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:

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.

Fiber

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.

Forest products

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.

Bee products

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.

New Englanders are a hardy people, often stubbornly so. When cold weather arrives, we see no reason to give up the activities we’ve enjoyed in the summer and autumn. We may put on an extra layer or two, but we’ll still visit the beach, fire up the grill, or even head out on a bike ride.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we like to keep our farmers’ markets running in the winter as well, even if we do move them inside. While these occasions may look a little different from the collection of tents and vendors that pop up in parks and other green spaces during the summer, they support the same mission of providing a community gathering place to find fresh food and meet your CT Grown farmers.

“Our farmers are using innovative techniques to extend the growing season and offer fresh produce and other CT Grown products well into the winter,” said Erin Windham, Agriculture Marketing & Inspection Representative 2 at the Connecticut Department of Agriculture. “Winter farmers’ markets not only offer an extended market for producers, but are also a great place to connect with people during the drearier months of the year and find unique holiday gifts for your loved ones.”

Is there really fresh CT Grown produce available during the winter?

Yes! The selection of fruits and vegetables will differ from what you find in the summer, but Connecticut farmers are still harvesting even after the frosts begin to arrive.

Traditionally, farmers have used greenhouses to extend growing seasons. These structures maintain warm temperatures and allow for the control of other growing conditions, such as irrigation. Greenhouses permit the year-round cultivation of summer crops like tomatoes and cucumbers, so you can still find fresh fruits and veggies — even when it’s snowing.

High tunnels, a greenhouse alternative, are also increasing in popularity in Connecticut. Consisting of a frame and plastic sheeting, these structures cover crops grown in the ground or in raised beds, protecting them from the cold or severe weather. High tunnels are simpler and less expensive than greenhouses, and allow farmers to keep harvesting crops into the winter.

Hydroponic and aquaponic systems have also allowed farmers to grow fresh produce year-round in Connecticut. Hydroponic systems allow plants to grow in a water-based, nutrient-rich medium rather than soil; they also permit farmers to adjust the necessary balance of water, nutrients, and oxygen, allowing crops to be grown quickly and efficiently. An aquaponic system combines hydroponics with aquaculture, allowing farmers to raise aquatic animals like fish whose nitrogen-rich waste provides nutrients to plants.

Some late season fruits and vegetables do well in cold storage, making them more readily available at winter markets. These crops include apples, beets, onions, potatoes, and turnips.

Certain vegetables have strong root systems, which mean they can remain in the ground over the winter and be harvested during this season. Cabbage, carrots, parsnips, and rutabaga are some of the crops that are still available late into the season due to this overwintering method. 

Mushrooms are grown indoors, so they aren’t dependent on weather conditions and can be found fresh year-round. Some crops’ extended growing seasons also permit year-round availability, including herbs, lettuce, kale, and radishes.

Besides produce, what else can I buy at a winter farmers’ market?

Winter is the time for CT Grown products with year-round availability to shine at farmers’ markets. Our dairy farms stay busy over the winter, producing milk, cheese, cream, yogurt, and ice cream. Animal products like meats, eggs, fish, and shellfish are also available.

While we don’t often think of meats as having seasons like fruits and vegetables, you may notice expanded availability as producers work to ensure that specialities such as beef, pork, and lamb roasts, along with turkey, goose, and duck breast are ready for your holiday meals. This is also a great time of year to stock up on meat products for hearty soups, stews, and chili to feed a crowd and keep you warm. 

Farmers who prepare for winter markets in advance will set aside some of their harvest for pickling or preserving, creating products like relishes, salsa, jams, and jellies. Other value-added products brought to market in the winter include honey, cider, maple products, beer, wine, and spirits.

You’ll see an increased focus on prepared foods at winter farmers’ markets with vendors selling baked goods and ready-to-eat soups and meals. You can also find handmade artisan items like soaps, candles, wood products, and clothing made from locally raised sheep and alpaca.

How do winter farmers’ markets support Connecticut farmers?

Farm revenue is often cyclical, with many farmers collecting the bulk of their income during harvest season. By selling products at winter markets, farmers can maintain cash flow during slower periods. 

Winter markets help prevent food waste and lost income due to bruised or unsold fruits and vegetables. Instead of throwing this produce out, farmers can use it for preserves, sauces, and other value-added products to be sold later in the year.

