Don’t assume that a farm is closed to customers just because it’s winter. If the CT Grown farm near you has greenhouses on the property, they’ll likely still have their products available at their farm store, or at a winter farmers’ market or grocery store.
Greenhouses play a major role in sustaining CT Grown products throughout the year, representing one-third of the state’s agricultural activity. At last count, Connecticut had 12.7 million square feet of commercial greenhouse space!
Read on to learn about what CT Grown products are available year-round thanks to greenhouses. You can also read our previous articles on hydroponic farms and mushroom farms.
Flower cultivation is one of the strongest agricultural sectors in Connecticut, and greenhouses allow these farmers to offer beautiful, fresh bouquets any time of the year. And since greenhouse conditions can be adjusted to create warmer growing conditions, it’s also possible to produce ornamental flowers that wouldn’t be able to grow in Connecticut’s typical outdoor climate.
Look for the CT Grown label on floriculture products like:
- Cut flowers
- Potted plants
- Indoor foliage
- Bedding or garden plants
Protected fruits and vegetables
While the majority of greenhouses in Connecticut support the state’s vibrant floriculture industry, there are also more than 150 farms that grow fruits and vegetables under glass or other protection. This enables CT Grown farmers and producers to continue providing a steady supply of food to stores and winter farmers’ markets throughout the year.
Greenhouses are large enough to support fruiting trees and other crops that need more vertical space. Farmers have also used other protective methods—such as hoop houses, row covers, and high tunnels—to warm the soil, shelter crops from the wind and cold, and extend their growing seasons.
Crops that can be found earlier in the year, or even throughout the year, due to greenhouses and other protective structures include:
- Salad greens
Explore Connecticut’s greenhouses
There are nearly 600 commercial greenhouses located throughout Connecticut. To find one near you, visit the CT Grown map.
Whether you use them in a stir fry, on a pizza, or with a meat entree, mushrooms are a terrific way to add extra flavor and nutrients to a dish. And you don’t have to go far to find them — mushrooms are a CT Grown crop whose harvest season never ends!
Mushrooms thrive in indoor growing environments, allowing farmers—and consumers—to constantly be collecting them. Read on to find out where you can find CT Grown mushrooms and how you can add them to your dinner plan.
Popular CT Grown mushroom varieties
Indoor farming allows for the production of numerous varieties of mushrooms. Here’s a look at some of the most popular options, and how you can prepare them.
Lion’s mane: A favorite in gourmet cooking, lion’s mane mushroom has a tender texture and juicy flavor that is often compared to seafood. Naturally, this makes it a good choice to accompany dishes like lobster, crab, and scallops — or to serve as a non-meat alternative to these choices in vegetable dishes.
Maitake: Offers a rich taste described as earthy and peppery. It pairs well with vegetable dishes, and is also a good choice for savory entrees like steak.
Morel: With a nutty, earthy flavor, morel mushrooms are a great side dish on their own. They also do an excellent job strengthening the flavors in pasta dishes.
Oysters: A common mushroom with a mild flavor, oyster mushrooms are an easy way to add more nutrients to a meal. There are several different varieties of this mushroom, such as blue oyster and golden oyster, offering subtle differences in flavor.
Shiitake: One of the most popular types of mushroom, shiitake is intensely flavorful with an earthy, buttery taste. It works well as its own dish, on pizza, or with meat or fish.
Explore Connecticut’s mushroom farms
Mushrooms are a fast-growing industry in Connecticut, with USDA statistics showing the number of mushroom farms in the state tripling between 2012 and 2017. Some CT Grown mushroom farms include:
Are you in the mood for fresh, local produce but don’t think you’ll be able to get it until Connecticut’s fields and gardens come out of hibernation? Think again! With farmers increasingly taking advantage of indoor farming, you can find CT Grown fruits and vegetables throughout the winter.
In this series of articles, we explore the different ways Connecticut farmers are continuing to supply their farm stores, winter farmers’ markets, and grocery stores with fresh produce. Today, we’ll see how innovative methods like hydroponic farms are extending the harvests of several fruits and vegetables.
Which crops grow well indoors?
Indoor farming allows the growing seasons for certain items to last the whole year, or nearly so. The CT Grown crop calendar says these vegetables include:
- Greens, including beet greens, collards, mustard greens, salad greens, and turnip greens
Indoor farming methods have also been successful in producing crops like celery, cucumbers, eggplant, herbs, peppers, squash, strawberries, tomatoes, and zucchini.
How can plants grow indoors?
