AGRICULTURE DAY AT THE CAPITOL
Bureau of Agricultural Development and Resource Conservation
Apples, chowder, eggs, ice cream, maple syrup, and potted plants are just a few of the items expected to be on display during Agriculture Day at the Capitol (“Ag Day”) scheduled for Wednesday, March 20, 2019*, from 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
More than 45 organizations featuring farmers, agricultural non-profits, producer associations, cooperatives, federal and state agricultural agencies, and Connecticut municipalities are anticipated to be on display throughout the Capitol in the Hall of Flags, North Lobby, and Rotunda. Each display will highlight their work within agriculture while conveying their individual stories of success and challenges.
Organized by the Connecticut Agricultural Information Council (CAIC) and the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, Ag Day is a celebration of the diversity and success of agriculture in Connecticut. It also offers attendees an opportunity to schedule an appointment with their state representative to discuss the importance of agriculture and educate them on why their support is needed.
Dr. James LaMondia of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station and member of CAIC says, “Many legislators do not have direct contact with farmers, agribusiness or the organizations that work with farmers and Ag Day is a great way to demonstrate the impacts that agriculture has on our communities and the Connecticut economy.”
CAIC collaborates with Connecticut’s FFA program to assist with the building of legislator bags while offering students the opportunity to learn first-hand how state government works. Students from Southington High School FFA Chapter also provide corsages for each legislator. Other highlights of the program include the opportunity to tour agricultural displays, sample Connecticut Grown products and the presentations of Outstanding Young Farmer (OYF), Century Farm, and Journalism awards.
Today’s farmer has become an active citizen, participating in everything from local and state government to civic groups and charitable organizations. The OYF award has been established to recognize outstanding achievements in agriculture as well as community involvement.
CAIC is pleased to announce that the 2019 Connecticut OYF award recipient will be Steve Munno, farm manager of Massaro Community Farm in Woodbridge, CT.
“Steve stood out as someone who not only worked on his own career as the first and to this point, only, manager of Massaro Community Farm, building the CSA program, he helped create a community of farmers to build support for each other and new first generation farmers in his leadership role with the New CT Farmer Alliance. His contributions to the community add to his success as a farmer and role model for other young farmers in Connecticut,” says LaMondia.
Steve is originally from Long Island and is a graduate of Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT.
After graduation in 2001, Steve’s work in field science and wilderness skills education took him to California, where he lived for five years. During this time, Steve began to hone his skills in agriculture.
Always a food lover and longtime supporter of local farms, Steve found his work in the wilderness continually pointed toward the importance of healthy food and its connection to healthy communities and healthy land.
Inspired to be more involved with food and farming, he volunteered with a local farmer for two years before enrolling in the UC Santa Cruz Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture.
Upon completion of this Apprenticeship, Steve stayed on for second year at UC Santa Cruz serving as a teacher and assistant manager at a small market garden growing a tremendous variety of vegetables, flowers, fruit and perennials.
He then returned to the east coast to work for The Food Project in Lincoln, MA. Steve managed the greenhouse on this 30-acre farm and helped provide for a 400-member CSA, supply food to farm stands in Boston, donate produce to hunger relief organizations, and offer educational opportunities to youth and community organizations in the greater Boston area.
At the end of 2009, Steve came to Massaro Farm to revive the land and bring the fields at Massaro Farm back into production.
Steve will represent Connecticut at the National Outstanding Young Farmer (NOYF) Awards Congress being held in Westbrook, CT, February 6-9, 2020.
Since 2012, four Connecticut OYF nominees have gone on to be NOYF Semi-Finalists. Past NOYF winners from Connecticut include Joe Geremia in 2011 and Joe DeFrancesco in 2016.
The Century Farm Award is given to a farm that has been in family operation for more than 100 years, and has outstanding potential to be a successful business for another 100 years. The recipient is selected annually by the CAIC.
The 2018 winner was Zentek Farm of Cheshire, CT. They were presented with the plaque at Plant Science Day in August 2018 and will be recognized at Ag Day this year.
Zentek Farms can be traced back to 1914 when Pawel and Aneila Zentek, Polish immigrants, put down their roots in Cheshire, CT. They purchased property on Higgins Road to establish a dairy farm and soon began a family that resulted in ten children. Eventually, Pawel and Aneila decided to shift from dairy to agricultural farming.
As Pawel and Aniela's children grew into adulthood and got married, most of them explored different avenues to make a living. Two of their children, Joseph and Stanley, remained bachelors and resided on the farm to continue in the business.
Paul Walter Zentek, named after his grandfather Pawel, began helping his uncles, Joe and Stanley, on the farm. Paul's interest in farming continued to expand as he grew older.
He worked side by side with his uncles and incorporated many new ideas. He continued to farm the land with vegetables, however he also saw the benefits of raising bedding plants and Easter bulbs.
Over the years, greenhouses were constructed on the farm. Presently, the greenhouses cover five acres of farmland. Although raising bedding plants has been a primary focus, Paul continues to farm fifty acres of vegetables each year.
In 1987, an eight-by-ten square foot vegetable stand was built. In 2004, a larger vegetable and flower stand was built to accommodate their growing business. The Zentek Farms stand is best known for its sweet corn.
Today, Paul works the farm with his sons, Benjamin and Joseph, and his brother, Michael. Paul and Donna Zentek hope that the fourth-generation will continue in the footsteps of their great-grandparents, Pawel and Aniela.
Century Farm nominations for 2019 are due by June 1, 2019. For more information about nominating a farm for the Century Farm Award and a complete listing of award recipients visit http://ctaginfocouncil.org.
The purpose of the Agricultural Journalism program is to recognize outstanding coverage of Connecticut agriculture by the news media. Nominations may be made by anyone in Connecticut with an interest in agriculture, including the entrants themselves.
If you’ve never attended Ag Day before, plan on it this year. You won’t be disappointed. For more information, please visit www.ctaginfocouncil.org.
*In case of inclement weather, a snow date of March 21 has been scheduled.