Some farmers use the winter to take a breather from the busy season, which naturally means that winter markets are smaller than summer markets. Farmers who want to stay busy during the season can use winter markets to maintain a connection with their customers, enjoying face-to-face interactions throughout the year.

Can I use food benefits at a winter farmers’ market?

Benefits under the Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) expire on Nov. 30, but many winter markets accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. 

Under recently announced changes, SNAP benefits will go farther to help enrollees purchase local food options. The update to the program increased the number of eligible enrollees and boosted current enrollees’ benefits by 12 percent. Monthly benefits vary based on household size and income, but the change increased single recipients’ benefits by $31 a month and maximum benefits by $104 a month. 

Enrollees can visit winter markets during the chillier months to maintain access to fresh produce and other CT Grown products. Some markets will also double benefits for certain products, usually fruit and vegetables.

Where can I find a winter farmers’ market in Connecticut?

Winter markets are sometimes held as one-day occasions to support holiday bazaars or other events, but usually take place weekly or biweekly. Just like their summer counterparts, they can be accompanied by live music, cooking demonstrations, educational workshops, and other entertainment.

An excuse to play dress-up, put up decorations, and eat sweet treats? No wonder we love Halloween so much.

Halloween is also a great time to throw a party, bringing together family and friends to enjoy spooky-themed dishes and see who can come up with the most creative costume. Whether you’re planning a party for little ones to enjoy after trick or treating, a fun occasion for your family, or a gathering among adults, you can find ways to make CT Grown part of the celebration.

”From CT Grown pumpkins to delicious apple cider, and even hard cider for the adults, there are many options for adding local flavor into your Halloween celebration,” says Jaime Smith, Bureau Director of the Connecticut Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Agricultural Development and Resource Conservation.

Apples

Apples are one of the most well-known crops in Connecticut. More than 60 different varieties are grown in the state, with flavors ranging from sweet to tart. The 2017 Census of Agriculture, latest data from the USDA, shows that Connecticut has 280 farms growing apples on over 2,000 acres of land.

Many of these farms welcome guests to pay a visit and pick their own apples. You can find these pick-your-own locations on the CT Grown map, or visit a local farmers’ market or retail location to see what’s available.

We’ve grown plenty creative in Connecticut when it comes to apple dishes, serving up everything from breakfast dishes to apple pie. Check out this page for a full slate of recipes. Or if you’re pressed for time, you could always just upend a bag from your local orchard into a bucket of water and invite your guests to go bobbing.

Pumpkins, gourds, and squash

It’s not a party without decorations, and no Halloween celebration is complete without a jack o’ lantern. Thankfully, Connecticut is well-stocked on pumpkins. In fact, the fat orange specimens favored for carving are known as Connecticut field pumpkins, and they have been cultivated here since pre-colonial times.

Pumpkins aren’t just a good way to demonstrate your creative skill. Save the seeds you scoop out and toast them with some cinnamon and sugar for a delicious, easy to make party snack. Connecticut field pumpkins can also supply you with the base ingredient for pumpkin pies, soups, and more.

Pumpkins are nearly as prolific as apples in Connecticut, with 267 farms offering them in 2017. Many of these venues also sell gourds, which appear almost otherworldly with multiple colors, curving shapes, and a slew of bumps. Simple and inexpensive, gourds offer an easy way to add festive flair to the spread of food and beverages at your party.

While soft-shelled gourds are destined for the compost bin after your party, hard-shelled ones can easily be repurposed. Once they’re cured and dried, they can be remade into drinking vessels, spoons, birdhouses, and any number of other useful items.

Appetizers with in-season produce

Several vegetables are still in season in Connecticut, and you can pick them up for a healthy party snack. As an added benefit, the late season harvest crops also lend themselves well to ghoulish arrangements on the appetizer tray. Here are a few ideas:

Cider

Every fall, Connecticut residents eagerly await the availability of apple cider. Many Connecticut orchards produce this beverage, and some cider presses have been in operation for a century or longer.

Cider is created when ground-up apple mash is crushed beneath a press’s wooden boards, with the resulting juice strained through press cloths. Unlike apple juice, cider is unfiltered and has a darker color since apple particles are suspended in the drink.