Indoor farms rely on artificial lighting along with careful monitoring and control of water, nutrients, and other plant needs. Vertical farming practices are used to stack layers of crops on top of one another, maximizing the use of the space available in a structure.
Unlike traditional farming, indoor farming can be done without the use of soil. Hydroponic systems use a water-based nutrient medium instead of soil to grow crops, while aeroponic systems simply have a plant’s root systems dangle in the air. Aquaponic systems pair a hydroponic operation with an aquaculture farm, using its water to raise fish or other aquatic species.
Since indoor farms can be located in a wide variety of structures, they can be located closer to population centers — reducing the time it takes to bring products to market.
Explore Connecticut’s hydroponic farms
Hydroponic farms in Connecticut include:
“I don’t think I need a box of vegetables every week.”
It’s a leading concern we hear from people who aren’t sure if they’ll benefit from joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program. They worry that their CSA will have more vegetables than they can use each week (or that it won’t have the kind of produce they’ll use), resulting in wilted vegetables and lost money.
Rest assured, CSAs aren’t just limited to boxes of vegetables; there are options available for a wide variety of products, including meat, flowers, and seafood. Just like traditional CSAs, they allow CT residents to enjoy fresh food, get to know their local farmers and producers, and enjoy member perks while supporting Connecticut’s agricultural economy.
CT Grown farmers have also improved the flexibility of their CSAs in key, innovative ways. Read on to find out about the different types of CSAs that can fit your lifestyle.
Across Connecticut, livestock farmers are raising thousands of animals from the traditional beef, poultry, and pork to a bit more exotic such as bison and emu.
While traditional CSAs provide different types of vegetables, meat CSAs offer a variety of meat cuts such as chops, sausages, ribs, roasts and ground meat. The program may provide a few pounds of meat every week, or monthly pickups with a larger selection.
CT Grown livestock producers are open to sharing the sustainable practices they use to raise their animals. Some practices include grass-fed diets, pasture-raised practices which are said to yield a higher nutritional value and better taste.
Meat CSAs can work particularly well for those who are worried that their CSA shares will be inconsistent or that they will let food go to waste. Since meat CSAs are based on weight, you’ll be guaranteed a set amount of food with each share. Any meat you don’t use can be stored in the freezer until you need it.
Community Supported Fisheries (CSF)
Similar to meat CSAs, Community Supported Fisheries (CSF) programs let you enjoy fresh seafood soon after it has landed on Connecticut’s shores. In exchange for your upfront payment, you’ll get regular shares of aquaculture products like fish, shellfish, and kelp.
CSF programs work to make these products available to the consumer as quickly as possible. Seafood is purchased from local fishermen, then processed and made available for pickup.
While traditional CSAs help farmers cover the costs of each new growing season, CSFs help CT Grown aquaculture producers to pay for expenses like boat repairs and the purchase of new gear.
Flowers and seeds
Countless families have picked up locally produced flowers to add beauty and fragrance to their home. If you want to keep these displays as a more consistent part of your home decor, you might consider a flower CSA.
Flower CSAs offer bouquets of flowers with an ever-changing variety based on what’s in season. You may have the option of picking your own flowers, and some CSAs even provide seed packets so you can grow additional lovely blooms in your own garden.
This type of CSA gives you the freshest flowers possible, since you’ll be getting them directly from the farm. It can also be a good option for those looking to try out a CSA for the first time, as flower CSAs tend to be less expensive and cover a shorter span of time.
Subscriptions and customizable shares
Farms can offer programs that are similar to CSAs but provide more opportunities for flexibility and customization. Vegetable subscription boxes let you choose how frequently you receive your produce and how many weeks your subscription will run. CSAs also may have a “market style” setup, allowing you to pick and choose what you’d like to take home.
Programs may involve collaborations between multiple producers in order to provide a range of goods. Some Connecticut dairy farms have started subscription delivery services that not only bring milk to your doorstep, but also goods like eggs, granola, and breads.
If you frequently use a certain commodity, you may find a farm offering a CSA exclusively for this item. These specialty CSAs include items like bread, cheese, eggs, honey, maple syrup, milk, and mushrooms.
CSAs sometimes invite you to pick your own produce as part of the experience. Instead of getting a preselected portion of fruits or vegetables, you might be invited to head into the fields to take your pick of items like berries, flowers, herbs, hot peppers, snap peas, or tomatoes.
