When people commit to supporting CT Grown farmers, they usually do so by purchasing more locally grown foods — signing up for a CSA, shopping at a farmers’ market, or even just looking for food from Connecticut farms at the grocery store.

There’s also a way to directly support CT Grown agriculture, right from your own home: establishing a pollinator garden. Taking this action not only supports Connecticut’s floriculture sector, but also benefits the animal pollinators that are crucial for the state’s produce farmers.

The importance of pollinators

Pollination, or the transfer of pollen grains between the male and female parts of a flower, is necessary for the fertilization of many plants. Once this process occurs, the plant will be able to develop fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts.

Some plants are able to use wind-borne pollination or self-pollination, but the most—including the majority of CT Grown crops—rely on animal pollinators. Since animals directly seek flowers for their nectar, they provide a reliable and productive way of pollination. Animal pollination also helps create a more diverse plant population and higher crop yields.

Bees are an important pollinator, and there are more than 300 native bee species in Connecticut that help to create vibrant local agriculture. Other important pollinators include butterflies, moths, hummingbirds, and certain species of flies, beetles, and wasps.

Pollinator-friendly plants

Animal pollinators are facing numerous challenges, with factors such as development, deforestation, and invasive plants threatening their habitats. When you establish a pollinator garden at your home, you help to create a space that can support them. The more pollinator gardens that are established, the easier it is for animal pollinators to find the resources necessary for them to thrive.

Flowers that are well-suited for attracting pollinators in Connecticut include:

Several vegetable plants also have flowers that attract pollinators. These include squash varieties, which produce large yellow flowers; bean varieties, which have white or purple flowers; and edible flowers such as borage or sunflowers.

Best practices for pollinator gardens

Helpful programs and resources

Spring arrives slowly but surely in Connecticut. Daffodils and tulips begin to poke up from the thawing ground, and crocuses begin to appear alongside melting snow. Dogwoods and forsythia burst into bloom, adding welcome hues to the landscape. And all across the state, homeowners rush to prepare their lawns and gardens for the warmer weather.

Connecticut has a robust number of farmers raising flowers, shrubs, and other plants that can help you breathe new life into your landscape, create enticing displays within your home, and add beauty to your special occasions. Spring is a busy time for these producers, who make up the largest share of Connecticut’s agriculture.

In this blog, we explore how Connecticut’s greenhouses, nurseries, farms, and garden centers are excellent places to visit during the spring. Whether you’re looking to improve your home or simply want a memorable experience, you’ll find something that’s right for you.

Greenhouses, nurseries and garden centers

Throughout the winter, Connecticut’s greenhouse and nursery producers have been busy sowing seeds, potting plants, and preparing to assist customers in the new growing season. By visiting a CT Grown greenhouse or nursery, you’ll receive:

Dzen Farms in Ellington

There’s no shortage of products available at greenhouses and nurseries to get a jump on the year’s gardening plans, including:

Walk-through flower experiences

Some farms in Connecticut give visitors an up-close look at the returning floral landscape by offering walk-through experiences. Visitors can stroll through the fields and marvel at the spectacle of thousands of flowers in bloom together. 

In a relaxing, meditative experience, visitors are surrounded by the visual beauty and delightful scents of a sea of flowers. These scenes are also a popular photographic backdrop for everything from family portraits to engagement shots.

Walk-through flower experiences are often paired with pick-your-own options that let you take home a beautiful bouquet. Some options in Connecticut include:

Cut flower CSAs

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs go well beyond the traditional shares of fruits and vegetables, and Connecticut’s thriving floriculture businesses mean that there are plentiful options to find cut flower CSAs. Farms may offer these options either on their own or as an optional add-on to another CSA.

Spring flower CSAs are an excellent choice for people who can’t wait to get fresh flowers back into their home after a long winter. These feature seasonal flowers such as alliums, anemones, canterbury bells, daffodils, hyacinths, narcissus, ranunculus, and tulips. Farms often grow specialty varieties that aren’t usually found in stores, allowing each farm to create bouquets with a distinctive look.

Cut flower CSAs continue into summer and autumn, with each new share changing based on what’s in season. Some farms may also offer these CSAs into the winter, featuring greenhouse-grown flowers.