Sweet cider will start to ferment over time, so drink it up fast — or set some of it aside for apple cider donuts.

Of course, fermented apple cider is exactly what some people will be after for their Halloween party. Several farms offering sweet cider will also have hard cider available. Look for both traditional options and those flavored with other locally grown ingredients like honey, hops, pumpkin, and berries.

Chocolate milk

Last year, we explained why we were naming chocolate milk the official drink of Halloween. This beverage provides 13 essential ingredients, namly calcium, vitamin D, and potassium; delivers a healthy dose of protein; and helps keep you hydrated. 

Chocolate milk is a treat for all ages, but it’s a particularly good choice if your Halloween party will have younger guests. Look for a CT Grown choice to help support the 90 dairy farms in operation in Connecticut.

Wine and beer

Autumn is harvest time for the 45 licensed farm wineries in Connecticut. While the grapes collected this year won’t make their way into your stemware for awhile, you can pick up a few bottles made from previous harvests at a Connecticut Wine Country location. Learn more about where to find Connecticut wine here.

Fall also means seasonal beers at Connecticut’s independent breweries, many of which source their ingredients from local farms. While pumpkin flavored beers abound at this time of year, you’ll also see more brown and amber ales on tap, as well as heavier, more filling options like porters and stouts. 

Drink responsibly, and enjoy a safe, spooky CT Grown Halloween!

More than 31 million oysters were harvested commercially from 60,000 acres of shellfish beds along the Connecticut coast in 2019. For those keeping count, that’s about 9 oysters for every single resident in our agriculture and aquaculture-rich state.  

“Connecticut is fortunate to have such robust aquaculture resources that have been protected through the wise actions of our prior generations,” shares David Carey, director of the Connecticut Bureau of Aquaculture. “I’m pleased to see so many of our residents and visitors enjoying our locally-sourced seafood products and we look forward to continued growth of Connecticut’s aquaculture as we explore new opportunities.”

While October is commonly associated with the apples, pumpkins and other seasonal products of the harvest season, it’s also a time when we recognize the other producers that supply our favorite fish markets, clam shacks, and shore dinners. National Seafood Month recognizes the abundance, quality, and effort that goes into the daily aquaculture harvest and the race to keep it fresh.

Shellfish

Shellfish plays a significant role in Connecticut’s aquaculture sector. All along our coastline, you can find an abundance of oysters, clams, mussels, bay scallops, and edible snails such as whelks and conch. 

Here’s a look at the impact shellfish have had on Connecticut’s economy:

With a vibrant industry so close at hand, consumers can easily find fresh CT Grown shellfish at local fish markets and farmers’ markets. At eateries ranging from humble clam shacks to upscale seafood restaurants, you can experience how Connecticut chefs are turning the local catch into delicious meals. 

You can find out more about local oyster options here. Or, if you need some help shucking an oyster or clam, check out this tutorial.

Shellfish are not only a delicious source of food, but also offer several benefits to marine environments. By consuming and storing excess nutrients, they help to improve water quality and prevent algal blooms. Shellfish like oysters act as foundational species, forming reefs that provide habitats for other creatures.

Connecticut has a proud history of sustainable practices in shellfish, dating back to a 1750 law allowing towns to regulate their own harvests to prevent overfishing. The recently released Connecticut Shellfish Restoration Guide looks to ensure the future of the industry by increasing shellfish and fisheries production, strengthening coastal habitats, improving water quality, and stabilizing shorelines.

The Connecticut lobster roll

Look, we know Maine is supposed to be the New England champion when it comes to lobster. But ask the locals in Connecticut, and they’ll tell you we do a better lobster roll.

For one thing, we invented it. The story goes that sometime in the 1920s, a regular customer at Perry’s restaurant in Milford asked owner Harry Perry if he could prepare his lobster off the shell and on a roll. Harry was up to the challenge, and the rest is history.

The lobster roll that originated at Perry’s is still a favorite in our state. Instead of the lobster salad mixed with mayonnaise and served cold, the Connecticut lobster roll is served warm, drizzled with butter, in a toasted hot dog bun. 

While lobster rolls are traditionally summer fare, many Connecticut lobster shacks are still open through the fall. Find one near you, and give this delicious sandwich a try.

