No. Branford keeping farm heritage alive

Thursday, October 9, 2008 8:24 AM EDT
By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff

NORTH BRANFORD — U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro took a tour of the past and future of local farming with several town officials Wednesday.

The group visited the former Augur Farm — which the town bought about three years ago and hopes to turn into an agriculture museum — as well as Town Council member Andrew Bozzuto’s organic farm in Northford.

“People just have no idea of the rich farm heritage the whole state has, particularly this area,” said DeLauro, D-3, the chairwoman of a House subcommittee on agriculture, rural development and the Food and Drug Administration.

Bozzuto, who is also co-owner of waste-hauling company John’s Refuse and Recycling, started the farm five years ago on what was then woodland. He now has a herd of about 20 organic beef cows as well as goats, swine and chickens.

Officials, including Bozzuto, council member Ashley Joiner, Mayor Michael Doody and Town Manager Richard Branigan, told DeLauro about their plans for the Augur Farm and town-owned land next door to the property on Forest Road. They are hoping to relocate the Wall baseball field and add more recreation facilities to the area, at a cost of more than $1 million.

The town has secured a $400,000 state grant for the project, but is still looking for additional funding. The relocation is necessary because the state Department of Transportation is planning to widen Route 80 at the field’s current location in the next few years, officials have said.

DeLauro said that, despite the current economic downturn, she thinks there will still be federal funding available for projects like these. She pointed to provisions in the most recent Farm Bill that could provide money for preserving open space and supporting local farms.

The bill, which Congress passed earlier this year, includes increased funding over the previous Farm Bill for conservation efforts nationwide and a program to assist local governments in buying development rights to preserve agricultural uses, according to the House Committee on Agriculture.

Branigan said that North Branford “has made a huge commitment to open space.” It also recently formed an Agricultural Commission, which has the goal of keeping farms in town.

DeLauro said she supports those efforts.

“It’s about good health; it’s about making farms productive. These are small farms and it’s been a difficult time,” she said. “We want to work with people to try to do these kinds of things. … This is a community that is about family farms.”

Bozzuto called his farm “a hobby that’s now evolving.” He is working on expanding his stock of cattle with “clean” animals that have been raised on organic farms, and he said he has never used synthetic fertilizers on his land.

“We’re out shopping and trying to bring different breeds to this area,” he said. “We do our research (and) we go far and wide for it.”

Branigan said Wednesday that the Augur Farm and Wall Field projects are not the most urgent the town is facing, but it is important to start the process of looking for funding. He noted that, with the negative economic climate, leaders from many towns are expecting a contraction in the amount of federal money available.

“To think otherwise is unrealistic,” he said.

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