To find a cut flower CSA near you, visit the CT Grown map.

The new harvest season will be here before you know it, and there’s still time to sign up for a CT Grown CSA! By joining a Community Supported Agriculture program this winter, you’ll receive regular shares of fresh, nutritious food for months to come.

Read more about your CSA options in our latest newsletter, or visit one of these resources to learn more:

It’s a season for families to come together and celebrate the holiday spirit. And when everyone from the grandparents on down to little grandchildren are together under one roof, that means it’s time for another big feast! 

CT Grown products are a great choice for the family gathering. You’ll also need something to wet your whistle, though, and Connecticut’s farmers have you covered there as well! Check out these options, and raise a glass to CT Grown for the holiday season!

Eggnog 

Like many traditional holiday dishes or beverages, eggnog was once considered a luxury due to the priciness of many of its ingredients. Families would splurge on the drink — and other delicious items — and hold toasts to wealth and prosperity in the new year.

Although eggnog is no longer considered a luxury, these toasts have remained — along with the seasonal availability of the beverage, which could conceivably be offered year-round. Eggnog is a thick, sweet drink that mixes milk, cream, sugar, egg yolks, and whipped egg whites. 

Several Connecticut dairy farms get in on the holiday spirit by producing eggnog at this time of year. You can enjoy it plain, or spike it with alcohol like rum or bourbon. 

This is also the only time of year you can test it out in other ways! Try eggnog as a coffee creamer, or use it as a milk substitute in recipes for waffles, pancakes, and cookies.

Coquito 

Spanish for “little coconut,” coquito is also referred to as Puerto Rican Eggnog due to its popularity on the island. As a tropical tradition, many of its ingredients — including coconut milk, coconut cream, and vanilla — aren’t exactly CT Grown.

However, you can still use yolks from locally sourced eggs and mix them with condensed milk (a product invented in Connecticut, incidentally) to make a thick base for this drink. Add in some rum from a Connecticut distillery as well!

Whiskeys and spirits 

Image courtesy of Winter Caplanson

A growing number of distilleries in Connecticut are giving residents and visitors a local option when it comes to bourbon, gin, rum, vodka, whiskey, and other spirits. These distilleries frequently partner with local farms to infuse their product with flavors like fruit and herbs.

During the holiday season, you can relax with warming drinks like a hot toddy, hot buttered rum (using CT Grown butter, of course), spiked hot chocolate, or a nor’easter — a winter spin on the Moscow Mule that includes maple syrup in the mix.

Wine

Some of Connecticut’s 45 farm wineries close their doors for the season when colder temperatures arrive, but many are happy to welcome guests throughout the year. Pull up a seat in the cozy tasting room to enjoy some delicious vintages, and pick up a bottle or two as a gift.

Connecticut farm wines also work well for mulling to create a delicious, warm beverage on a holiday evening. Mulled wine is prepared with ingredients like oranges, honey, and spices for a wonderful evening libation.

Wassail 

Yes, the drink from the Christmas song! 

Traditionally held on Twelfth Night, wassailing involves a group of people visiting homes to sing festive tunes and wish the occupants good cheer. The homeowner rewards them with a small gift (a figgy pudding, perhaps) in exchange for the group’s blessings and a drink from the bowl of wassail they carried. In addition to the neighborhood strolls, wassailing ceremonies have also taken place in orchards to bless the trees before the next season.

Although caroling has largely replaced wassailing, the beverage remains a unique holiday offering — and one that can easily use CT Grown ingredients. Wassail is traditionally made with a base of cider, ale, or wine, which is then mulled with spices.

Beer 

Connecticut’s craft breweries are in operation year-round. But once winter arrives and patrons abandon the beer garden for the toasty taproom, the preferred styles shift to heartier fare.

“Winter warmers” such as porters and stouts typically use darker malts, have a higher alcohol by volume (ABV), and are more filling. In addition, many breweries celebrate the season by creating holiday ales with ingredients like cinnamon, orange peel, and other flavors found in mulled drinks.

You may also find a greater availability of imperial beer options, which have stronger, heartier flavors that may be further enhanced through barrel aging. These beers also have a very high ABV, so be sure to drink responsibly. 

