A new initiative from UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources is helping connect farmers and residents of Northeast Connecticut.
Cultivated connected is a new marketing and education campaign to help showcase the robust agriculture industry in Connecticut’s “quiet corner”, a designated National Heritage Corridor, and help farmers promote their businesses.
“The character of the region is so rich in agriculture, and it wasn’t necessarily shown to be as visible as it could be,” says Becca Toms, extension communications coordinator.
The project will support farmers who sell directly to consumers through farmers’ markets, farm stands or cooperatives. This work is supported by funding through the USDA Agriculture Marketing Service.
“It’s really built around this idea that we want to foster strong links between residents who live in the area and farmers who want to sell directly to consumers,” explains extension educator Jiff Martin.
Currently, over 100 farms in over 20 municipalities are part of Grown Connected.
The slogan “Grown Connected” emphasizes that the project goes beyond the purchase of local products; it is about fostering links between farmers and consumers in this unique region.
“It’s not just about your money,” says Martin. “It’s about your relationship with farmers.
This project was developed through close collaboration with farmers. Grown Connected has a 15 member farm advisor team. These farmers provided the program coordinators with essential advice and expertise through their years of experience.
“They are the most important people in this job,” Toms says. “We wanted their buy-in and approval. ”
Ginger Jenne short Coruscant Farm in Ashford. Given her marketing background, Jenne played a central role in farmer focus groups developing the design and branding of Grown Connected.
Jenne, whose farm grows vegetables, eggs, loofah and beef, says she hopes Grown Connected can help raise awareness of the diversity of farms in the area that sell a dazzling array of products, including fruits, vegetables, flowers, nuts, herbs, dairy products, and more.
“We’re lucky in this part of Connecticut,” says Jenne. “You can find anything.”
Jenne says this initiative comes at a particularly fitting time as the pandemic has shown consumers around the world that grocery store offerings can be disrupted by transportation issues, labor shortages and other challenges.
“You don’t have to be completely dependent on the grocery store,” Jenne says. “We really need to realize that our community can be resilient and that our farmers really support the community. ”
Grown Connected hopes to teach – and more importantly, show – people the value of buying fresh produce. Products from markets and farmers’ stalls last longer and taste better than products shipped thousands of miles away.
“There is a world of difference,” Toms says. “The quality of your food is going to be different.”
The program will also organize information sessions to help farmers improve their marketing strategies. They will provide farmers with tools to create and use websites and social media to reach consumers more effectively.
Program coordinators will collect data on sales from farmers to assess the effectiveness of their efforts.
Grown Connected will officially launch with a Facebook Live event at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, October 13 at Woodstock Orchards. The event will include a raffle for agriculture supported by the local farm community. Click here for more information and to register.
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