Connecticut farmers

CT Farms Still Struggling With Weather, Pandemic Impacts as Feds Announce New Funding

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It’s been a tough go for Connecticut farmers from a pandemic to a drought and then severe summer flooding too.

Wednesday, state and local leaders met at Oakridge Dairy in Ellington to announce federal funds expected to help local farms recoup from these troubles.

This includes almost $7 million to distribute to dairy and aquaculture farmers.

Department of Agriculture Commissioner Bryan Hurlburt says earmarked funds for agriculture will also go towards nutritional benefits that can be spent at farmers markets and keeping Foodshare’s drive-thru food distributions open through October, which says it's committing to distribute more Connecticut grown products.

CT Farm Bureau Executive Director Joan Nichols says the funding comes at an important time and she hopes people continue to remember to buy local produce, especially after the food supply shortages we saw around the state during the pandemic.

“I don’t know why we’re shipping food from 2-thousand, 3-thousand miles away,” she said, acknowledging the vast amount of product local farmers create.

While aqua and dairy farmers don’t know exactly how much money they may receive, 5th generation dairy farmer says anything will help.

Right now, feed prices and fuel costs are cutting into their bottom line too.

“It’s been like, you never know what the next month is going to bring,” said Seth Bahler, of Oakridge Dairy in Ellington.

Bahler reminds people the help farmers receive stays in the community, “They say it’s a payment to farmers, it’s really like we just pass it on to the hardware store.”

Sub Edge Farm in Farmington knows the impact the community can have on keeping their farm afloat during these tough times.

Its crop was devastated by flooding.

“Storms just kept coming and coming and we had this last big one that brought water that was about 6 or 7 feet deep and just stayed in the field for a few days until it receded and everything that was there was dead,” said Rodger Phillips, owner of Sub Edge Farm.

The Sub Edge Farm lost its fall harvest and some Thanksgiving turkeys severe flooding during a series of storms this summer.

Phillips tells us about 20 acres of their vegetables were destroyed by the storm and a lot of pastures too.

NBC Connecticut visited the farm last year to check out their Thanksgiving turkeys, but this year’s holiday tradition will be different…

“We lost some Thanksgiving turkeys, some turkey poults, so it was pretty tragic,” Phillips said.

Phillips says the farm is only able to keep its employees on staff right now because of the kindness of the community.

A Go Fund Me page has raised thousands of dollars for them and local restaurants are hosting a fundraiser this week too.

While they don’t have all the vegetables they usually would this season on their shelves, they do still have some product to sell.

“We still have our meats, we still have our eggs, we still have our vegetables we’re picking from our high tunnels, so we’re still going,” he said.

Phillips and other impacted farmers we’ve spoken to around the state implore people to take the extra time to drive to a local farm stand, instead of heading to a supermarket.

“Sometimes in the world that we live in where everything is on-demand, it’s hard to get into a routine like that, but it makes a huge difference to the farms if you actually show up and show up every week,” Phillips said.

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