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Posts Tagged ‘connecticut’

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Photo: John Moore / Getty Images
Stamford elementary school teacher Luciana Lira, 42, kisses baby Neysel, then 2 1/2 weeks, before showing the newborn for the first time to his mother Zully, a Guatemalan asylum seeker gravely ill with COVID-19, and her son Junior, 7, via Zoom.

I wanted my blog to be the first place you saw this story, but you can’t keep a good story down. Yesterday I noticed that the Washington Post had picked it up from a May 2 report by Christine Dempsey at the Hartford Courant. Read on.

“One month ago,” Dempsey wrote, “Luciana Lira, a bilingual teacher at a Stamford elementary school, got a call from a parent like no other. The mom, gravely ill with the coronavirus and about to deliver a premature baby, could barely breathe. ‘Miss Lira?’ she said in Spanish. ‘I need help.’

“The call set off a chain of events that led to Lira agreeing to take the woman’s newborn while the mother and her other family members recover from COVID-19. The 42-year-old educator spent most of April teaching online during the day and warming up bottles and feeding the baby at night, all while looking after her own son, husband and in-laws.

“For the baby’s mother, Zully, recovery has been slow. Her breathing tube was removed only on April 18, and she still is testing positive for COVID-19. Zully’s son — Lira’s student — Junior, 7, also tested positive, as did Zully’s husband, Marvin. …

“In the urgent phone call, Zully asked Lira to call her husband, Marvin. She gave Lira his number.

“At the time, Lira wouldn’t have known Marvin if she walked into him, she said. … But after Zully’s April 1 request, Lira was now on the phone with him, speaking Spanish, and he was a mess.

” ‘All he could do is cry. And cry. And cry,’ Lira said. …

“Lira realized she needed to act as an interpreter for the family. So she went to the hospital, but was turned away when staff learned that she was not a relative. A few days later, with Marvin’s approval, she was allowed to receive medical information on behalf of the family. Lira was now the point person for communication between Marvin and Stamford Hospital. In addition to talking to Marvin, she has been communicating with family members as far away as Guatemala.

“Her role was stressful. Zully was doing very poorly. She delivered her 5-pound, 12-ounce baby boy while in a medically induced coma, Lira said. …

“While Zully lay in a hospital bed, unaware she had given birth, the conversation turned to the baby, who eventually was named Neysel. …

“Marvin, who strongly suspected he, like his wife, had COVID-19, was afraid his newborn would contract the disease. He had no available relatives who could take the baby home. …

“ ‘Mrs. Lira, I know I can’t ask you this,’ he said one day, according to Lira.

“ ‘I said, “Don’t even say it because I’m going to,” ‘ Lira said. ‘ “You don’t even have to ask. My answer is yes.” ‘

Marvin insisted on making Lira’s husband Alex — who only knows a little bit of Spanish — part of the conversation before she brought a strange baby into the house, she said. ‘Marvin is amazing, a very, very responsible man,’ she said. ‘Even the nurse was crying.’ ..

“A colleague from school set up a gift registry for baby items. People donated supplies and food, she said. Then came the day of discharge. Donning a mask, gloves and protective covering, Lira took a car seat and headed to the hospital. … Marvin, who, like Lira, also was wearing head-to-toe protective gear, was standing on the opposite corner of the room, recording the moment from a distance with his phone.

“ ‘Oh … my … God. Hi, Baby,’ Lira said. The baby opened his eyes, looked at her and blinked, as if trying to figure out her role in his new life. …

“Since he arrived at her house, Neysel has been doing ‘amazing,’ said Lira, who sounds upbeat even when she’s dog-tired. ‘I work full time during the day, and at night, the baby’s up.’ Asked when she gets sleep, she laughed. ‘I’m getting strength from God.’ …

“Lira is more worried about Zully than herself. While her condition gradually improved, and Zully was discharged, she is far from recovered. She is having trouble walking. Lira said doctors wanted Zully to go into a rehabilitation center, but Zully and Marvin lack the insurance to pay for it because they both got laid off from their jobs at the beginning of the health crisis, essentially falling victim to the coronavirus twice. …

“ ‘My dream would be to have her home, with the baby, for Mother’s Day,’ she said.”

More at the Hartford Courant, here, and at the Washington Post, here.

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Photo: Military.com
Finally, assisted living for older veterans. With new models, Medicaid can help older vets postpone the step into a nursing home.

