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    Sunday, June 23, 2024

    Farmers, gardeners unite for weekend conference

    With a Monarch butterfly wing print cape over her shoulders and antennae dangling from the top of her head, Mary Hogue was a fitting representative for the national grassroots Pollinator Pathway organization.

    Hogue and fellow Pollinator Pathway board member Jackie Algo, whose yellow and black striped scarf mimicked the colors of a bee, sang the praises of planting native plants with no pesticides at home and in public spaces — a way to attract pollinators such as bees, butterflies and bats.

    Pollinator Pathway was among a host of organizations to set up information booths Saturday at one of several buildings at Eastern Connecticut State University in Willimantic as part of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Connecticut’s 42nd winter conference.

    CT NOFA Executive Director Jeremy Pelletier said the conference brings together gardeners and farmers of all sorts, including those from community and urban farms, interested in environmental issues and attending workshops covering everything from seed saving and organic land care to food security and social justice issues.

    Some of the participants are new to gardening or seeking out the latest techniques, he said.

    Saturday’s keynote speaker was Maya van Rossum, founder of the national nonprofit Green Amendments for the Generations. van Rossum, an activist, attorney and community organizer, was expected to talk about environmental preservation. She has advocated for a “Green Amendment” in Connecticut and other states as a way to enshrine environmental rights into law. A “Green Amendment” proposal is currently pending before the state legislature.

    Monique Bosch, soil health program manager for CT NOFA, had microscopes set up at a table at Saturday’s event to display the microscopic world of soil. CT NOFA offers a microscope training program for participants interested in taking a closer look at what makes a healthy soil. The simple answer is the better the diversity of soil predators, the better the soil.

    Aaron Taylor, owner of Portland-based CT Greenhouse, is selling commercial greenhouses, which he says are becoming more popular as a way to shield vegetables crops from New England’s increasingly wacky weather.

    Corey Finke, a horticulturist and owner of Phocus Seeds, started his seed company in 2019 with a focus on vegetable, herb and cannabis seeds from plants grown in Connecticut. Finke said the plants grown from these seeds are better adapted to the state’s soil and weather conditions.

    For information about Northeast Organic Farming Association of Connecticut, visit ctnofa.org.

    g.smith@theday.com

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