Thompson starts Farm Passport Program

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Thompson - posted Mon., Apr. 15, 2013
Farm Passport Program
Simmenthal cattle are raised on the grounds of New Boston Beef in Fabyan, which will be part of the new Farm Passport Program. Photos by D. Coffey.

Taking a cue from the Passport to Connecticut Farm Wineries Program, the town of Thompson is instituting a Farm Passport Program. Thompson Recreation Department, the Agriculture Commission, and several of the town's 20 farms have joined together to offer recreational opportunities and family-friendly events to local residents.

“We're trying to get people outside, doing fun things and learning about their community,” said Agriculture Commission member Lynn Landry. Bringing people to the farms made sense because agriculture is a cornerstone of the town, she said. “There's a sheaf of wheat on the town seal. Agriculture is part of our history and part of our future,” Landry said.

The scenic vistas, the acres of cornfields and the unspoiled rural nature of much of the town can be linked to the agricultural businesses here. Landry calls it an important part of the community. “Farming supports community,” she said. “It provides jobs. It preserves wetlands and our environmental systems and all the wildlife that lives here.”

Commission Chair Ross Eddy hopes the program will help people better understand where their food comes from and what kind of investments and technology go into growing or raising that food. “Most people don't really see how food products are grown and raised,” he said. Residents may also not be familiar with what is required to plant fields of corn or mow acres of hay.

“Over and over, studies have shown that agricultural operations bring in more to the town in tax revenue than they use in services,” Landry said. “That's an important piece of community, too. And when we support our local businesses, that money stays in the community. It keeps those businesses viable. It keeps those fields undeveloped.”

Recreation Director Rene Waldron said the program was a way to educate people about what the town has to offer in terms of local farm businesses. “We'd like to encourage people to buy local, but they can't buy local if they don't know what's out there,” she said.

Thompson farms supply everything from finished sheds to heirloom tomatoes, blueberries and honey to milk and ice cream. There are farms that sell fresh eggs and beef. Others sell custom-cut lumber, organic lavender, perennials or vegetables. There are horse, dairy and alpaca farms.

The “passports” will have a map of Thompson and a list of all participating farms, their specialties, and where they are located. A passport holder will get a signed business card at each farm visited during the season, which will run from May 11 to Nov. 7. Those business cards will be stapled to the passport.

Special events will be planned at certain farms throughout the summer. Area events such as free movie nights, Riverside Park concerts, Celebrate Agriculture, and Walktober walks will be included in a calendar section of the passport.

The kick-off event will be held on May 11 at New Boston Beef on Fabyan-Woodstock Road. It will culminate in Harvest Night on Nov. 7 at the public library. Passport holders will receive one raffle ticket for each farm visited, and at the end of the evening, those tickets will be drawn for door prizes. The prizes will include baskets from participating farms.

For more information, call Thompson Recreation Department at 860-923-9440.

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