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Bill Would Aid Small Farms

By Shawn R. Beals (Hartford Courant 5/4/10)

  MAY 4, 2010 --

It may get easier for Connecticut farmers to sell more of their own products soon if the "Pickle Bill" makes it to a vote before the end of the General Assembly's 2010 session Wednesday.

The bill would allow small farms to produce and sell acidified foods - such as pickles, salsa and tomato sauce - at their farms or at farmer's markets. It's aimed at promoting local agriculture and preserving the state's remaining farms.

"Not only can you extend your season, but you're selling a higher value product," said Steven Reviczky, director of the Connecticut Farm Bureau.

By pickling the surplus fruits and vegetables they don't sell during the season at farm stands and markets, farmers can prolong a crop's value far beyond the end of the growing season, he said.

Officials said current regulations are too restrictive on producing those kinds of products. They currently need to be prepared in a commercial kitchen, which costs up to $40,000 to build and is far out of reach for the average family farm.

If the bill is passed, farmers would have to get their recipes tested to ensure the pH level is low enough to kill bacteria, complete a state-approved food-handling course and have their water supply tested yearly. Products would also carry a label noting that the food was not prepared in a government-inspected kitchen.

So far, the pickle bill has passed the public health and general law committees. Another bill, dubbed the Food, Farms and Jobs bill, contains duplicate language that would also enact the pickle bill's intentions, said state Rep. Bryan Hurlburt, D-Tolland, the sponsor of the second bill.

"It gives farmers another opportunity to sell their farm-fresh products," Hurlburt said.



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