As recently as the 1950s, Connecticut's gardeners and farmers produced about
half of the food its citizens ate. Now, just a tiny fraction of what we eat is
raised here. This shift has caused many changes in our environment, our health
and in the distribution of food.
A food system involves all the necessary steps to get food onto people's plates:
growing, harvesting, transporting, processing, packaging, wholesaling, retailing
and cooking. On a diverse organic farm, the food system can be as simple and
local as few vegetables, grains and animal products carried into the kitchen
from the fields and barns. Increasingly, however, Connecticut's food system is
global and very complex. Many foods are in fact a combination of ingredients
assembled from all over the world, industrially processed, and elaborately
packaged. Americans purchase more and more of their food, ready-to eat, after a
drive in their cars. Aside from the negative effects of increased energy-use,
the loss of knowledge about how to grow and cook food, and the disappearing
farms in our communities, there are other issues this recently evolved
long-distance food system raises. The USDA notes, "... a breakdown anywhere in
the system directly affects the lives of anyone interested in eating."
When that system includes third-world plantations, Swiss boardrooms, tobacco
companies, dangerous chemicals, Kuwaiti oil, genetically-engineered plants and
animals, increasingly unpredictable weather and animal confinement on a scale
beyond belief, we have reason to be concerned about the possibility of a
As our food comes from farther away, the issue of distribution becomes
increasingly important. Although food is abundant and often free in suburban
supermarkets, for many in our cities, food is expensive, hard-to-find and/or
increasingly fast, fatty and fake. The trend toward efficient distribution of
large quantities of processed foods through mass merchandisers often limits the
amount of food that goes to soup kitchens and homeless shelters, which find
their demand for food increasing. It takes the whole food system to feed
people, and increasingly, each part (the growing, the processing and the
marketing) is controlled by a shrinking number of very large global
corporations. Their single goal is to make more money for their stockholders
from their piece of the food system.
Most of our agricultural research has focused on increasing production to
provide very low-priced raw materials for the processed-food system. This has
devastated small farms everywhere.
Fortunately, for more than a decade, the Hartford Food System has been working
to create a local food production and distribution system which supports both
Connecticut farmers and Hartford's hungry. Under the able leadership of Mark
Winne, this non-profit organization has created a number of successful and
innovative programs which contribute to a more ecologically-sound and
The Hartford Food System has started farmers markets and community farm stands,
including the year-round Main Street Market. It operates a
community-supported-agriculture farm in Granby. This CSA supplies food to
suburban families and to non-profit organizations which serve Hartford's needy.
For the second year, its Farm Fresh Start program brings Connecticut produce
into Hartford school lunches, and brings farmers and chefs into the classroom to
teach children about the value of local and healthy eating.
The annual meeting of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Connecticut
(NOFA/CT) is proud to feature Mark Winne as keynote speaker tomorrow afternoon
at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station's Jones Auditorium in New
Haven. His talk, entitled "The Connecticut Food System: It's time to fix it," is
scheduled for 1:30. Mark is an entertaining and inspiring speaker and everyone
is welcome. Mark's talk will be preceded by NOFA's organic farmers market at
11:30 and a pot luck lunch which features the freshest and best food in
Connecticut at 12:30. Join us at no cost. It's a great opportunity to buy
vegetables from certified organic farmers, and to become an active part of a
more just and sensible food system here in Connecticut.
This is Bill Duesing, Living on the Earth
The Experiment Station is located at 123 Huntington Street, in New Haven,
between Whitney Avenue and Prospect Street not far from East Rock. (203)
789-7272. Bring a place setting for the pot luck. Beverages will be provided.
NOFA/CT can be contacted through Box 386, Northford, CT 06472, (203) 484-2445.
The Hartford Food System can be reached at 509 Wethersfield Avenue, Hartford, CT
06114, (860) 296-9325.
C1996, Bill Duesing, Solar Farm Education, Box 135, Stevenson, CT 06491
Bill and Suzanne Duesing operate the Old Solar Farm (raising NOFA/CT certified
organic vegetables) and Solar Farm Education (working on urban agriculture
projects in New Haven, Bridgeport, Hartford and Norwalk, CT). Their collection
of essays Living on the Earth: Eclectic Essays for a Sustainable and Joyful
Future is available from Bill Duesing, Box 135, Stevenson, CT 06491 for $14
postpaid. This essay first appeared on WSHU, public radio from Fairfield, CT.
New essays are posted weekly at http://www.wshu.org/duesing