Tag Archives: local

Plant Science Day

Yesterday, my mom and I attended the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station’s annual Plant Science Day on Lockwood Farm.  We strolled around the farm, spoke to scientists and vendors, snapped photos, and tried some lemonade.  Despite the steamy weather, it was a bustling event.

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From the sign at Lockwood Farm:

“In 1910, the Station’s Board of Control purchased the original 20 acres of the farm from the William R. Lockwood Trust.  The selected the site for its orchards.  The Board’s other purchases, at late as 1997, enlarged the farm to 75 acres.  The hybrid corn that feeds the world was invented on Lockwood Farm.  This farm serves as an outdoor laboratory for Experiment Station scientists who conduct research to learn how to manage plant pathogens and insect pests of agricultural crops and trees.  Scientists also evaluate new crops for Connecticut, test fruits and vegetables, and evaluate crops for biofuel.  Lockwood farm has a bird and butterfly garden that is accessible to all and a popular spot for visitors.  On the first Wednesday of August each year, citizens can meet scientists and staff and learn about experiments at Plant Science Day, the Station’s Annual Open House.

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Fields of experimental crops, including heirloom tomatoes.  Since the scientists want to support local farmers, not compete with them, the produce is donated to food banks.

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Flowers in the butterfly garden. 

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While we didn’t spot any butterflies, I did see quite a few bees and other pollinators.

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Exhibitors set up their tents alongside experimental crops.

Since yesterday (Wednesday, August 5) was Day 4 of the CT Grown Challenge, here’s what we ate locally: peaches, blueberries, eggs and milk.

Wherever you are, if you ate something locally grown yesterday, please share it in the comments and join this great challenge!


Filed under Food, Living from Scratch, Local Agriculture, Outside, Sustainable Living

Local Challenge, Events and Resources

Last week, in my review of Food, Inc. I stated:

No longer can we complacently fill our reusable bags with healthy foods and ignore the policies that allow and promote industrial agribusiness, cruelty to animals, contaminated food, poor conditions for workers, and take away our right to free speech, to the detriment of the health of our citizens, small farmers, and the environment.

Since then, I have been following politics, contacting my representatives to make my opinions known, and even spent an afternoon watching C-SPAN and the debate about HR2749, a bill that I wrote a few tweets about.  In an effort to get more people involved in farm issues, I’ve decided to share a challenge, events, and few links that I’ve found to be helpful.  They’re specific to Connecticut, but I encourage you to seek out similar resources in your own state.


For those of you who are Connecticut residents, chech out the first official CT Grown Challenge as part of National Farmer’s Market Week!  From August 2-8, challenge yourself and your family to eat at least one CT grown item each day.  You’ll support local farmers and eat healthy, delicious, fresh food.  If you don’t live in CT, many states will be running similar “Eat Local” challenges.  I’ll participate, will you?

The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station’s annual Plant Science Day will take place on August 5, from 10-4, at Lockwood Farm in Hamden.  You can see the Centennial Farm award presentation (which my family received a while back), listen to speakers on various agricultural and home-gardening topics, and explore the farm and experiments. 

The Potato and Corn Festival will take place in my town from August 7-9.  There’s an agricultural tent and farmer’s market run by the town’s agricultural commission, a cow chip raffle, crafts, entertainment, and of course, baked potatoes and corn.

In addition to the fun challenge and events, here are some links that you may find useful.  Some are specific to CT while others are nationwide.


Filed under Food, Living from Scratch, Local Agriculture, Sustainable Living

Homemade Local Pizza Party

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  • bacon- our pig
  • clams- farm raised by Ed and his brother
  • tomato, scallions, herbs- our garden
  • cheese- made in New England 
  • dough- homemade

I meant to make homemade ricotta for the pizzas today, but instead I visited with the horses and swam in my parents’ pool.  When I got home I made the dough, but once it was all mixed together, I got a call from my mom asking me to come help bring Annabelle and the baby up to the barn, since a thunderstorm was coming and my brothers weren’t home yet.  I left the dough, got poured on, got stuck in the barn for about a half-hour since the lightning was so close.  I kneaded the dough when I got home, but it was still kind of flat.  Even so, the pizza was yummy.

And by the way, we named the baby horse Isabelle.

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Filed under Food, Living from Scratch, Local Agriculture, Sustainable Living, What's for Supper?

Place-Based Learning: Long Island Sound

outer-islandAfter my experience at the Island School, I came back wanting to incorporate what I had learned about place-based learning into my teaching style.  Place-based learning involves learning the subject through an exploration of where you are, your “place.”  I’ve done a good job doing this with my Botany classes, since we spend a lot of time outside identifying plants.  It’s the botany/biology of Connecticut, and biology is my area of expertise.  Although I do a lot outside with my environmental science students, I feel that I have a lack of understanding of the geology and environmental chemistry of our area.  That’s why I’m so excited that I signed up for the course I’m taking this term: The History and Management of Long Island Sound: Environmental Issues.  Since we live minutes from the Sound, it’s so exciting to be taking a course that’s place-based.  Now I’ll have the background I’ll need to better teach my students, and I’ll enjoy the course because it’s so relevant to my life.  Ed’s family’s aquaculture business (clams and oysters) is of course dependent on the Sound, and my professor is part of a group that just got a grant to study oysters in the Sound, so I’m very interested to hear about that project.

