Courtney, Murphy, Blumenthal Announce $600,000 Grant To Help Connecticut's New Farmers
LEBANON — U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and U.S. Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-2) announced on Thursday that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded the University of Connecticut (UConn) a $597,598 federal grant through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program to assist Connecticut’s new farmers. Due to a lack of funding, UConn had to stop offering training programs last year. With this new federal funding, UConn will be able to restart the program and provide support, education, mentoring, and technical assistance to beginning farmers.
Earlier today, Murphy visited Sweet Acre Farm in Lebanon – which was founded in 2011 by owners Jonathan Janeway and Charlotte Ross – to hear firsthand how the UConn program helped them get Sweet Acre Farm up and running.
“Connecticut farming is booming and more and more farmers are making a living off the land. But access to money and training can be hard to come by, and new and aspiring farmers need our help” said Murphy. “I’m thrilled that UConn will now be able to relaunch their program and get Connecticut’s aspiring farmers the tools and resources they need to break into the industry. This program works – I saw it firsthand during my visit to Sweet Acre Farm earlier today – and I will continue to use my seat on the Appropriations Committee to get Connecticut farmers they funding they deserve. This is the smartest investment we can make in the future of Connecticut’s agricultural industry.”
Blumenthal said, “Farmers like Jonathan and Charlotte are the next generation of our state's proud agricultural community-- a key part of our state's economy. I welcome this major federal investment in Connecticut's farmers, helping to ensure the newest, beginning farmers have the skills and support they need to grow sustainable and strong businesses.”
“The USDA ‘beginning farmers’ grant is great news not only for student farmers at UConn, but for the entire Connecticut farming community,” said Courtney. “We should be doing everything we can to support young people who want to enter this field of work in order to maintain Connecticut’s traditional farming industry.”
UConn’s program, called “Advancing the Business of Farming in Connecticut in Partnership with Agriculture Learning Centers”, will integrate the expertise and current training programs of UConn Extension and six state-wide agricultural partners to provide targeted training, mentoring, and one-on-one technical assistance customized to beginning farmers in Connecticut. Trainings will be focused on a wide range of topics, including business and financial management, farmland access, marketing, and fruit/vegetable production. UConn began offering training and mentorship to beginning farmers through a similar grant in 2012 and has been actively working to grow and engage this segment of Connecticut’s agricultural community.
Murphy, Blumenthal, and Courtney recently joined U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro (CT-3) in hosting U.S. Department of Agriculture Acting Deputy Secretary Michael Scuse for a roundtable where they connected Connecticut’s new and beginning farmers to federal assistance programs. The members of Congress also recently applauded Senate Appropriations Committee passage of the FY2017 Agriculture Appropriations bill, which allocates nearly $34 million to assist young and beginning farmers.
In Connecticut, one in four principal farm operators are considered “beginning farmers”, meaning they are operating a farm with less than 10 years of experience. Between 2007 and 2012, Connecticut experienced a 15.1% increase in the number of principal farm operators with less than 10 years of experience – one of the largest increases in the nation.