CT NOFA Conference Strengthens Farming & Gardening Community

By Farah Masani

Farah Masani serving Barcelona's vegetarian paella loaded with seasonal vegetables to the hoards attending the CT NOFA conference.

On Saturday, March 2, some 1,000 farmers attended the CT Northeast Organic Farmers Association (NOFA) Conference at Wilton High school in Wilton, CT.

Imagine one thousand farmers under one roof…what a thrill!! Well, at least for me it was. The exchange of knowledge and techniques, the contributing of information. Most important was the sharing of old world, tried and tested methods of farming, passed on from one generation to the next.

Some of the topics included: lessons in business for farmers, sustainable living, food preservation, climate change, local home and school gardens, proper land use and care, small scale agriculture and basics in beekeeping.

One of the best parts of the conference was the coming together of the local farmers, vendors and restaurateurs. Eight Fairfield County restaurants served lunch to attendees, including Le Farm, Wave Hill Breads, The Schoolhouse at Cannondale, and Green Leaf Organic Bakery.

This conference was particularly special to me because there was a great momentum and excitement among the youth of the high school. You know something is popular and important when high school kids are talking about it, and are passionate about it. I even heard kids talking about it at Starbucks!

Barcelona Wine Bar participated in this event by sharing the centuries old Spanish tradition of paella. Our Culinary Director Adam Halberg made a vegetarian paella with cauliflower, brussels sprouts, mushrooms, and carrots, and a non-vegetarian paella featuring GourmAvian chicken.

We used chickens from GourmAvian Farms, a small, family farm in Bolton, CT. Gary Proctor, a second generation farmer and a graduate of Cornell with a degree in Animal Husbandry, is the perfect example of old world meets new world.  He grows different varieties of slow-growing, heritage (old world) chickens from Italy and France, honoring the tradition of foods that are locally grown with integrity, time and care for the animals.

These slow growing, free range birds have firm-textured, succulent, flavorful meat and take 12 to 15 weeks to grow to full size. Compare that to commercially raised birds, which are bred to grow to full size in seven weeks.

Gary’s birds are free range and fed antibiotic-free grain sourced from the CT Farmer’s Cooperative – a farmer-owned feed mill.

Mr. Proctor sells his chickens in CT, NY and MA. More information is available at gourmavian.com.

Farah Masani is a farmer living in Wilton, CT who, in addition to farming, is on the staff of Barcelona Restaurant Group where she is responsible for local sourcing. In July she launched the Barcelona Farmigo CSA program to provide the restaurant’s patrons and greater community with a convenient and flexible way to purchase more sustainably grown local food. Farah previously worked as a farm manager at Millstone Farm in Wilton.

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