Cider 

This autumn favorite is still available during the holidays, though this is also your last call for the delicious beverage. Apple cider is a dark, sweet beverage produced by compressing apple mash; since it lacks preservatives, it has a shorter shelf life and more seasonal availability compared to apple juice.

Warm up with apple cider on a cold evening by mulling it with honey, maple syrup, or spices. You can also look for some of the hard cider options offered by many orchards, which often have varieties pairing the alcoholic beverage with flavors like honey and ginger.

Milk for Santa

You can’t forget Saint Nick this time of year. Locally produced milk is available from 87 dairy farms in Connecticut, and leaving out a glass of milk for Santa ensures that he’ll get 13 essential nutrients with every serving.

Thanksgiving is a time to get together with your loved ones, count your blessings for the good things in your life, and — of course — eat until you have to loosen your waistband. 

The big meal is a centerpiece of Thanksgiving, a chance to pile the dining room table high with delicious food and share in the bounty. And as the benefits of locally sourced food become more well-known, there has been an increasing demand for farm fresh food to bring to the holiday table.

You can put CT Grown on your plate for every course of the Thanksgiving feast, from the main course to that extra slice of pie. Check out these recommendations for how to include CT Grown foods at this year’s get-together.

Turkey

More than 100 farms in Connecticut raise turkeys. These farms take pre-orders to prepare for the holiday and manage demand, so reserving your bird early is a good strategy. 

When preparing a farm fresh turkey, be aware that it tends to be ready sooner than a store-bought turkey. That’s because a farm fresh turkey has a higher moisture content, allowing it to roast faster — and giving an unbeatable, succulent taste! 

Roast for about 12 to 15 minutes per pound at 325 degrees. Monitor the turkey carefully, and check regularly about an hour before you expect that it will be finished. The turkey will be done when its internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.

Looking for a turkey alternative this year? Farms raising turkeys often have other poultry as well, such as chickens, geese, and ducks. You could even take home a few different birds to try your hand at a turducken!

Looking for different ways to use up Thanksgiving leftovers? Try turkey empanadas or a turkey tortilla soup served up with locally made cheese, chips, and salsa. 

Stuffing

There are countless recipes for stuffing, so there’s plenty of room for creativity when it comes to this particular dish. Whether you’re using a cookbook recipe or one passed down through the generations, you can find plenty of the necessary ingredients at CT Grown farms. Some common options include sausage, mushrooms, onions, carrots, garlic, herbs, or apples. 

Potatoes

Potatoes are easy to grow and produce a bountiful harvest, so many CT Grown farms dedicate some of their land to this crop. Use some locally grown potatoes for the traditional favorite of mashed potatoes, or try a unique option like scalloped potatoes, potatoes au gratin, or a potato bake mixed with local vegetables.

Potato sides are often prepared with dairy products like milk, butter, or cheese. Choose products from one of Connecticut’s family dairy farms when purchasing these ingredients!

Side dishes

Sweet potatoes are always a hit at Thanksgiving dinner, but don’t overlook the many varieties of winter squash grown in Connecticut. Check out options like acorn, butternut, delicata, and spaghetti squash to try something new.

Plenty of greens are still in season, including green beans and Brussels sprouts. You can also find leafy greens, cucumbers, and tomatoes for a CT Grown side salad.

CT Grown farms can also be a good source of ingredients for dishes like Relleno de pavo, a sweet and savory stuffing made with ground meat, chorizo, bacon, apple, raisins, and more. 

Cranberry sauce

Cranberries are a very minor crop in Connecticut. However, there is one commercial-scale cranberry bog operating in Killingworth and selling the resulting products locally. 

If you want a local alternative — or supplement — to the traditional cranberry sauce, consider putting together some homemade applesauce. It’s a great way to use up some of the apples you get from an orchard!

Wine

Connecticut is home to more than 45 farm wineries, all offering delicious and unique vintages to pair with your Thanksgiving dinner. Have at least three options available for your guests: a white or rosé as a starter, a light- or medium-bodied wine for the main course, and a sweeter option like Riesling or port to go with dessert.

Desserts

Prepare a few seasonal goodies in advance, and you’ll have some delicious desserts to enjoy once you’ve had a moment to digest. Visit an orchard to choose your own selection of apples to bake into scrumptious apple pie, bars, fritters, and other treats. And, if you are short on time, many offer “grab and go” prepared pies or other baked goods. 

