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Small Business Success: Healthful food feeds local economy

Healthy PlanEat, an online seller of locally and sustainably produced foodstuffs, is expanding its offerings.

This nascent enterprise, based in East Lyme, provides a website for farmers who use sustainable practices to sell directly to consumers throughout southeastern and central Connecticut. “Sustainable” refers to such practices as no-till planting and crop rotation to maintain soil fertility and stifle pests, as well as responsible irrigation that minimizes run-off, bans on synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers, and humane treatment of animals raised for milk, eggs, and human consumption.

Founder and CEO Rosemary Ostfeld, recently selected by Connecticut magazine as one of 40 high achievers under 40, earned a bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan University in Middletown, followed by a Ph.D in land economy at the University of Cambridge in England. She is a visiting assistant professor of environmental studies and public policy in the College of the Environment at Wesleyan, and a mentor-in-residence at the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship at the university. This semester, she is teaching a course in partnership with Middlesex County’s UConn Master Gardening Coordinator Gail Reynolds, where students are learning hands-on farming skills at Wesleyan University’s Long Lane Farm.

Rosemary has been mentored herself at Healthy PlanEat by, among others, the Southeastern Connecticut Chapter of SCORE, a nationwide, nonprofit association and resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration that offers free, confidential advice to small-business owners. SCORE volunteers have also mentored students in the Startup Incubator course she teaches at Wesleyan University where students work on developing their own small business ideas.

“Having a wonderful and experienced sounding board regarding opportunities and obstacles has been extremely helpful,” Rosemary says.

She has assembled a network of mostly Connecticut farms:

• Eight Mile Meadows, Deep River, sourdough baguette, ciabatta, cinnamon swirl loaf, and more

• Passionately Pasta, Wallingford

• New England Sea Farms, Leetes Island Rocks in Guilford, seaweed and sugar kelp

• Provider Farm, Salem, beef from grass-fed cattle, produce from arugula to zucchini

• Deep Hollow Farm, Chester, vegetables

• Stonington Kelp Company, Pawcatuck, sugar kelp

• Sweet Grass Creamery, Preston, whole milk; chocolate, coffee, and maple flavored milk; yogurt and cheese

• Stonington Kelp Co.

• Seacoast Mushrooms, Mystic, 600 – 800 pounds per week of mushrooms (shiitake, maitake, blue oysters, golden oysters and lion’s mane) to many of Connecticut’s leading gourmet restaurants.

• Guilford Greens, micro greens, e.g., totally radish and broccoli shoots

• AG Farms, Essex, vegetables, homemade items, eggs

• Forest City Farms, Middletown, heirloom produce and culinary herbs

• Cato Corner Farm, Colchester, handmade, raw farmstead cheese from the milk of their Jersey cows, humanely raised on a pasture-based diet with no growth hormones or subtherapeutic antibiotics

• Fat Stone Farm, Lyme, certified organic maple syrup

• Cugno’s Farm, Colchester, poultry, pork, ginger honey, hard candies, hemp flowers

• Muddy Roots Farm, Wallingford, produce and poultry

• Fishers Island Oyster Farm, Fishers Island, N.Y., oysters

• Drew’s Honeybees, Norwich, jarred and comb honey

• Long River Farm, Old Lyme, premium salad greens, fruits, vegetables, and herbs

• Eight Mile Meadow, Deep River, sourdough baguette, olive ciabatta, cinnamon swirl loaf, and more.

• Absolute Bearing Coffee Company, Mystic, coffee

• The 4 Five Farm, Bloomfield, chicken and eggs

For those interested in connecting with local farmers, it’s easy to sign up via the “Sign Up” tab on the upper right of the website, https://healthyplaneat.com/. Then, sign in and order by 11 p.m. on Thursdays for pick-up at either of these sites:

— Niantic Green, Main Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, Saturdays, 10 — 11 a.m.

— South Greeb (Union Park), Main Street, Middletown, Saturdays, 1 — 2 p.m.

If you were wondering if Rosemary is taking a victory lap, she is not. She is training for the next race. Expect announcements soon of new farms and additional pick-up points.

Hugh M. Ryan is a certified mentor for the Southeastern Connecticut chapter of SCORE. He can be reached at hugh.ryan@scorevolunteer.org.

 

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