When I was checking out a retirement place recently (for a vague, distant time when my husband and I are not as healthy as we are now), my guide asked me if either of us had been in the military. She said there is now some federal money that an older vet can tap.

We would not be eligible, but the question rang a bell, and I remembered that when I was an editor, I solicited an article about the first New England assisted-living facility for older vets. Prior to Veterans Landing in Connecticut, an elderly veteran who needed only a little support had to go straight into a nursing home even if she or he were largely independent. It was either that or pay out of pocket for assisted living.

Here, in part, is the 2012 Communities & Banking article “Housing for Veterans: A New Model.” It was written by Lisa Conant, of the Hartford-based Community Renewal Team Inc.

“Connecticut’s veterans are rapidly aging. Nearly 75 percent of the 222,632 veterans living in the state are older than 55.1 With each passing year, this population encounters more health issues and more challenges with daily living. Military conflicts of recent decades have left many with grave injuries, extensive medical needs, and behavioral health issues that are sometimes severe. Although these veterans may not need a nursing home right now, many would benefit from an assisted-living arrangement. Unfortunately, such housing is beyond many veterans’ budgets.

“Now a new model of affordable residential care is being pioneered in Connecticut to help low- and moderate-income veterans maintain independence as long as possible — while easing the burden on the veterans health-care system.

“A Hartford-based community-action agency, Community Renewal Team Inc. (CRT), is teaming up with the Veterans Administration to create Veterans Landing, a new assisted-living facility expected to house 103 older veterans and their spouses. Veterans Landing is modeled on an affordable CRT facility called The Retreat-assisted living that includes programs to help residents continue to enjoy life and contribute to their community.

“The Retreat is part of a state-initiated pilot project designed to determine whether assisted-living services could be provided successfully to very low-income, Medicaid-eligible elderly or disabled individuals. The answer is positive.

“Working with the Connecticut Department of Social Services and four other state agencies, CRT developed a funding structure that leverages existing resources to offset construction and operations costs- and residents’ expenses. Most medical fees get paid by Medicaid or Medicare, and rents are offset with subsidized-housing certificates from programs such as the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority’s rental assistance program (RAP).

“It’s a new concept. Normally, assisted-living residences are available only to those who can cover the costs privately. Medicaid pays for nursing homes, but not for assisted living. The average monthly cost for a Connecticut assisted-living facility is around $4,600 and can range up to $8,000 per month-more when extra fees are added. …

“The Retreat pilot shows that when state assistance follows the person to the level of care appropriate for his or her needs, it can pay for other services — not only a skilled-nursing facility but home care or assisted living. Low-income people who would benefit from assisted living are therefore not forced prematurely into nursing homes merely so they can become eligible for the subsidy. Of the 344 seniors living at The Retreat in September 2011, 147 had either moved out of nursing homes or had avoided premature nursing-home placement. Meanwhile, the facility is saving Connecticut millions of dollars every year. …

“Now veterans, who might in the past have received care in a section of a hospital or nursing home, will be able to have a dedicated facility with the same advantages that Retreat residents enjoy. … Veterans Landing will be the first assisted-living residence in New England to focus solely on veterans over 55-and one of the first nationwide. …

” ‘There’s a brotherhood among veterans,’ says Laurie Harkness, who runs the Errera Community Care Center for VA Connecticut Healthcare. ‘When people are part of the military culture — particularly in a combat zone where they depend on one another for their survival — an amazing bond develops.’ ” More here.

 

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The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Some reasons: required minimum sentences, for-profit prisons that lobby officials to get more business, lack of programs to treat addictions. Most US prisons don’t help people who commit crimes to learn better behaviors, and it’s hard for ex-offenders to find jobs when they get out.

According to the Sentencing Project, “In the last forty years, incarceration has increased with rates upwards of 500% despite crime rates decreasing nationally.”

The good news is that here and there, local sheriffs are experimenting with techniques to reduce recidivism, as are individual states. Whether the new programs are motivated by the wish to save public money, by compassion, or for any other reason, the trend is promising.

Mikaela Porter writes at the Hartford Courant about an initiative in Connecticut.

“For years John Pittman was known as a lifer in the state prison here. But now, he’s taken on a new identity: mentor. …

” ‘My philosophy is this: no one is going to save us but us,’ Pittman said in an interview. ‘I’m older than these guys – grandfather age – and if they can learn something from me without being in my situation with a life sentence then I felt I did my job.’

