'Commissioner in Your Corner' brings attention to local agriculture

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Eastford - posted Mon., Mar. 28, 2011
Steve Broderick, of Town Line Tree Farm, explains the potential for maple syrup processing in the state. Photos by Denise Coffey.
Steve Broderick, of Town Line Tree Farm, explains the potential for maple syrup processing in the state. Photos by Denise Coffey.

Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Daniel Esty and Agriculture Commissioner Steven K. Reviczky toured a section of Town Line Tree Farm in Eastford on March 25. It was the first in a series of “Commissioner in Your Corner” events scheduled for northeastern Connecticut. Esty, who was recently appointed by Gov. Dannel Malloy, plans to conduct monthly visits like this around the state to celebrate Connecticut and its forests and farmlands.

Esty wants to use the events to talk about ecology, the environment and the economy, he said.

Steve Broderick, Connecticut's Tree Farmer of the Year for 2010, gave a short tour of his Town Line Tree Farm. Broderick owns 43 acres, where he manages timber production and maple syrup operations. He used the occasion to highlight the potential for maple syrup production in the state. There are tens of thousands of sugar maples in Connecticut forests, Broderick said, and currently only one-tenth of 1 percent of all sugar maples are being harvested. By comparison, Vermont harvests 2 percent of its sugar maples. Quebec harvests 33 percent.

“And we are in the middle of one of the best markets in the world,” Broderick said.

The combination of tubing and suction harvesting has revolutionized the industry. Research has helped farmers get the most out of their land, while keeping their trees healthy. Broderick praised the DEP’s forestry program, in which landowners can get advice on the best practices for a variety of land uses.

“You can tap a tree for a hundred years and have it healthy if you do it right,” Broderick said. Then he showed a sugar maple and how he would tap it over the course of several years. The holes (two per tree, maximum) are an inch and a half deep, and with every year he taps a different hole. “You go up and over 6 inches,” he said, “until you work around the tree. Eventually, you want the tree to grow an inch and a half of new wood before you drill in the same place another time.”

Reviczky said that farmers across the state are facing similar challenges, whether they are in the Quiet Corner or in more populated areas. “There's a lot of intersection between agriculture and environmental protection,” he said. And with agriculture providing $3.5 billion in sales and 200,000 jobs, according to a University of Connecticut study, it’s important to get it right.

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