Connecticut Farmers Keep Farming and Healthy Food Close to Cities and Suburbs
Terry and Jean Jones consider their Jones Family Farms near Shelton, Conn. an embassy for agriculture. After all, the farm, located only 80 miles from the heart of New York City’s Times Square, is an outpost of organic growth in an otherwise suburban landscape.
“We’re ambassadors for the rest of American Agriculture,” says Terry, 60, who represents the fifth generation of his family to work this land. “We have to do what ambassadors do—promote positive relationships and better understanding.”
At that they have been enormously successful. Jones Family Farms is a destination unto itself, where customers can pick their own strawberries, blueberries, pumpkins, Christmas trees, browse the retail shop or sip a bit of artisan wines in the farm’s tasting room of the Philip Jamison Jones Winery, started by the sixth generation of the family.
Terry’s wife, Jean, by education a registered dietitian with a Masters Degree in Public Health from Yale University, has also used the farm to promote agriculture and good health to the literally thousands of visitors over the years.
“I’m a subversive health nutritionist,” Jean quips as she explains how the farm encourages everyone to eat lots of fruits and vegetables while harvesting their own produce. During dedicated educational programs for school groups conducted every October the farm teaches as many as 3,000 kids about local agriculture and nutrition.
Such valuable contact with the public is one big reason why it is so important that some farmland be saved that is accessible to those from cities and suburbs.
The Jones Family has partially gifted a conservation easement on a portion of their farm using the Federal Farm and Ranch Protection Program, which provides matching funds to state or local government or organizations. This four-way partnership also involved state and municipal programs for farmland preservation.
“What would have been seemingly impossible for any one entity to accomplish happened very successfully with the four of us working together,” says Terry. In return (using the proceeds from the easement purchase), the Jones family is setting up a farmland stewardship fund to promote the continuation of local farming and to provide for environmental sustainability.
In fact, their 400-acre farm is a key part of 2,000 acres locally that have been protected through greenways, land trusts, public watershed and purchase of development rights from other area farms. “We don’t want to be the last farm out here,” says Terry.
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