9/28/2013 7:00 AM
By Sarah L. Hamby Connecticut Correspondent
WOODSTOCK, Conn. — Labor Day weekend has come and gone, the 153rd Woodstock Fair was a success and the Quiet Corner has begun to settle in to the comforting habits of autumn.
And at the Woodstock Fairgrounds, a tradition of the fall season was held last weekend as friends of agriculture, local farmers, fans of fresh food and purveyors of organic fibers gathered for the 13th Annual Celebrating Agriculture event. More than 50 farmers, vendors, exhibitors and community service providers enjoyed each other’s company and got some brisk business as well.
Celebrating Agriculture began as part of an effort to promote community education and participation in agriculture, as well as to generate consumer support for local farm products. The event is a fun, free, educational day, showcasing the benefits agriculture provides to The Last Green Valley, the 35-town National Heritage Corridor in eastern Connecticut and south-central Massachusetts.
Visitors to Celebrating Agriculture attend for a variety of reasons. Many arrive bright and early each year to bring the family to enjoy a hearty farm breakfast.
“I came with the fire department,” said John Colburn, member of the Muddy Brook Fire Company. “We always bring our trucks down here for the adults and the kids to look at. Of course, we come for the breakfast. It’s the best deal in town; $5 for a man-sized portion.”
Woodstock resident Becki Leavitt was heading to the dairy barn. For Celebrating Agriculture, the barn was hung with beautiful hand-crafted quilts from talented local artisans and Leavitt, president of the Cornerstone Quilters Guild in Charlton, Mass., was very interested.
Horse demos took place at the center of the fairgrounds with young English riders offering tips and tricks and local stables sharing information with visitors.
Laurie Gosselin of Windswept Acres Stables in Woodstock Valley, was there. Gosselin is a longtime participant in Celebrating Agriculture. She said while many in the rural community of Woodstock are well versed in agriculture, some still have questions about horses. Gosselin fielded inquiries about breeds, feeding needs, expense and the day’s favorite, “What kind of horse is that?” Splash, a leopard Appaloosa, offered visitors an uncommon coat to admire.
Gosselin, who has been running her stable since 1980, said the economy has made the business challenging as of late. Still, she hopes things will improve.
Across from the horse demos was a row of vendors from the area, including Fabyan Sugar Shack LLC. A popular business from North Grosvenordale, Conn., renowned for its maple peanut brittle and maple sugar cotton candy, Fabyan Sugar Shack picks up new customers at area events and farmers markets, but maintains a dedicated following as well.
Co-owner Jeff Mailloux said it’s been a good year for sugaring so far, with an excellent spring. Connecticut has experienced some challenging, sometimes extreme winters in recent years, with hurricanes, massive snowstorms and bizarre temperature changes all wreaking havoc on sugaring.
The weather, Mailloux said, is the biggest challenge of doing business in Connecticut.
“It’s New England,” he said. “Sometimes you get good weather and sometimes you don’t.”
Willow Chesmer, a young representative from Graywall Farms in Lebanon, Conn., one of six Connecticut dairy farms that together make up the small dairy cooperative, The Farmer’s Cow, was in Woodstock as well, sharing news and ice cream. Chocolate milk is in stores now, she said, with the fall line of products from the cooperative, including apple cider, ready to replace summer favorites.
Last Saturday’s weather was a little dreary. But what was the day’s top giveaway? “People are enjoying the ice cream,” Chesmer said. “Even though it’s a little chilly, the people swarm.”
Michelle Lyon of Kingdom Kids Family Farm raises and sells Nigerian Dwarf dairy goats and has a small goat milk soap company with her friend and business partner, Sue Barry of Misty Highland Farm. Sparrow Soaps are sold at local fairs and farmers markets but can also be found in stores from Pennsylvania to Rhode Island.
Lyon and her family recently relocated to an 85-acre farm in order to ensure their farming needs and desires could not be altered by an ever-changing outside world.
“You can’t create land,” Lyon said.
Throughout the day, children’s activities took place in the poultry barn, bison burgers from Creamery Brook Bison were hot on the grill, egg cooking demonstrations introduced eggs as a dinner meal, and forestry/logging competitions kept spectators glued to metal bleachers.
Dawn Pindell with the USDA Service Center in Danielson, Conn., knew that the annual event would be a success.
“It’s going to be an exciting day,” she said the day before the event. “It’s a great opportunity for people to enjoy networking and learning who in our area is helping provide food and fiber and the open space that makes agriculture possible.”
For more information about Celebrating Agriculture, visit www.CelebratingAgriculture.org or contact the Danielson, Conn., USDA Service Center at 860-779-0557, ext. 109.