|MARCH 28, 2010 --
UConn alum and State Rep. Bryan Hurlburt recently introduced state legislation to promote the production of Connecticut-grown food.
Hurlburt's proposed bill, which recently cleared the state legislature's Joint Environmental Committee, proposes that farmers be able to sell salsa and pickles directly from their stands, establishes a "Farm Jobs Training Program" and redirects federally collected milk fees from a regional to a state marketing board.
Professor Bonnie E. Burr, program associate for the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources' Connecticut Cooperative Extension System, said that she's excited to hear about Hurlburt's proposed Farm Training Jobs Program.
"A lot of folks are looking at agriculture part time," said Burr. "This [legislation] seeks to provide training for them."
In a telephone interview, Hurlburt explained that the training program is intended for anyone looking to work in agriculture, regardless of age. He even said that one of his constituents, who now farms, previously worked as a school principal.
"If you got a bunch of land, or even a small amount of land, and you want to be able to grow, it's fantastic," Hurlburt said.
The bill also may affect what farmers can sell on their land.
As a result of the bill, farmers would be able to sell ‘acidified food' directly from their farms will benefit both consumers and producers, according to Burr.
"People want to see the farmer produce not just the pickling cucumber but the pickles," Burr said.
Burr added that acidified food is a value-added product, meaning that farmers can generate more profit from selling the finished product than from selling the raw crop to another firm that manufactures the finished product.
The bill's other provision - to redirect funds from a regional to a state marketing board for milk - may help promote Connecticut dairy products, Hurlburt said.
Hurlburt said that California's famous "Happy cows come from California" commercials were produced by a similar organization.
"So [now] we can say that Connecticut cows are happy cows," Hurlburt chuckled.
Hurlburt said that it is important to support Connecticut agriculture for reasons of retaining cultural heritage, maintaining food security and preserving open space from destruction by urban sprawl.
"Connecticut has a long, rich agriculture heritage," said Hurlburt. "We can continue that."
As far as the current state of Connecticut produce is concerned, Burr said that production is on the rise.
"Locally grown [food] has taken wings and flown over the past eight to 10 years," said Burr.