Everything You Need to Know About Connecticut CSAs
Farmers may be less visible during the winter months, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t hard at work. Some, like dairy and livestock farmers, continue to bring products to stores and markets year-round. Those that rely primarily on crop sales spend the winter buying seeds, upgrading equipment, and otherwise preparing for the growing season.
One innovative way to support CT Grown farmers during the winter is to purchase a share in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Many farms in Connecticut begin opening these programs for signups at the start of the year.
CSAs are beneficial to both farmers and consumers. By purchasing a share of the upcoming harvest in advance, you can help sustain a farm’s cash flow and ensure that it is well-prepared for the season ahead. You’ll also enjoy a better understanding of how your food is grown, a closer connection with your local farms, and consistent access to fresh produce, proteins and flowers.
Each farm has its own unique way of offering a CSA. This guide will help you to understand the program and how it can help you to support local farmers and eat healthier foods.
How does a CSA work?
CSAs follow a simple shareholder model. By paying in advance during the winter, you purchase a share of the farm’s crop during the upcoming season. You receive your share on a weekly or biweekly basis, over the course of several weeks or the full growing season.
Only a limited number of shares are available, with the idea that this will create a closer relationship between farms and shareholders. By communicating with shareholders about their preferences, farmers can also be better prepared for the growing season ahead.
Why should I sign up for a CSA?
There are numerous benefits to signing up for a CSA. These include:
- A regular supply of fresh CT Grown fruits, vegetables, and other products
- Produce that retains more of the nutrients present at harvest, since it spends less time in transit or storage
- Getting introduced to new foods which you may not have otherwise tried
- Knowing exactly where your food comes from
- Supporting a local business, including farms committed to sustainable and environmentally conscious operations
- Regular visits to your local farm or farmers’ market — a particularly enjoyable outing for families with young children!
- Useful supplements like recipes and tips on how to prepare the latest share
- Members-only perks like farm stand discounts or free surplus shares during bountiful harvests
What do I get in a CSA share?
The food in your CSA share will depend on what the farm produces, so you should check ahead to see if they’ll provide the fruits, vegetables, and other items you enjoy. Items will also vary with the season; for example, CSAs offering vegetables tend to proceed from greens and early root vegetables in the spring to a wider array of produce in the summer and hardy root vegetables in the autumn.
CSAs aren’t just limited to fruits and vegetables; some keep you supplied with meat or cut flowers. Farms may also provide bonus products or optional add-on shares for locally produced goods like eggs, cheese, honey, dairy products, or mushrooms.
CSA shares feature items produced on the participating farm, but sometimes bring in food from partnering farms and producers to offer a wider variety.
While CSA shares are typically prepackaged, some offer a “market style” pickup option. In this arrangement, you visit the farm and choose from a selection of available produce and goods.
How large are the shares?
CSAs offer several share sizes. In addition to a full share, you’ll find options to purchase a half share or a quarter share.
Farmers advise that you consider factors like your household size and eating habits when picking your share size. A large share is usually recommended for a family of at least four, while half shares are more suitable for couples.
When do I get my CSA shares?
The typical CSA season runs from June through October. However, some farms offer optional extensions in the spring and winter. Spring CSAs feature greens and early crops, while winter CSAs include winter vegetables, food grown using indoor farming techniques, and value-added foods like relishes, sauces, and jams.
Farms set specific times and days of the week for CSA members to pick up their shares.
Where do I pick up my CSA shares?
CSA pickups take place on the farm itself, but farms frequently set multiple pickup locations for better convenience. For example, CSA members may be able to collect their share at a farmers’ market where the farm sets up each week.
Some programs offer to deliver CSA shares directly to homes within a certain distance of the farm. However, this service usually comes with an extra fee.
What happens if I miss a pickup?
Farmers sometimes offer to hold on to your share to pick up at your convenience if you are unable to make one of the scheduled pickup dates. However, some warn that this option is not available due to busy schedules or concerns about the perishability of the share.
If you are on vacation or otherwise know you’ll miss a scheduled date, you can arrange to have someone else pick up the share instead. Alternatively, farmers may arrange to give you a double share at your next pickup.
If no arrangements are made, unclaimed shares are usually donated to a local charitable organization.
Is a CSA cost-effective?
Yes! A CSA’s upfront cost typically translates to about $25 to $50 per week during the harvest season. CSAs are designed to, at a minimum, offset the produce purchases you would otherwise be making in the store.
However, members often find that they’ve received goods worth more than their initial payment by the end of the season. Farms use strategies such as basing their CSA costs on wholesale prices, discounting shares for early signups, giving CSA members regular discounts in their farm stores, and providing surplus shares during strong seasons to ensure that members get a good return on their investment.
