goods and services in their community,” said Pindell. “All of the towns in the program host activities that encourage the networking of farmers and supporting local farms.”
The program’s success has been recognized by the state’s Working Lands Alliance. Last year, the AGvocate Program received the organization’s Pathfinder Award for working to preserve farmland.
“The program is making great strides and continues to expand on the ‘Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food’ concept,” said Pindell.