“The pilot program, called T.R.U.E. (Truthfulness to oneself and others, Respect toward the community, Understanding ourselves and what brought us here, Elevating into success) was set up [early this year] for about 70 18- to 25-year-old offenders at the prison. …

“The pilot program started with a visit to Germany, when Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Correction Commissioner Scott Semple, Vera Institute of Justice President Nicholas Turner toured prisons there.

” ‘We saw people behind bars who had keys to their own cells, cells [they] decorated themselves,’ Turner said. ‘They wore their own street clothes and they cooked their own meals and they worked in the community. People who were there left better off than they had come in.’ …

” ‘This population of 18- to 25-year-olds is responsible for 25 percent of the incidents that we respond to within our correctional institutions,’ Cheshire Warden Scott Erfe said.

“Erfe said approximately 100 correction staff over three shifts will work in the unit, and that workers have taken three weeks of training on human development and behavioral impact, motivational interviewing, mediation and conflict resolution for young offenders, trauma-informed interventions for young adult offenders and family engagement.

“The program includes work on life skills, educational assistance, team-building exercises and family assistance.

” ‘Although this unit is still in its infancy, it is clear that this has a chance to be something truly special,’ Erfe said.” More here.

I particularly like the “U” of T.R.U.E. I believe a lack of self-knowledge probably underlies most of the world’s problems, not just incarceration rates.

Photo: Lauren Schneiderman / Hartford Courant
Inmates talk to Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy about a rehabilitation program at the Cheshire Correctional Institution. Mentors work with offenders between the ages 18-25 to both make facilities safer and prevent young adults from returning to prison.

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Photo: Ellen Albanese for The Boston Globe

For the latest in ridiculous luxury, make sure you get a box of chocolates from the milk of only one cow.

At the Boston Globe, Ellen Albanese has the story:   “You may have heard of single-malt scotch (which must be made from malted barley and distilled at a single distillery), but how about single-cow-origin chocolates?

“At Milk House Chocolates at Thorncrest Farm, Kimberly Thorn crafts certain flavors of chocolates with the milk from individual cows. Karissma, for example, provides the milk for the cabernet sauvignon truffles, while Daydream owns the sea salt caramels. Thorn says that when a pail of milk is delivered to the creamery, she can tell by the smell which cow it’s from.

“Thorn says she discovered the technique by accident. She had been making chocolates with combined milk from the farm’s cows, but one day she forgot to bring home the milk to make the candies. She went back to the barn and milked one cow. The chocolates made from that milk, she said, ‘came out so much better than anything I had ever made before.’…

“Single-cow-origin flavors have become so successful that Thorncrest breeds cows for specific milk/chocolate flavors. The other element is what they eat, said Thorn’s husband, Clint, who oversees genetics and feeding. The farm uses six different types of hay, as well as natural products that influence flavor.” More at the Boston Globe  and at the Hartford Courant.

KerryCan? You make amazing chocolates. Have you ever heard of the one-cow angle?

Photo: Patrick Raycraft/ Hartford Courant
Thorncrest Farm in Goshen, Connecticut, makes chocolates with milk from one cow at a time.

 

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There are so many interesting cultures in the world! For example, when I was editor of a magazine about lower-income issues in New England, I heard for the first time about the Karen from Burma (Myanmar). Who? Soon after, I managed to acquire an article on Karen refugees in Waterbury, Connecticut, so I was able to learn something along with my readers.

Recently, I heard of another new-to-me minority, members of which are being resettled in Massachusetts. They are called Mandeans, and their pacifist religious beliefs had subjected them to persecution in Iraq and Iran for millennia.

Here is what Brian MacQuarrie writes about them at the Boston Globe.

“The Mandaeans have found safety and acceptance since they began arriving [in Worcester] in 2008, freely practicing a monotheistic religion that predates Christianity and Islam. But they still do not have a temple — a ‘mandi’ for baptisms, marriages, and birth and death rituals — and whether one is built could determine if they continue to call Worcester home.