How do I pay for a CSA?
Each farm has its own payment methods, but many accept cash, checks, and credit cards. A processing fee may be charged for credit card payments.
While traditional CSAs require the cost to be paid in full in advance, some programs have payment plans to spread the purchase over the season through regular weekly or monthly contributions.
In addition, some farms provide unique options such as scholarships, workshares, or even bartering to offset or cover the cost of a CSA share.
Can I use SNAP/EBT to purchase a CSA?
SNAP/EBT can be used to purchase a CSA, as long as certain requirements are met. The benefit can be processed through a SNAP-eligible farm or vendor, or through a SNAP-eligible farmers’ market. Only SNAP-eligible items can be included in shares given to those using this payment method.
Furthermore, SNAP/EBT rules require that prepaid items must be received within 14 days. SNAP/EBT also cannot be used to pay for items bought on credit, or to pay for certain costs associated with operating a CSA, including taxes, down payments, and administrative, delivery, or membership fees.
While these rules prohibit the use of SNAP/EBT funds to make an upfront payment, they do require that farms follow certain steps to abide by these rules. People using SNAP/EBT may need to sign a written agreement committing them to the CSA. These agreements are meant to establish a clear understanding that a portion of the recipient’s SNAP/EBT benefits will go toward the CSA, and that the recipient is responsible for picking up their share. Participating farms may also require an upfront deposit using non-SNAP funds.
Some farms have established their own programs to provide CSA shares to low-income families in their communities. These programs may use donations from the community to cover the cost of a share, or offer shares at reduced rates to qualifying families.
What are the risks of signing up for a CSA?
Farmers acknowledge that there are certain risks to signing up for a CSA. Shareholders get a portion of the farm’s harvest, and shares will not be as robust if the farm is affected by drought, disease, or other factors leading to a diminished crop.
However, farms take several steps to minimize this risk. These include providing a limited number of shares, giving CSA members first priority in receiving produce, planting a surplus crop, and supplementing undersized shares with items from partnering farms.
Shareholders must also be prepared to regularly pick up and use their shares in order to get the best value from their purchase. Since a CSA purchase commits a shareholder to the full season, refunds are typically not available if you decide partway through the season that you no longer want to participate.
How do CSAs support CT Grown farmers?
The key benefit CSAs provide to farmers is cash flow during the winter months, when they are typically relying on revenues from the previous year’s growing season. The money provided through CSA purchases helps cover costs like seed and equipment purchases as well as the spring’s startup labor costs.
By communicating with their members about their preferences, farmers can anticipate the market demand in the upcoming season. This, in turn, can guide their decisions on what to grow and how much to plant.
CSAs also help to both minimize and distribute the risks associated with agriculture. By allowing a stronger cash flow during the winter, they help farmers start the growing season strong. And by having many people invest in a year’s crop, CSAs also ensure that a less productive year is not financially crippling for the farmer.
Ready to sign up?
No matter how you recognize the holiday season, feasting is a big part of the occasion. When families come together, the dinner table is the perfect place to celebrate with loved ones over a rich and hearty meal.
Holiday meal traditions go back generations, and fresh CT Grown ingredients can easily be used for many of the customary dishes served at holiday occasions. Here’s a look at why certain foods come to the table each year, with suggested recipes that can be made with a little help from your local farmers and producers.
Many traditional Hanukkah dishes are fried in oil, commemorating the well-known miracle of the menorah burning for eight days even though there was only enough oil for one day. Latkes and sufganiyot are particularly popular during the holiday.
Latkes are commonly prepared with potatoes, but often incorporate cheese as well. This ingredient honors the story of the heroine Judith, who saved her people by feeding an Assyrian general salty cheese and wine, then decapitating him.
Sweet potatoes are readily available at Connecticut winter farmers’ markets and go great with the following latke recipe. You can also pick up some CT Grown jelly or jam for this delicious sufganiyot treat.
Christmas meal traditions vary widely from country to country. Common Christmastime dishes include tamales in Mexico, minced pies in Eastern Europe, and fish in Italy and Scandinavia.
Despite the melding of many cultures in the United States, the big feast on Christmas Eve or Christmas is still largely rooted in English tradition. British celebrations feature a hearty main dish such as a turkey or roast, and Brussels sprouts also became a popular choice due to their hardiness as a winter crop.
For a traditional twist that makes a statement, try the following recipes with CT Grown pork, Brussels sprouts, and maple syrup.