Connecticut’s dairy farms are a good source for dessert ingredients as well. Look for locally sourced cheese, ice cream, or whipped cream for a pie topping.

You can pick up a pumpkin to use for final courses like pie, cookies, cupcakes, or flan. Sweet potato pie also makes an excellent Thanksgiving dessert.

Flowers

Last but not least, pick CT Grown for the floral arrangements you’ll have at the dinner table. Flowers are a major part of Connecticut agriculture, with the state ranking 9th in the nation in total greenhouse and nursery sales. Locally sourced flowers are easy to find at a Connecticut greenhouse, nursery, or garden center.

Look for flowers in yellow, orange, and red to evoke and celebrate the fall season. Some options include carnations, daisies, mums, roses, and sunflowers. 

In honor of National Farmer’s Day, the Connecticut Department of Agriculture and Governor Ned Lamont are asking Connecticut residents to incorporate locally grown and produced items into every meal this fall

This fall, the Connecticut Department of Agriculture’s (CT DoAg) CT Grown program challenges consumers across the state to “Put CT Grown On Your Plate,” a new program that asks residents to make room on their plates for Connecticut-grown or produced foods at every meal.

This program serves as a reminder to all Connecticut residents that they have the opportunity to incorporate fresh, healthy, and delicious foods into their everyday diets while also supporting the state’s agriculture and aquaculture communities.

“When you eat food that was grown in Connecticut, you are not only getting a nutritious meal, but you are also supporting your neighbors who work in Connecticut’s agriculture industry,” Governor Ned Lamont said. “With more than a hundred farmers’ markets operating across the state and dozens upon dozens of stores selling locally grown food, everyone has the opportunity to support Connecticut farmers.”

Connecticut is home to more than 5,500 farms covering more than 380,000 acres. The state’s agriculture industry supports 22,000 jobs in production, processing, or agribusiness and contributes approximately $4 billion to the state’s economy each year. With more than 100 farmers’ markets operating across the state, Connecticut consumers have access to fresh, local foods year-round. Eating local foods supports farmers and growers, bolsters the state’s economy, and greatly benefits the general public health.

“Adding CT Grown foods to your meal plans is a great way to promote healthy eating habits while supporting our state’s diverse array of farmers and producers,” said Bryan P. Hurlburt, Commissioner of CT DoAg. “Incorporating these locally grown or made foods can be as simple as packing an apple or milk in your child’s lunch box or seeking out the CT Grown logo at your local grocery store or dining venue.”

Read 10 Ways to Put CT Grown Products on Your Plate Every Day

Through a pair of programs — Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP), Connecticut Grown food products are accessible to families of all income levels and budgets. 

The Connecticut Department of Agriculture strongly encourages people who receive SNAP benefits to use them at farmers’ markets. Most markets accept these benefits, allowing them to be used for the purchase of fruits, vegetables, cut herbs, and honey. Some markets help these benefits go even further by doubling benefits for fruit and vegetable purchases.

Most farmers’ markets in Connecticut are affiliated with FMNP, which serves participants of Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and seniors over the age of 60 and meets income eligibility guidelines with funds through an app or card to purchase fresh fruits, vegetables, cut herbs, and honey. The FMNP program is accessible between July 1 and November 30 each year.

The Connecticut Department of Agriculture, in partnership with Miranda Creative, is proud to present CT Grown Academy this fall. These free webinars will offer guidance on how Connecticut farmers and agricultural producers can improve their digital presence, allowing them to better connect with consumers online.

Joining all three webinars is recommended, but participants can also attend webinars individually. Each webinar will last approximately one hour. For more information, please contact Yana Dynia at [email protected].

Webinar One: From Farm Life to #farmlife: Social Media Marketing Basics

When: Monday, November 6th at 1 p.m.

What: Gain an understanding of how a strong social media presence can benefit your farm. The topics covered encompass establishing a social media foundation for your farm, reaching the appropriate audience, creating a comprehensive strategy for your social presence, an overview of scheduling tools, and more. The webinar also provides ample time for an extended Q&A session. Presented by Allie Bryant, the Social/Digital Brand Manager at Miranda Creative.