Seaweed

A more recent addition to the CT Grown menu is seaweed and kelp, raised locally to be sold to restaurants and directly to the consumer. A small number of producers have started working fifteen permitted seaweed sites for the cultivation of sugar kelp and Gracilaria.

Not sure how you can incorporate seaweed into your cooking? Check out this seaweed cookbook for a wealth of ideas.

Like shellfish, seaweed and kelp help clean the water by absorbing carbon, phosphorus, and nitrogen as they grow. In addition, some of the seaweed grown in Connecticut waters ends up being used as a fertilizer — an innovative way aquaculture is supporting onshore agriculture.

With more than 300 miles of shoreline, people in every Connecticut community can access fresh, locally sourced seafood. Look for CT Grown aquaculture products at your local market and your favorite restaurants.

When you think CT Grown, you might not picture a frosty glass of local beer. Yet the boom in craft breweries has led to increased demand for local ingredients, which in turn has helped strengthen associated  agricultural enterprises in Connecticut who grow the products brewers need.

After a short-lived renaissance in the mid-90s, craft beer and microbreweries have surged in popularity in the early 21st century. Breweries have been rapidly opening across the state, and Connecticut now boasts more than 125 independent breweries. Of course, a beer is only as good as the ingredients that go into it, and many Connecticut brewers have been turning to local sources for their barley, grains, malts, and hops. 

As local brewers have increased in number, the demand for hops has also gone up. More than a dozen commercial hopyards have sprouted in Connecticut, and the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station has been supporting them with research and recommendations on integrated pest management and other best practices. 

“Hop flavor is affected by soil and climate. Connecticut Grown hops have fruitier and more citrusy notes that allow us to develop more distinct flavors than mass-produced beers, especially when it comes to making New England IPAs that are less bitter than their West Coast counterparts,” says Alex DeFrancesco, owner of Stewards of the Land Brewery in Northford.

Some local farms and hopyards have taken the next step of opening a brewery of their own on the premises. Several farm breweries have been established since these venues were permitted under legislation passed in Connecticut in 2017.

Guests at a farm brewery have the added benefit of experiencing the joys of visiting a CT Grown agricultural producer. Instead of just tasting a flight or a pint, people can take home fresh produce, visit farm animals, or simply sit back and enjoy the pastoral surroundings while enjoying a brew made with CT Grown farm products.

“Our mission has always been to make our beers with locally grown ingredients,” says Barry Labendz, founder of Kent Falls Brewing Company in Kent. “We opened our brewery in 2015, around the same time Smokedown Farm Hops in Sharon and Thrall Family Malt (barley) in Windsor were getting started as well; before there was even a permit for farm breweries! Working with Thrall and Smokedown has taught us a tremendous amount about the physical ingredients we use to make our beer, a invaluable input with the growers about the flavors and aromas we are looking for in our ingredients, both of which play a huge part in producing delicious beers. And when a consumer purchases one of our beers, they are not only enjoying local flavors, but supporting a community of local farmers while doing so!


Several breweries and venues are celebrating the season by having Oktoberfest events. Find a full list here, and check in with your local brewer to find out how they have made CT Grown part of their work.

September marks the time of year when honey collection winds down and beehives are prepared for the winter. The month is observed as National Honey Month, and we’d like to take the opportunity to recognize the vital role beekeepers serve in sustaining Connecticut agriculture, while increasing biodiversity and food security. 

Beekeeping has been part of Connecticut agriculture for hundreds of years, with historical records showing colonists keeping hives as far back as 1644. Most honey bees in the state today are tended by hobbyists who keep a few hives on their property. However, there are also some larger commercial operations that rent colonies for agricultural pollination, as well as more than two dozen apiaries.

Honey production in Connecticut is modest compared to many other states. According to the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES), there are approximately 930 registered beekeepers in Connecticut tending to 7,110 hives. There are also certain challenges in the state to keeping bees, including inconsistent weather and homeowners removing flowers considered to be weeds.

Nevertheless, Connecticut residents have shown strong enthusiasm for beekeeping. Since 1891, the Connecticut Beekeepers Association has been working to increase awareness of the importance of bees to the environment. Together with the Backyard Beekeepers Association and the Eastern Connecticut Beekeepers Association, it offers information and educational opportunities for those who are tending their own hives or wish to do so.