Kwanzaa’s name derives from a Swahili phrase for “first fruits of the harvest,” and the celebration is rooted in the harvest festivals of sub-Saharan Africa.
The holiday incorporates many food-related symbols, including mazao (for harvest crops, represented by fruits/vegetables), and muhindi (for fertility and the future offered by children, represented by one ear of corn for each child in the family). Meals also typically incorporate collard greens, a symbol of fortune, and black-eyed peas, a symbol of good luck.
For the traditional Karamu feast on December 31, try these hearty dishes that use CT Grown foods like winter squash, chicken, garlic, and peppers.
The holiday season brings an onrush of classic holiday films, ranging from It’s a Wonderful Life and Frosty the Snowman to more recent movies like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and Elf. Every family has a few favorites they like to cozy up with in the leadup to Christmas.
The 1945 romantic comedy Christmas in Connecticut has also started to gain more attention, especially in its namesake state. This year, the Goodspeed Opera House debuted a musical based on the film, and the show runs through December 30th.
The story follows Elizabeth Lane (Barbara Stanwyck), a magazine writer whose column chronicles her idyllic life with her husband and child on a Connecticut farm. The only problem: Elizabeth actually lives alone in New York City. When an invitation to host a returning war hero on the farm threatens to expose the ruse, Elizabeth tries to fabricate her fictional life on a farm owned by a friend. Hilarity ensues!
Christmas in Connecticut both showcases and lampoons the classic depictions of Christmas in a rural New England town, with scenes featuring horse-drawn sleigh rides and runaway cows. The film is also a surprising treasure trove for food lovers, as Elizabeth’s column is dedicated to farmhouse cooking.
In honor of the classic film and the new Goodspeed show, we’d like to share some dishes featured in Christmas in Connecticut and offer tips on how you can use CT Grown ingredients to prepare them.
In both the film and musical, Elizabeth borrows her recipes from Felix Bassenak, a boisterous Hungarian chef and restaurant owner. Felix accompanies Elizabeth to the farm to aid in the deception and, in a memorable and amusing scene, tries to teach her how to make flapjacks (or, in his words, to “flip-flop the flop-flips”).
Flapjacks can be made with a few simple ingredients, including milk, eggs, butter, and maple syrup – all of which are produced in Connecticut year-round. Try the following recipes for a delicious Christmas breakfast!
Roast goose bernoise
Elizabeth’s lengthy Christmas menu is topped by the main course of roast goose bernoise with walnut dressing. Goose was once a popular tradition on Christmas and, while it has largely been replaced by other options such as turkey, some Connecticut farms continue to raise this bird.
“Bernoise” is likely referring to bearnaise sauce, a mouthwatering French topping made with butter and white wine. Visit Connecticut Wine Country to get the latter ingredient; use some for cooking, and serve the rest with dinner!
Candied sweet potatoes
Another pick from Elizabeth’s Christmas menu, candied sweet potatoes, are a delicious side dish for a holiday feast. This hardy vegetable stores well, and sweet potatoes harvested in the late autumn can still be found at a winter farmers’ market or grocery store. Pick up some Connecticut maple syrup to make that perfect glaze!
Potatoes au gratin
Felix’s restaurant serves up a robust line of courses, including potatoes au gratin. In Connecticut, potatoes are typically harvested through the end of the summer, but do so well as a storage crop that they are available year-round.
For a uniquely Connecticut spin on this recipe, try out the Lighthouse Inn potatoes. This dish was an iconic side at the New London inn, and is available once more after the inn reopened earlier this year.
Brussels sprouts a la Felix
Felix’s menu also includes “Brussels sprouts a la Felix”—again leaving to the imagination how this eccentric character may have prepared this side. Brussels sprouts have become a popular option for Christmas feasts due to their cold hardiness. Harvested here in October and November, Brussels sprouts do well in storage and are readily available throughout the winter.
In honor of Felix’s ancestry, we picked this Hungarian-style preparation:
Wishing you a delicious feast and a happy holiday!
Part of the fun (and frustration) of holiday shopping is finding the right gift for everyone on your list. While checking out your local businesses this season, don’t forget to include Connecticut farmers and producers!
You can find excellent gift options at winter farmers’ markets, and at farm stores and websites. Here are a few ways you can give a CT Grown gift to a loved one this year:
Find their jam
While harvest season is over in Connecticut, there are still plenty of delicious CT Grown items available. Each year, part of the harvest goes toward value-added products like jams, jellies, salsas, pickles, relishes, dips, and sauces. These are often made from family recipes that have been passed down for generations.