View Recording

Webinar Two: Your Digital Multi-Tool: Using Canva Effectively For Your Farm Marketing

When: Friday, November 17th at 1 p.m.

What: Canva is a free, easy-to-use graphic design tool that lets you quickly and easily liven up the visual materials you use in your marketing. The eye-catching graphics you can create are perfect for social media posts, flyers, brochures, and more. Emily Karam, a Miranda Creative graphic designer, guides you through the process of creating and sharing images using Canva.

View Recording

Webinar Three: Are Customers Finding You Online? Understanding Your Online Presence, Google SEO and Google Analytics

When: Wednesday, December 6th at 1 p.m.

What: When customers search online for fresh, locally sourced products, you want to make sure that your farm is showing up in the results. Greg Boyd, Director of Digital Media Services at Miranda Creative, discusses how you can improve the search engine optimization (SEO) of your website and use other tactics to be seen online. 

View Recording

Orr will be a CT Grown ambassador working with farmers and consumers to help increase awareness of Connecticut’s rich agriculture and aquaculture industries

Connecticut’s farming industry will have a new voice and face this fall as renowned farmer and cheesemaker Lily Orr has signed on as the new ambassador for CT Grown. Orr, who was raised on a multigenerational dairy farm in Thompson, will be highly visible throughout the state’s entire agricultural landscape — from making video content and social media posts to appearances at agricultural fairs and visiting farms in every corner of Connecticut. 

Orr was raised at Fort Hill Farms in Thompson, a third-generation dairy farm committed to sustainability and diversification. After graduating from the University of Connecticut with a degree in Natural Resources and Environmental Science, she worked at Connecticut Farmland Trust, assisting with easement acquisition and managing the CT FarmLink program. Lily currently works as the Pasteurized Cheesemaker at Cato Corner Farm in Colchester, an award-winning farmstead cheesemaker.

“We are excited to welcome Lily Orr to the CT Grown team,” said Bryan P. Hurlburt, Commissioner of CT DoAg. “Lily is a great asset to the Connecticut agricultural community and an ideal candidate for this role. She has the education, experience, and personality to make a strong connection with the people of Connecticut and demonstrate the value of our agricultural industry by showcasing the amazing farms, farmers, and producers throughout our state.”

As part of her ambassadorship, Orr will regularly meet with farmers to help amplify their presence and spread awareness about the foods and products they are producing. She will also produce content for social media, blogs, and newsletters — including creating informative and educational videos. 

“I grew up on a farm that was very diverse; we had dairy cows, a plant nursery, pick-your-own berries, a corn maze, an ice cream shop, a biodigester —  you name it,” said Orr. “Through it all, my grandparents and parents instilled in me to be proud of what we grow, produce, and give back to the local community. I’m honored to assume a role that will help spotlight Connecticut farmers and the growing agricultural potential of our state with the CT Grown brand.”

Looking for a fun day out this fall? Make sure you include CT Grown on your itinerary! With tasty products and unforgettable experiences all throughout the harvest season, Connecticut farms help give autumn its unique character. Whether you’re looking for an interesting weekend activity or need a fun family excursion, you can find it at a local farm. 

Don’t miss these CT Grown experiences while celebrating the “fall-idays” this year.

Pick your own apples

For many Connecticut families, visiting an apple orchard and picking your own apples is a beloved tradition. Take home a bag for snacking, or grab a few bushels to use in your baking and keep in storage during the winter. Please be sure to check ahead for availability, and follow the farm’s rules for the best experience.

Get some apple cider

We look forward to apple cider all year! This tangy beverage is delicious whether it’s warmed up with cinnamon and spices, served cold, or served extra cold as a cider slushie. And once cider season is back, apple cider donuts make their return as well! These treats are the perfect balance of apple, cinnamon, and sugar, and are a must-have to complement the crisp fall days.

Visit a pumpkin patch

Whether you need to find just the right pumpkin for a Halloween jack o’lantern or a selection of smaller specimens for your fall decorations, a visit to the pumpkin patch is in order. This is a particularly fun activity for children, who love to scramble among the pumpkins and find one that catches their eye. 

