Agriculture has been changing in Connecticut, a quiet revolution that’s not just about legal cannabis. As the UConn banquet demonstrated, there are changes in what is grown. Along with traditional dairy, orchard fruits, tobacco, and ornamentals, growers are now producing everything from kohlrabi to kelp, choi to chard, and many others.
There also is much more direct-to-consumer marketing and sales. There are new business models, such as co-ops, and new farm industries and technologies, such as anaerobic digesters. Urban agriculture — small growing centers in cities — is on the upswing.
The thing that hasn’t changed much is who farms. The industry skews older and overwhelmingly white. According to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, less than 3% of the state’s farmers identify as Black, Indigenous, or a person of color (BIPOC), while about a third (depending on who is included in the count) of the overall state population so identifies.
“There is room for improvement,” said Agriculture Commissioner Bryan P. Hurlburt, with purposeful understatement. “There’s been a change in what is grown. Now we need to increase the diversity of who is growing,” said Hurlburt. Improvement may be on the way.
In 2021, the department created a working group that has spent two years developing recommendations on how to engage and support current and future BIPOC farmers. Their report is expected soon, with a number of proposals involving access to land, training, capital, and other resources.
Read more at ctmirror.org