Enroll them in a CT Grown class or retreat
Many Connecticut farms and producers are happy to share their knowledge, hosting classes and workshops. These events provide a great way to learn about what crops thrive in Connecticut and how you can support sustainable agriculture at your own home.
Sign up a loved one for:
- Gardening classes that cover topics like seasonal planting, garden care, seed collection, and pest control
- Culinary classes that guide you through how to turn your backyard harvest into a tasty meal, making a charcuterie board, local wine and cheese pairings, and more
- Beekeeping classes to assist you with starting or maintaining a hive
- Daylong or weekend farm retreats where you get a hands-on experience of harvesting and cooking
Don’t leave the little ones off the list, either. Some cooking courses are designed with children in mind, and provide a firsthand education on where their food comes from. You can also register them in a farm camp or one of three weeklong 4-H camps.
Sign them up for a CSA membership
Give the gift of fresh food throughout the coming year. Numerous farms participate in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs, which allow participants to pay for a portion of the next harvest in advance.
Several products are available through CSAs, ranging from cut flowers to meat to fruits and vegetables, and shares are usually available for pickup each week between June and October.
As an added bonus, farms often accompany their CSA shares with useful supplements like a newsletter with recipes for preparing each week’s bounty. A great gift for someone who likes to cook and is always in need of fresh ingredients!
Send some food by mail
More and more CT Grown farms are embracing ecommerce, with some hosting online stores where you can conveniently order food to be delivered or mailed. There are Connecticut shellfish companies that can mail oysters caught the same day, meat producers who will travel locally to drop off a cooler with some chops or steaks, and farms that ship gift boxes of apples, pears, and other items.
You can also find subscription boxes featuring CT Grown goods. These companies often partner with local farms to regularly mail a box bursting with delicious food items, including meats, cheeses, and jams. Some boxes also offer items made from animal products, such as soaps and skin care products (see below).
Toast them with local libations
Pick up a bottle of wine from one of the 45 farm wineries that make up Connecticut Wine Country. Alternatively, you can sign them up for membership in one of the many wine clubs or adopt-a-vine programs offered by these wineries.
Other gift options include a selection of beer from a craft brewery, hard cider from an orchard or craft cidery, spirits from a local distillery, or “honey wine” from one of Connecticut’s growing number of meaderies. Many of these businesses enjoy a close relationship with CT Grown farms, incorporating the flavors of locally produced fruits and herbs into their beverages.
Get them ready for gardening season
Hundreds of Connecticut farms grow flowers and produce potting soil, seeds, compost, and other products that can assist home gardeners. Some farms also offer unique garden products, such as potting plants sustainably made from cow manure or specialized plant varieties.
Browse your local greenhouse or garden center to see what’s available!
Find some wood goods
Connecticut has a small but vibrant woodland economy, and wood products sustainably harvested from the state’s forests can be labeled as CT Grown.
Look for a CT Grown producer of gift items like carved bowls, cutting boards, coasters, or game boards. If you’re looking to spend a bit more, you can also find fine furniture carved by Connecticut artisans using local wood.
Warm them up with fiber products
If you know someone who’s planning to spend the winter under a quilt, visit a local fiber producer to browse their selection of goods. Connecticut farmers collect fiber from sheep, alpaca, and Angora goats; produce yarn from this fiber; and often sell finished products as well.
Popular products include blankets, hats, mittens, scarves, and sweaters. You can also find rugs and knitted craft items, such as stuffed animals and jewelry.
Find CT Grown personal care products
Some CT Grown producers do a brisk trade in personal care products, including lip balms, lotions, deodorants, and chapsticks. Apiaries frequently sell these items alongside their honey, using beeswax to help the skin retain moisture.
Farms producing milk from cows, sheep, or goats sometimes use it to create soap. These soaps are said to be particularly useful for sensitive skin, as they can help moisturize, prevent wrinkles, and keep acne at bay.
Get a box of cigars with Connecticut tobacco
Connecticut has a long history of producing tobacco, and still holds a place of honor among cigar aficionados. A box of cigars wrapped in CT Grown tobacco makes a fine gift for someone who enjoys the occasional smoke.
Two varieties of tobacco are grown in Connecticut, each with their own distinct flavor profile. Shade tobacco has a subtly sweet taste, offering notes like vanilla, cream, and graham cracker. Broadleaf tobacco is darker and bolder, with a flavor described as earthy or similar to dark chocolate.