I already knew that Long Island Sound was formed when the glaciers retreated about 15,000 years ago (actually it started as a lake), but I picked up some interesting points when the professor discussed its formation tonight.  For example, 10% of the population of the United States lives within 50 miles of Long Island Sound.  Also, the Connecticut River, which feeds into the Sound, has a watershed that runs through all of Connecticut and parts of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Canada.  Essentially what that means is that all of the pollution that finds its way into the Connecticut River eventually ends up in the Sound.

this-fine-piece-of-water1The text for the course is This Fine Piece of Water:An Environmental History of Long Island Sound by Tom Anderson, a local author who may come in to speak to the class.  We’ll also take field trips to the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk and to Outer Island  (one of the Thimble Islands off the coast of Branford), where the Environmental Education program conducts a variety of studies.  I’m also planning to take a course at Outer Island this summer to continue my place-based learning adventure and enjoy the outdoors.  Ed said he and Chris might even swing by in the clam boat to say hi to my class.


Filed under Local Agriculture, Outside, Sustainable Living

There’s No Place like Home for the Holidays

This post is my contribution to the November APLS Blog Carnival, which will be posted on November 15 at the Green Phone Booth.  The topic is “buying local.”  In the spirit of the holidays, I have chosen to write about one thing that we always buy local: our Christmas tree.


We’re all bundled up and the air is chilly as we walk through the woods.  We can both smell that snow’s in the forecast, and Jonathan and I hope that we’ll get a day off school tomorrow.  It’s mid-December, one of our favorite times of year.  We walk down the driveway, through the apple orchard, past the pond.  The pond isn’t safe enough to skate on yet, but we know that soon I’ll be twirling on my skates and the boys will be playing pond hockey.  We walk into the wooded area by the pond, looking for it: our tree.  After walking around the woods with a little saw, we find our tree.  It’s a little bit taller than me, probably around 5 feet.  Jonathan cuts it down and we take turns dragging it back by the pond, through the orchard, and up the driveway.  When we get home, Dad trims the bottom and helps us get it into the stand, setting it up in the toy room.  Nathaniel was too little to help us get the tree, but we’ll let him help decorate.  We string on the colored, flashing lights, and then throw silver tinsel all over it.  It’s perfect in our gaudy, childhood style.  Mom hates colored lights and tinsel, so she has her own tree in the other room.  Mom’s tree is also beautiful, with white lights and apple ornaments, but it doesn’t compare to our tree.

When we were growing up, just the thought of a fake tree made us giggle.  We couldn’t understand why someone would want a tree that was plastic or metal.  Our family sold Christmas trees at our farm market.  We’d spend weekends helping customers select the perfect tree and tie it to their cars to bring home.  Our winter coats and gloves inevitably became sticky with sap and we smelled like evergreen.  To learn more about the Real vs. Fake Christmas Tree Debate, go here.

Many people now are focused on buying locally produced goods, with benefit to both the economy and the environment.  A wonderful starting point to localize your holidays is to buy local Christmas trees. Choosing, cutting, bringing home and decorating your tree will create treasured family memories.  Ed and I have continued this tradition in our own home.  My tastes have changed and I must admit that my tree now looks a lot like Mom’s. 

In addition to memories, real, locally produced Christmas trees are good for the environment.  It typically takes 7 years to grow a Christmas tree.  During that time, these trees are a part of the ecosystem.  They provide oxygen, clean the air, provide food and habitat to animals.  When the holidays are over, there are recycling programs or you can place your tree in the woods, where it will provide food and shelter for insects and other small wildlife.  To learn more about the environmental benefits of real trees and how to recycle them, go here.

But what if you’re a true tree hugger?  You don’t want to kill a tree to celebrate the holidays?  Here are some options for you!

  • Get a potted tree.  You can decorate it in your home and then plant it to enjoy for years to come.
  • Decorate your trees outside.  You can hang apples, orange slices, homemade birdfeeders made of Indian corn spread with peanut butter and coated with birdseed.  Your tree will be beautiful and your wildlife friends will love it, too.
  • Decorate other potted plants.  My mom has hibiscus, palms and other plants that can’t survive a cold Connecticut winter.  Bring them inside and string some lights and ornaments on them, then return to the outdoors when weather permits.

Whatever you do, be aware that the holidays don’t have to be environmentally unfriendly.  I look forward to reading through the other posts in the APLS Blog Carnival this month to learn more about buying local!


Filed under Home, Local Agriculture, Outside, Sustainable Living

Those Other People

“Who did you vote for?” my students asked me in school today.  As a teacher, I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to tell them who I voted for in the presidential race.  I had mentioned that I was undecided, and that was true.  I didn’t decide who to vote for until I woke up on Tuesday morning.  Then I went and voted.  I did, however, reply to their question.

Rosa DeLauro, Ed Meyer, and Vin Candelora.” Who?

I don’t typically talk about politics.  Ever.  Like religion, it’s not one of my favorite topics.  Inevitably, people will dislike what I say and we’ll end up arguing, so I avoid discussing it.  Oh well… here we go.

Rosa DeLauro  is well-known in our area.  This will be her 10th term as congresswoman.  Rosa is a friend to education and to the middle-class.  In addition, it was reported that Rosa won over 80% of the vote last night.  That’s quite an accomplishment, not to mention that there were two opponents: a Republican and a Green Party member.  I figured it was okay to share that I voted for her.

The other two do not represent the town in which I teach, so I went ahead and told my students.  I met State Senator Ed Meyer at a farmer’s market last summer.  He had come out to meet people, talk about how important local farmers were to him, and talk about energy.  I liked what he had to say.  Also, when I emailed him with questions, he wrote back and gave me his home phone number.  I was impressed.

Vin Candelora is my town’s state representative.  He is clearly visible in town, and writes a column in our town paper.  When I emailed him a question for a paper I was writing, he was more than helpful in his reponse, continuing to talk to me via email and giving me great ideas.  He cares about town issues that matter most to me, including preserving farmland and open space and the ongoing road construction.  There was no question that I would vote for him.  Vin ran unopposed, so it appears that other people are happy with him as well.

I hope you are all as happy with the results of your local elections as I am.


Filed under Local Agriculture