Connecticut is seeing an increase in the number of new farmers. The number of start-ups has grown by 15 percent from 2007.
On Monday the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Acting Deputy Secretary Michael Scuse and other legislators met with some of the state’s new farmers at the Hartford Regional Market. The goal is to help grow their businesses.
With the aging farmer population, lawmakers want to make sure the Connecticut farming industry continues to expand. Recently the Senate Appropriations Committee passed a bill that includes $34-million in federal programs to assist beginning farmers.
Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Michael Scuse is hoping that will inspire the next generation.
"We’re going to have to increase food production over the next 35 years by 70-percent," Scuse told farmers at the meeting. "And we’re going to need creative young people who are willing to embrace science and technology to meet that growing demand for food."
In Connecticut beginning farmers face several challenges — farmland is expensive and the farm economy is still developing. Jamie Jones of Jones Family Farms in Shelton said an additional challenge is convincing young people they can make a decent living, but consumers also play a role, he said.
"It’s a lot of hard work, but people have to recognize the value of food and pay a fair price for it," he said.
Lorren Pogson, who works with her family on Mountain View Farm in Farmington, and owns Maizey’s Market farm stand, said people don’t generally think of farm land when they think of Connecticut. But they should.
"Driving through Hartford today, I’m looking up and I’m looking at all these billboards and I’m like, why is this fast-food chain up here?" she said. "Why is this beer company up here? That’s cool, but why aren’t the farmers being celebrated? Because someone’s growing that hops. I grow hops too. Someone’s growing that barley and that’s us. Those are the farmers."
Some of the other issues raised at the Hartford Regional Market meeting were how to meet the needs of ethnic groups, gaining access to markets, and obtaining technical expertise.