Christmas seems to arrive earlier each year. Store displays of yuletide decorations go up as soon as Halloween is over or sometimes even sooner.
While these Christmas displays may seem premature, this year they offer a helpful reminder to make plans to visit a CT Grown Christmas tree farm. Many farms have opened earlier than usual in anticipation of another year of strong demand for real Christmas trees.
The COVID-19 pandemic drove a spike of visitors to Christmas tree farms in 2020 and 2021, as people were more determined to create an enjoyable holiday experience at their home. Christmas tree farmers never could have anticipated this surge in demand, since growing a Christmas tree is a lengthy process; it takes five to 10 years for a seedling to reach maturity.
Farmers have to be cautious about how many Christmas trees are cut, since cutting too many immature trees in one season can have a ripple effect for years to come. Last year, some farms took steps such as shutting down early or restricting their cut-your-own options in order to prevent overharvesting. CT Grown farms expect a stronger inventory this year, but those who visit early will have more to choose from.
“We have plenty of beautiful trees and with more than 400 tree farms located throughout Connecticut, consumers will be able to find the perfect tree – folks should check the website or call ahead to check on availability,” said Commissioner Bryan P. Hurlburt of the Connecticut Department of Agriculture. “We encourage people to learn more about the varieties available, pick up a wreath, poinsettia, or other seasonal product to help decorate your home, and enjoy the special holiday celebrations going on at CT Grown Christmas tree farms.”
Can I pick out a tree now and cut it later?
Buying a Christmas tree requires careful timing; some farms allow tagging to choose a tree early and cut it later. Tagging enables you to visit the farm, select your tree, and place a tag on it. This tag lets farm staff and other visitors know that the tree has been reserved and should not be harvested.
Check with the farm ahead of time to see if they allow tagging, since some farms only allow same-day harvesting.
What you’ll find at a CT Grown Christmas tree farm
Cut-your-own farms invite you to stroll through the stands of trees and find the perfect specimen for your home. They usually provide you with a saw to fell the tree and sleds or carts to tote it out of the fields for purchase. Farms also have special equipment to shake off loose needles and wrap up the tree, and staffers are often willing to help you secure the tree to your vehicle.
Farms may also sell a variety of other seasonal items, such as wreaths and poinsettias, as well as tree accessories like stands, garlands, and even commemorative ornaments.
Christmas tree farms don’t just want to sell you a product; they work to create a memorable and enjoyable experience your family will want to revisit year after year. On any given weekend, you might discover that the farm is offering hay rides, hosting food trucks, providing family photo sessions, serving seasonal refreshments like hot cocoa and sugar cookies, or bringing in Santa Claus for a visit.
CT Grown Christmas tree varieties
There are several varieties of Christmas tree that grow in Connecticut. This guide can help you decide which type will best suit your needs:
- Balsam Fir: A dark green tree with long-lasting needles and a distinct fragrance
- Blue Spruce: Distinguished by sharp needles, which necessitate careful handling but can be useful if you need to keep pets at bay; has strong branches and good needle retention, but is not very aromatic
- Canaan Fir: Has similar characteristics to balsam and Fraser firs, with good needle retention
- Concolor Fir: Known for its longer needles, good needle retention, and strong scent
- Douglas Fir: One of most popular Christmas tree options, with a dark green hue, dense branches, soft needles, and a lovely fragrance; its branches are less robust than other options, making them better suited for light ornaments
- Fraser Fir: Features a blue-green appearance, strong branches, good needle retention, and a pleasant aroma
- Norway Spruce: Dark green and well-shaped, but with poorer needle retention
- White Pine: A good choice for those in need of a taller tree, with soft needles and good needle retention; drawbacks include minimal scent and weaker branches
- White Spruce: Well-shaped with a bluish green color; needle retention isn’t as strong, but is better than other spruce options
Tips for tree selection and care
Before you head to a CT Grown Christmas tree farm, measure the height of the room where you’ll place the tree and the width of the doors you’ll use to get the tree inside. Bring along a measuring tape to make sure the tree you pick won’t be too large.
Contrary to what Clark Griswold says, you don’t have to be frozen from the waist down as part of the experience. Dress in warm, comfortable clothes that you’re willing to get dirty, and wear sturdy footwear. Check ahead to see if you need to bring your own saw, and it’s a good idea to bring your own rope or tie-downs to secure the tree for the trip home.
