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October 2, 2019

CONNECTICUT GROWN PUMPKINS AND AUTUMN AGRITOURISM

Bureau of Agricultural Development and Resource Conservation

 

For many Connecticut families, buying and decorating pumpkins is a family tradition.  2019 has been a good year for pumpkins, which makes it a great year to support a local farmer by purchasing Connecticut Grown pumpkins this autumn.

The dry summer weather has helped to produce an above average pumpkin crop for many Connecticut farmers.

“It’s been a very good year for pumpkins”, said Henry Gresczyk, of Gresczyk Farms in New Hartford. “Much better than last year.”

The wet summer of 2018 put a damper on many crops, especially crops like pumpkins and winter squash, which are susceptible to diseases, like downy mildew, that thrive in wet conditions

“Last year there was a lot of downy mildew,” said Henry. “The rain brings it in worse.”

Henry said the large variety of pumpkins offered by Gresczyk Farms is the biggest selling point for his customers.

“We grow more than 20 varieties of pumpkins, everything from Cinderella, and jack-o-lanterns to sugar pumpkins,” said Henry. “Ten years ago we didn’t sell any colored pumpkins, now it’s nearly 50 percent.”

Gresczyk Farms grows about eight acres of pumpkins on the 130 acre farm. Like many Connecticut pumpkin growers, Gresczyk Farms sells most of their pumpkins directly from their farm store, which is located at 860 Litchfield Turnpike in New Hartford, CT.

A listing of Farm Stand and Stores that sell Connecticut Grown products – many of which offer Connecticut Grown pumpkins, and winter squash, is available on the Connecticut Department of Agriculture (DoAg)’s website at www.ctgrown.gov.

In addition to pumpkins, Gresczyk Farms sells winter squash, and other Connecticut Grown products - including autumn decorations like Indian corn and mums- at their retail farm store and five farmers markets, and wholesale at the Hartford Regional Farmers Market.

Gresczyk Farms offers a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. For many customers, the availability of pumpkins and winter squash signals the end of the summer season CSA, and the beginning of the winter season CSA which includes a wide assortment of winter squashes.

2019 has also been a very good year for winter squash.

“You name it, we grow it.” said Henry. “Butternut, Buttercup, Mashed Potatoes.”

According to Henry, Butternut is still the most popular winter squash, but others squashes like Mashed Potatoes and Delicata are gaining popularity. Delicata is an heirloom squash with flavor similar to that of sweet potatoes. Mashed Potatoes squash is a stark-white Acorn squash that resembles mashed potatoes when cooked and fluffed.

Winter squash is a traditional storage crop that can be kept for a long period of time, without refrigeration and not spoil. Other storage crops include carrots, beets, and potatoes.

Most storage crops are harvested in the fall, then held for winter storage under low-temperature and humidity conditions.

“Some customers buy winter squash for storage at their house,” said Henry. “We sell our own winter squash at the farm store until the end of February.”

Some Connecticut farms are also a destination for family-friendly fall activities like hay rides and corn mazes. Connecticut offers more than two dozen corn mazes at farms throughout the state.

“Agritourism is an important component to keeping our farms thriving and encouraging consumers to learn more about where their food comes from and the importance of agriculture to Connecticut’s economy and environment.” said DoAg Commissioner Bryan P. Hurlburt.

March Farm is a fourth generation family farm and agritourism destination established in 1915, in Bethlehem, CT. The 150-acre farm includes more than 40,000 square feet of greenhouse space, 60 acres of sweet corn, 50 acres of apples, and 10 acres of pumpkins.

Over the past decade March Farm has expanded their pick-your-own, CSA and retail sales rather than growing for a wholesale market that rarely recognizes the increasing costs of labor, machinery, and seeds.

March Farm has also expanded agritourism efforts, previously winning Connecticut Magazines’ Best Farm/Orchard Destination designation.

Fourth generation farmer, Ben March, said March Farm’s agricultural attractions –such as a corn maze, playscape, animal yard, and hayrides-  help to attract and retain customers.

“Future business plans will concentrate on improving the economic viability of the farm by continually expanding our reach as a premier agricultural destination,” said Ben.

March Farm’s also offers customers a farm store, bakery, event spaces, and seasonal special events. 

Sub-Edge Farm is a family farm that grows 15 acres of vegetables, fruits, flowers, and culinary herbs as well as some livestock. Sub-Edge Farm has partnered with nearby DORO Restaurant Group to host farm-to-table dinners on the farm, which is located in Avon and Farmington.

Rodger Phillips of Sub-Edge Farm said the farm dinners are important to his customers.

“Our customers love the farm dinners and really look forward to them every year,” said Rodger. “It is a totally unique experience to dine outside, under the stars eating food made from scratch from ingredients picked that day.”

The farm dinners also help to sustain and promote business for Sub-Edge Farm, and connects customers with where their food comes from.

“We love to work with our restaurant partners. Having the farm-to-table dinners really creates a lot of buzz and adds value to what we do and keeps people coming back,” said Rodger. “Most people have honestly never set foot on a farm so agritourism on real, working farms can definitely help educate folks about how good, clean local food is raised.”

A DoAg listing of Connecticut farms that offer agritourism activities like corn mazes, hay rides, and on-farm agriculture festivals is available at: www.ctgrown.gov. For more ideas about exploring Connecticut agritourism go to: http://www.ctvisit.com/articles/agritourism-connecticut.