Get lost in a corn maze

The distinctive corn mazes at Connecticut farms are projects that take months of planning and preparation. Once fall arrives, you can see the results of all this hard work and challenge yourself to navigate these intricate labyrinths. In addition to daytime visits, farms often schedule special evening events inviting people to try the maze by flashlight.

Enjoy a hayride

A hayride is a uniquely fall-flavored way to tour the farm fields. Hay bales are stacked in a wagon to provide surprisingly comfortable seating as a tractor pulls you along. Some farms pair hayrides with special fall events, such as spooky “haunted hayrides” for Halloween.

Have some seasonal ice cream

Too chilly for ice cream? Never! Though temperatures are dropping, farm ice cream stands remain open with fall flavors like pumpkin, gingerbread, or apple pie. Many of these stands close for the winter, so don’t miss this last chance for a special treat!

Find a fall fair or festival

Join the festivities! Fall is a popular time of year for festivals in Connecticut, with events celebrating the state’s bounty of apples, pumpkins, garlic, flowers, and more. Agricultural fair season winds down in October, but there are still a few last celebrations you can check out during the fall. 

Stop by the farmers’ market

Most CT Grown products are in season in October, and the local farmers’ market is a great way to put CT Grown on your plate! You can find a market in just about every community in Connecticut, giving you a chance to peruse goods from local farms, connect with farmers, and enjoy live music and other activities. Outdoor farmers’ markets typically close their season at the end of October, but many communities continue their markets indoors during the winter.

Celebrate Aquaculture Month

Connecticut’s seafaring traditions have been part of the state’s culture for generations, with the proximity of Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean giving the state convenient access to a wide range of aquaculture goods. There are 60,000 acres of shellfish beds harvested commercially along the Connecticut shoreline, and you can also find products like clams, mussels, lobsters, squid, and finfish hauled in by local fishermen. Kelp has also been growing in popularity, with a growing number of coastal farms harvesting this product.

Get ready for Thanksgiving

Start your preparations for the big Thanksgiving feast early! CT Grown farms are taking orders for turkeys, and reserving your bird ahead of time helps guarantee that you’ll have one available in November. You can also check with your local farm to get potatoes, green beans, homemade pies, wines, and other supplies for the holiday.

In honor of the return of The Big E on September 15, the Connecticut Department of Agriculture (CT Grown) is announcing a special prize giveaway running throughout the duration of New England’s favorite fair. 

CT Grown’s Big E Giveaway features prizes totaling $500 in value — all featuring CT Grown products from farms throughout Connecticut. Prizes include:

To become eligible for the prize drawing, all you have to do is sign up to receive the CT Grown monthly newsletter between September 15 and October 1, 2023.

The CT Grown newsletter is a free publication sent to your inbox every month and is a great resource to learn more about what’s fresh from Connecticut’s amazing agriculture and aquaculture producers. Every month, we feature compelling stories, important updates, and family fun events around the state. 

Featured CT Grown exhibitors

Fairgoers can see more than 15 CT Grown farm businesses at this year’s Big E. Scheduled exhibitors include:

Thirteen farm wineries from Connecticut Wine Country will also be at the fair offering samples of reds, whites, roses, and “frose” – frozen wine slushies.

About the Big E

The Big E is an annual fair held at the Eastern States Exhibition in West Springfield, Massachusetts, and celebrates New England’s rich agricultural heritage — showcasing a blend of entertainment, culture, and the agricultural elements that have defined the region for generations.

At the center of The Big E is a deep-rooted commitment to agriculture, reflecting the importance of farming in the history and economy of the New England states. The event serves as a spectacular showcase of the region’s finest agricultural products, livestock, and agricultural practices —  allowing visitors to learn, engage, and immerse themselves in the world of farming.

One of the most anticipated aspects of The Big E is the signature Avenue of States, where each of the six New England states has its own state house that embodies its distinct culture, history, and agricultural heritage. These state houses are more than just buildings; they are a window into the spirit of each state. Inside the state houses, visitors are treated to a sensory journey. From traditional crafts and iconic food offerings to historical exhibits and live performances, each state’s unique character comes alive.

CT Grown invites all Big E attendees to stop into the Connecticut building to sample the prizes being offered in the Big E Giveaway along with many other CT Grown farm products and items from Connecticut’s agriculture and aquaculture producers.