” ‘Work is not the anchor, living in an apartment is not an anchor, the mandi is the anchor,’ said Wisam Breegi, a leader of the Mandaean community. …

” ‘It really is a culture that is in danger of disappearing,’ said Marianne Sarkis, an anthropology professor at Clark University. ‘If you don’t have a way of preserving the culture and traditions and even the language’ of Aramaic — what a temple helps provide — ‘it is not going to survive very long.’ …

“ ‘We really don’t have the expertise, the know-how, the connections,’ said Breegi, who also has founded a scientific firm that is developing a low-cost, disposable, neonatal incubator for use in developing countries.

“To help forge the religious connections, Breegi and Sarkis are preparing an application for a nonprofit organization to help raise money for the temple. Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty said in an interview he is willing to help the project where he can.

“ ‘They’re all doing what everyone else is trying to do — working hard and getting their kids a good education.’ …

” ‘It’ll just help make Worcester stronger in the long run,’ Petty said of his city’s embrace of Mandaeans and other immigrants. ‘You can’t build walls between people.’ ”

Worcester held a ceremony of welcome in April that “represented the first time — anywhere, at any time — that Mandaeans had been recognized as a valued, important minority group, Sarkis said.” Wow.

More here.

Photo: Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff
The Kalmashy family (left to right) Lilo, and her husband Mahdi and their daughters and Sura and Sahar, shared lunch at their home in Worcester.

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My husband’s spring visit to the Arnold Arboretum and a guided tour by Andrew Gapinski, manager of horticulture, got us looking up information on witch hazel.

Steve Kemper at Yankee Magazine had this to say: “Witch hazel grows from southern Canada to Florida and from Minnesota to Texas, but it flourishes most densely in the eastern half of Connecticut. Not quite a tree but more than a shrub, witch hazel has speckled gray bark, a slim trunk typically just a few inches in diameter, and a bushy top that ends well shy of 20 feet. For three seasons of the year, it’s inconspicuous in the understory.

“But after all the leaves have fallen and the last aster has succumbed to frost, witch hazel displays its exuberant eccentricity, bursting into festive yellow blossoms that Thoreau compared to ‘furies’ hair, or small ribbon streamers.’ At the same time, the previous year’s blossoms have ripened into hard fruits, which now explode, propelling the small seeds up to 30 feet. …

“The Native Americans called this strange plant ‘winterbloom’ and ascribed special powers to it. They used it as a cure-all, steeping the bark and branches to make a tea … which they put on cuts, bruises, insect bites, pinkeye, hemorrhoids, and sore muscles — maladies for which witch hazel is still used. “

At the Boston Globe, David Filipov adds, “Native Americans used witch hazel as a cure-all. So did the early European settlers. … Because of that, Dickinson Brands Inc., the world’s largest producer of witch hazel, has quietly prospered here, in what is arguably the witch hazel capital of the world.

“Owners and employees say they have avoided the layoffs, furloughs, and pay cuts that have benighted so many companies. And in this season of shrinking sales and mounting losses, the privately owned company says it has experienced double-digit growth. …

“Sometimes the product’s rich history as an all-round remedy intrudes upon the company’s attempt to place the Witch Hazel brand as a gentle skin-care product for the modern woman.

“ ‘Back in the day, they used to use it a lot on the animals’ who had cuts and scrapes,’’ [an employer] recalled. ‘As a matter of fact, most of the race horses of today use it. After they work out, they wipe the horses with it. Yep, cools the horses down.’ ”

Read all about this built-to-last Connecticut industry at Yankee Magazine and the Boston Globe.

(Witch Hazel was a character in the Little Lulu comics of my childhood. Different witch.)

Image: Franz Eugen Köhler

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Photo: The Library of Congress
Gustave Whitehead and his daughter beside the contraption he called Plane No. 22.

Connecticut wants you to know that it is First in Flight. Not Ohio, not North Carolina. And not because of the Wright brothers. Nope, the state contends, Gustav Whitehead was first — on Aug. 14, 1901.

As Kristin Hussey writes in the NY Times, Connecticut legislators argue about many things, but there is one topic on which everyone is in agreement — where the first airplane was flown.

“In 2013,” writes Hussey, “a well-regarded aviation publication surprised historians by declaring that Mr. Whitehead, a Bridgeport resident, had flown two years before Orville and Wilbur Wright skimmed the dunes of Kill Devil Hills in North Carolina in 1903.

“ ‘Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied,’ read the headline in the publication, IHS Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft. ‘Whitehead has been shabbily treated by history,’ it said.