Beekeeping benefits

If you keep honey bees on your property, one of the main benefits is the ability to harvest honey. This is a delicious sugar substitute and has also been used for health treatments, such as soothing coughs or even topical application to treat burns. Apiaries also offer products such as beeswax, bee pollen, royal jelly, and skin care products. 

Bees have an outsized impact on agricultural production as well, with honey bees estimated to be responsible for 80 percent of all insect pollination of flowering plants. This translates to an agricultural impact whose value is 10 to 20 times greater than the value of the honey and beeswax they produce. In Connecticut, bees are essential for the pollination of important CT Grown crops such as apples, pears, peaches, watermelons, cucumbers, squash, pumpkins, and berries.

Unfortunately, bee populations have been declining in recent years due to factors like pests, diseases, and environmental factors such as exposure to harmful pesticides. These challenges are putting more stress on Connecticut’s hives, which in turn is creating more concern for Connecticut farms about effective pollination.

Helping bees

One way Connecticut residents can support honey bees is to plant a pollinator garden. This process involves the removal of invasive plants as well as the sowing of native plants like highbush blueberry, New England aster, New Jersey tea, swamp milkweed, wild geranium, and wrinkleleaf goldenrod. 

Avoid the use of pesticides and insecticides, which can be harmful to bees. Go easy on the herbicides as well. Dandelions, while usually considered a weed, are a particularly useful source of pollen and nectar; allowing them to grow in your yard is a great way to help bees.

Don’t be too aggressive with removing fallen leaves during the autumn. Bee queens often nest under leaf litter, so leaving some areas undisturbed will provide them with a habitat. You can also minimize habitat disturbances by conducting any soil management during the late summer or fall.

Brace yourself, parents. The whirlwind school day mornings are almost here.

School days are often accompanied by a mad scramble to make sure your kids have everything they need, and that they haven’t somehow tied their shoes together. It’s tempting to hasten the process of preparing a lunch by simply throwing a few packaged items together. However, this can often result in a meal that’s lacking in healthy nutrients and high in fat, sodium, and added sugar.

What’s a good balance for a school lunch? The USDA’s MyPlate program recommends that half of a lunch plate be dedicated to fruits and vegetables, one-quarter to grains, and one-quarter to protein, with a modest amount of dairy also allowed. 

Some healthy lunch and snack options include:

Tips for preparing a healthy lunch

Feeling pinched for time? Coping with picky eaters? These tips might help:

Nutrition in Connecticut schools

For many years, Connecticut’s schools have stressed the importance of proper nutrition. USDA school nutrition programs are administered through the Connecticut State Department of Education, and foodservice professionals in schools develop menus designed to meet or exceed USDA dietary guidelines.

Students can enjoy breakfast and lunch options, along with healthy snack options and programs that offer fresh fruit and vegetables. Parents can look up more information on these options on school websites, which often contain additional information such as the calorie count of each meal.

In addition, Connecticut’s Farm-to-School Program educates students on gardening in nutrition while highlighting the importance of fresh, locally grown produce. Earlier this year, 13 school districts and educational partners were selected to receive Connecticut Grown for Connecticut Kids grants to support infrastructure improvements, experiential learning, farm-to-school planning, and pilot programs to support the purchase of CT Grown products for schools.

Connecticut Agricultural Fairs — Where to Find the Fun

The transition from summer to autumn brings cooling temperatures, changing foliage, first days of school – and fairs!

Agricultural fairs — put on by dedicated agricultural societies, 4-H clubs, grange halls, and other organizations — are out in full force in Connecticut from mid-summer through October. These events have long been a Connecticut tradition; the Brooklyn Fair, first held in 1809 to promote “agriculture and local manufactures,” even boasts the honor of being the oldest agricultural fair in the United States! 

While each fair has its unique charms, certain attractions can be found at almost every event. Stroll through the barns for an up-close look at horses, cows, sheep, and other animals. Enjoy  delicious  prepared food  by various vendors and granges while perusing the exhibit halls and craft vendors. And, of course, you’ll always have the opportunity to climb aboard dizzying rides and win a giant stuffed animal at a game booth.

Fairs not only offer a chance for a fun day out, but also give you a chance to learn more about the state’s farms and agricultural producers. Visit our event calendar to find an upcoming fair near you!