Look for a healthy tree that doesn’t have too many brown or shedding needles. Don’t discount a tree just because it has a flaw or two, such as an area with thinner branches. If you’ll be placing the tree against a wall or in a corner, you can easily conceal a portion of the tree that is less visually appealing.
Once home, be sure to water your tree regularly to prevent the tree from drying out, which will cause the needles to shed faster and create a potential fire risk. Never let the water line drop below the bottom of the trunk, since doing so will allow resin to seal off further water uptake. Check the water level each day, or get an automatic tree waterer to assist with this task.
What should I do with the tree after the holiday?
Many towns and cities schedule a day or two for curbside pickup of Christmas trees, or designate a site where trees can be picked up. These trees are then used for compost, mulch, or sand dune stabilization projects to benefit local parks and beaches.
You can also place your tree in the yard as a sanctuary for birds. Decorate it again with simple bird feeders made from pine cones, peanut butter, and birdseed to attract more feathered friends to your home.
Christmas trees are also sought after by farms. Goats, alpacas, chickens, and other animals enjoy browsing through the branches as an appetizer or enrichment activity as they seek other treats hidden between the boughs.
Check in with your local farm to see if they are accepting trees following the holiday. Just be sure to remove all ornaments and decorations, and don’t ever give them to animals without permission.
Winter is coming in Connecticut. While some CT Grown farmers are continuing their growing seasons and attending winter farmers’ markets, others have closed their farm stands until next year and are focusing on other essential work like ordering seeds and maintaining machinery.
But your support for CT Grown products doesn’t have to stop at what’s in the refrigerator. The CT Grown product extends to all farm products originating in Connecticut, including several options that can help keep you warm and cozy on a dark and chilly evening.
Remember when your father told you to leave the thermostat alone and put a sweater on if you were cold? Well, why not join the growing number of knitters and turn to CT Grown producers for your next hat, blanket, or new pair of mittens or socks?
Many animals have natural fibers—such as hair or fur—which can be used to manufacture products. Wool is perhaps the best-known example, with more than 400 farms in Connecticut caring for a flock of over 6,000 sheep and lambs. Other animals raised in Connecticut for their fiber include alpacas, llamas, and Angora goats.
Collecting the fiber is just the first step toward a finished product. It must then be converted to yarn through a process of cleaning, carding, spinning, and dying.
Don’t have the time to make a new winter wardrobe? Stop by a fiber producer to see what they have in their farm store. Many go the extra mile by providing completed products like blankets, hats, scarves, sweaters, and mittens.
Relaxing in front of a roaring fire is one of those quintessential New England experiences, but it’s become less common as homeowners rely more on fuels like heating oil and natural gas to stay warm. Yet many properties in our region continue to employ wood as a secondary heating source — especially when fuel costs go up. Firewood and wood pellets are among the items that are produced locally, so you can make your home more inviting using a local fuel source.
Under an agreement with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, forest products can be labeled as CT Grown if the timber was grown, harvested, and the item was processed in CT. You can look for the CT Grown label for materials like fencing and flooring when undertaking your next home improvement project, or find unique gifts like furniture, cutting boards, and carved bowls.
Tobacco and spirits
For some folks, the best way to make a winter evening more enjoyable is to relax with a fine cigar and a glass of whiskey — both of which can be found locally.
Tobacco has been under cultivation in Connecticut since pre-colonial times, and it was once a major cash crop of the Connecticut River Valley. While the industry is much smaller than it used to be, about 2,000 acres are still dedicated to growing and curing shade tobacco. This tobacco is then destined for the outer layers of premium cigars, which can be found at local suppliers.
Two types of tobacco grow in Connecticut, and each variety is valued for its rich flavor profile. Connecticut shade tobacco offers a light, sweet smoke with notes like coffee, vanilla, and cream. The dark, thick leaves of broadleaf tobacco deliver bolder flavors like earthy minerals, spice, or chocolate.
Spirits have been on the rise in Connecticut in recent years, with a growing number of distillers taking on the meticulous task of producing bourbons, whiskeys, liqueurs, and more. As an added bonus, these distilleries often use local CT Grown products like apples and maple syrup to give their product a distinct flavor.
Winter brings chapped lips and cracked skin. Fight back against the season’s dry air with the same ally that helps CT Grown farmers during the growing season: bees!
While honey is the most common bee product produced by Connecticut apiaries, many also offer personal care products made from beeswax. This material, used to construct honeycombs and seal in honey, also offers a natural way for the skin to retain moisture.
For this reason, beeswax finds its way into a variety of personal care products. Look for the material in lip balms, body scrubs, moisturizers, and more.