“Mr. Whitehead, a German immigrant, flew his own aircraft above Bridgeport and nearby Fairfield on Aug. 14, 1901, climbing 50 feet into the air and traveling more than a mile, according to the article, which was written by Paul Jackson, the editor of Jane’s. …

“Within months, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat, had signed a measure changing the honorees of a state holiday called Powered Flight Day from the Wright brothers to Mr. Whitehead. Last spring, lawmakers passed a resolution that formally recognized Connecticut as first in flight.”

Needless to say, fans of the Wright brothers are not taking this lying down. Read about the controversy here.

Photo: Christopher Capozziello for The New York Times
Andy Kosch, a high school teacher from Connecticut, led a group that built a replica of Mr. Whitehead’s plane and flew it successfully. 

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With increasing numbers of Americans experiencing food insecurity, it seems like an appropriate time of year to be grateful that at least there are many goodhearted people managing food banks and community meals and doing what they can.

If you know of anyone in New England who could use the help just now, or if you want to volunteer or donate, this partial list may be a good starting place.

Rhode Island

http://www.rifoodbank.org
“The Rhode Island Community Food Bank works to end hunger in our state by providing food to people in need. We envision a day when all Rhode Islanders have access to nutritious food and a healthy lifestyle.

Massachusetts

East
http://Gbfb.org
“The Greater Boston Food Bank’s mission is to End Hunger Here. Our objective is to distribute enough food to provide at least one meal a day to those in need.”

West
https://www.foodbankwma.org/
“We are fortunate to live in such a special part of the country, allowing for the growth and harvest of a multitude of fresh fruits and vegetables. As this harvest season comes to an end, we have received more than 266,800 pounds of fresh produce — including potatoes, lettuce, carrots, apples and squash — donated by local farms this year.”

Vermont

http://www.vtfoodbank.org/FindFoodShelf.aspx
“If you are looking for a place to have a Thanksgiving meal or to volunteer to help cook, serve or clean-up, download our list of Thanksgiving meals.”

New Hampshire

http://www.nhfoodbank.org/
“Need Food? We Can Help. If you are in need of assistance, use our search to locate the nearest food pantry or soup kitchen to you. Search by your town or county, or view all of our partner agencies.”

Maine

http://www.foodpantries.org/st/maine
“There are several food pantries and food banks in the Maine. With help from users like you we have compiled a list of some. If you know of a listing that is not included here please submit new food pantries to our database.”

Connecticut

http://www.ctfoodbank.org/
“The mission of Connecticut Food Bank is to provide nutritious food to people in need. We distribute food and other resources to nearly 700 local emergency food assistance programs in six of Connecticut’s eight counties: Fairfield, Litchfield, Middlesex, New Haven, New London and Windham.”

harvest

 

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I remember my mother’s story about driving home to Boston with a friend and trying to cross the Connecticut River on September 21, 1938. I wish I remembered the details: where they were coming from, who was driving, whether they got across or the bridge was closed, where they spent the night.

But I will never forget the awe with which people of a previous generation spoke about the Hurricane of ’38, its unexpectedness, its devastation — and little Edrie Dodge crawling on hands and knee across her yard as the winds destroyed the farming and fishing industries of her island.

That hurricane has always held a kind of fascination for me. I was riveted reading A Wind to Shake the World, an excellent book describing places I knew and emphasizing that lack of good communication in 1938. While people in Long Island were fighting the storm, people in Rhode Island had no idea they were next.

Nevertheless, good things came of tragedy, lessons were learned. Forecasting and communication improved exponentially.

The Globe had a retrospective on the 75th anniversary.

Jeremy C. Fox wrote, “On that September afternoon 75 years ago today, the Great New England Hurricane of 1938 tore into New York’s Long Island and then Milford, Conn., and raged through Massachusetts and Vermont, leaving a path of flooded towns, flattened homes, and fires caused by downed power lines. …

“Coming before televisions, computers, or weather satellites, the storm’s speed and fury took both meteorologists and residents by surprise, according to forecasters.

“Meteorology professor Lourdes B. Avilés said the storm remains “the one to which all other New England hurricanes are sooner or later compared.”

More here.

Photo: The Boston Globe
”This enormous tree in our backyard came completely uprooted and came crashing down,” said Irene Goodwin Kane, who was 14 when the storm hit. “That was when I realized that this was really bad.”

