Cultivating an Organic Connecticut

Bettylou Sandy teaching an Edibles in the Landscape workshop at CT NOFA's Cultivating an Organic Conference
Bettylou Sandy teaching an Edibles in the Landscape workshop at CT NOFA's Cultivating an Organic Conference

I spent Saturday with about 250 other guests at the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Connecticut’s (CT NOFA) Cultivating an Organic Connecticut conference. Well, I’m not a farmer, just a backyard gardener and avid green food enthusiast. There was plenty for me to enjoy at this event from beginning organic gardening (I’ve always bluffed my way through it) to edibles in the landscape (strawberries did great so what else was there?). How about snow peas followed by beans in a trellised pot at the corner of your driveway to block the ugly downspout? I can’t wait to order my seeds and implement her inspiring ideas.

The disappointing news I have to share is that the Local Food Dude, Tim Cipriano, who was supposed to talk at the first workshop was replaced by the head of culinary arts at Bloomfield High. It really would have been nice to know how a public school could actually source lots of food locally and still make their numbers. Sadly, it was not to be. Tim has moved on to New Haven and his replacement at the talk  admitted that only 1-5% of the school’s food is sourced locally. Some of that comes from the ag program at the school that grows greens aquaponically and the rest is DONATED. Yes, donated by local farms for them to use in their culinary arts program and then served in the cafeteria. Some food is grown in the school’s 15 raised beds. The culinary arts department takes all the locally grown food, cooks it up and serves it in the cafeteria.

Cow Post, the post you plant. Made in CT from 100% renewable composted cow manure.
Cow Pots, the pots you plant. Made in CT from 100% renewable composted cow manure.

Given that I won the Cow Pots in the event’s tea cup raffle,  I now have something “green” to start my seeds in. According to company’s web  site “CowPots are a revolutionary pot made with 100% renewable composted cow manure. CowPots are manure-fiber based seed starter pots, which allow for unrestricted root growth creating stronger, healthier plants and within 4 weeks of being planted in the ground, they dissolve and continue to feed the plant. These earth-friendly “pots you plant” are an exciting high-performing alternative to plastic and peat pots.” And they’re local to boot – made by two ingenious Connecticut dairy farmers, brothers Matt and Ben Freund, who are second generation dairy farmers in the northwest hills of Connecticut.

Back to the workshops. The warm and talented instructor from both garden workshops, Bettylou Sandy, will be leading a CT NOFA summer series of home gardener tours and educational workshops. Visit www.ctnofa.org to learn more or call 203-888-5146. Sometimes they’re slow to post event dates and details so here’s what’s available so far.

Garden Tour on June 13, 2009 form 10-3, location TBD, $20

Gardener Education Workshop Series, 6-8 pm, $30 each for members, $35 for non-members. Discount available for the series.

2 locations TBD

  • April 21 and 24  – Basic Organic Gardening
  • April 28 and 30 –  Designing your Vegetable Gardena dn Edibles in the Landscape
  • July 7 and 9 – Pruning Vegetables and Flowers
  • July 14 and 16 – Garden Problem Solving
  • August 18 and 20 – Season Extenders and Fall Crops in the Landscape

The take home message from Jim Roby, President of CT NOFA, is that “the security of a community lies in its ability to produce its own food.” We all need to be growing some of what we eat, even if it’s from a container on our windowsill or patio, school yard or community garden. I invite you to learn a little and grow a lot.

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