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I enjoy blogging about my cousin the tree artist (here, for example). I’m a longtime fan.

Today I learned that one of Sally Frank’s miniprints has been accepted into the International Mini Print Exhibition at the Center for Contemporary Printmaking in Norwalk, Connecticut.

According to its website, “the Center for Contemporary Printmaking is the only nonprofit organization between New York City and Boston solely dedicated to the art of the print, including printmaking, papermaking, book arts, digital processes, and related disciplines.”

Sally Frank does many different kinds of prints and drawings. You can see how varied are the media she works in at her site, here.

Monotype: Sally Frank

trees-by-sally-frank

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Here’s another nice story about using the arts to inspire kids who are turned off by school in troubled districts.

Writes Patricia Cohen at the NY Times, “Stationed in front of one of his large self-portraits, the artist Chuck Close raised his customized wheelchair to balance on two wheels, seeming to defy the laws of gravity.  The chair’s unlikely gymnastics underlined the points that Mr. Close was making to his audience, 40 seventh and eighth graders from Bridgeport, Conn.: Break the rules and use limitations to your advantage.

“The message had particular resonance for these students, and a few educators and parents, who had come by bus on Monday from Roosevelt School to the Pace Gallery in Chelsea for a private tour of Mr. Close’s show. Roosevelt, located in a community with high unemployment and crushing poverty, recently had one of the worst records of any school in the state, with 80 percent of its seventh graders testing below grade level in reading and math.

“Saved from closure by a committed band of parents, the school was one of eight around the country chosen last year to participate in Turnaround Arts, a new federally sponsored public-and-private experiment that puts the arts at the center of the curriculum.”

Read about the reactions of the students — and more at the NY Times.

Photograph: Kirsten Luce for the NY Times
The artist Chuck Close giving a private tour of his show to students from Bridgeport, Conn.

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More good news from the Christian Science Monitor‘s Change Agent series.

Cathryn J. Prince reports that Brass City Harvest in Waterbury is expanding its farmers market to a year-round venue for nourishing food.

Just behind the table that is Brass City’s office, Prince writes, “two large pools await the arrival of trout. Outside stand raised-bed gardens. Some are filled with Asian eggplants, others with tomatoes hanging like Christmas ornaments from the vine.

“Nonprofit Brass City Harvest operates the ‘Connecticut Grown’ farmers markets in Waterbury, providing what its executive director, Susan Pronovost, calls ‘real food’ for hungry people. And next month Brass City Harvest will open a year-round farmers market, selling produce and goods produced by about eight Connecticut farms. …

“The new market will be a food hub, Ms. Pronovost says. According to the US Department of Agriculture, one-third of Waterbury is a ‘food desert.’ That means that either at least 500 people, or 33 percent of the population, have a poverty rate of 20 percent or higher and live more than one mile from a supermarket or grocery store.

“ ‘People are hungry. They knock at our door and ask if we have something,’ Pronovost says. …

“Thinking there must be a better way to feed people Pronovost started Brass City Harvest in 2007. Today it’s a seven-day-a-week operation that sponsors two farmers markets. Brass City’s staff includes a nutritionist, nurse, and social worker. It also offers vocational training to homeless men.

“Still, Pronovost thought more could be done to keep the supply of fresh food and produce flowing year round.

“After visiting Halifax, Nova Scotia, and St. John, New Brunswick, this summer, she says the year-round indoor markets in those cities there inspired her.

“ ‘If people to the north can do it, we certainly can,’ she says. …

“Brass City itself sits on top of a brownfield. The soil is filled with lead and other hazardous materials, Pronovost says. The City of Waterbury inherited the lot and had three choices – leave it alone, dig 30 feet down and replace the soil, or pour a concrete cap over the toxic soil. The city chose to cover the area with concrete. Brass Harvest has built its raised bed gardens over the concrete.” More.

Photograph: Cathryn J. Prince
Brass City Harvest operates an urban garden.This month it is adding a year-round farmers market supplied by nearby Connecticut farms, says Susan Pronovost, executive director of Brass City Harvest.

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I like win-win stories like this one from National Public Radio. It’s about a new crop with a lot of monetary potential — and distinct advantages for the environment.

“It doesn’t require any land or fertilizer. Farming it improves the environment, and it can be used in a number of ways. So what is this miracle cash crop of the future? It’s seaweed.

“Charlie Yarish, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Connecticut, loves seaweed. In nature, he says, when seaweed turns a rich chocolate color, that means the plant is picking up nitrogen, a process called nutrient bioextraction. …

“Many plants and animals cannot survive when there is too much nitrogen in the water, but seaweed is able to ‘capture’ the nitrogen, as well as contaminants in the water.

“A United Nations report says that nearly 16 million tons of seaweed were farmed in 2008 — most of it in Asia. Yarish helped a company called Ocean Approved start the United States’ first open-water kelp farm in the Gulf of Maine in 2006 … Now, he’s helping to create a seaweed farm off the coast of Connecticut.

“Bren Smith owns and runs the Thimble Island Oyster Company, off the coast of Branford, Conn. After his business was hit hard by Tropical Storm Irene last year, ruining about 80 percent of the shellfish crop, Smith started looking around for something more resilient to farm. That’s when he found Yarish, who agreed to help set him up in the seaweed farming business. …

” ‘There’s no barns, there’s no tractors. This is what’s so special about ocean farming. It’s that it’s got a small footprint and it’s under the water. I mean, we’re so lucky; I feel like I stumbled on this just great secret that we then can model and spread out to other places,’ ” Smith says. …

” ‘The plan is to actually split it into a couple different experimental markets — one for food, one for fertilizer, one for fish food. I’m [also] working with a skin care company in Connecticut, and then one for biofuel,’ Smith says. He’s even hoping he can someday fuel his own boat with biofuel from the seaweed.”

Craig LeMoult has the whole story here at NPR, where you also can listen to the audio.

Photograph by Ron Gautreau
Oyster fisherman Bren Smith on his boat.

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My friend’s great niece doesn’t come from professional farmers, but the gardening gene goes back at least to her Italian great grandfather. Now, having graduated from a liberal arts college and worked for various park services, she is — like a surprising number of young people today — going into farming.

At a farm blog, she describes raising organic chickens in Connecticut.

“Hi! Nichki and Laz from The Wooly Pig here, taking over the Barberry Hill Farm blog for an entry!

“We are young aspiring CT farmers who were lucky enough to meet Kelly and Kingsley last March and over the past several months they have become our good friends and farming mentors. This fall, the Goddards have been so kind as to lend us their pasture and their expertise so that we can raise our very first batch of chickens for our community.

“Our birds are pasture raised, which means they are brought up outdoors with plenty of access to fresh vegetation, open air, and sunlight.

“They are fed a strictly organic diet — an added cost for us that we feel is a worthwhile investment in our customers’ health. …

“We can’t thank our customers enough for supporting local, sustainable agriculture. Your good decisions help build strong, healthy communities right here in Connecticut. …

“For more information on our chickens, please contact us by email at TheWoolyPig@gmail.com.”

Read the engaging Barberry Hill Farm blog here. And if you live near Madison, Connecticut, get your chickens from The Wooly Pig

Photograph from http://www.barberryhillfarm.com.

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Did anyone watch the television show Rin Tin Tin as a kid?

I thought of it today when I read this awesome AP story:

“The birth of a white bison, among the rarest of animals, is bringing Native Americans who consider it a sacred event to celebrate at one of the least likely of places, a farm in New England.

“Hundreds of people, including tribal elders from South Dakota, are expected to attend naming ceremonies later this month at the northwestern Connecticut farm of Peter Fay, a fourth-generation Goshen farmer.

“Native Americans in the area have come with gifts of tobacco and colored flags for Fay and the bull calf since it was born there a month ago, and Fay is planning to offer his hay field as a campsite for the expected crowds.

” ‘They say it’s going to bring good things to all people in the world. How can you beat that? That’s the way I look at it,’ Fay said.” More. (There’s a photo there, too.)

I knew I had to blog about it because I loved the Rin Tin Tin episode when young Rusty is in dire straights and is saved by the White Buffalo. I know the song from that episode by heart. It was one of my brother’s records when he was little, although I don’t think it made it into the website with his blues records.

“There’s an old Indian legend that I heard long ago.
“It’s about a special valley and the White Buffalo.

“The legend says you’ll find it if your heart is brave and true
“And you treat all men as brothers no matter what they do.

“I have searched for that valley since I started to grow.
“I won’t stop until I find it — and the White Buffalo.”

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