SOUTHINGTON - As Southington‚Äôs Lewis Educational Agriculture Farm prepares for the town‚Äôs annual farmers market this summer, it also is partnering with community organizations to sow the seeds of learning.
Mark Ramsey, the executive director and seventh-generation owner of the farm at 65 Blueberry Lane, is also the coordinator of the annual market. This year‚Äôs edition, Ramsey said, will be held each Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. from June 30 and through Oct. 27. It will begin on the Town Green and move to the grounds of the YMCA at 29 High St. when the fall Apple Harvest Festival begins.
‚ÄúThis is our fifth year on the Town Green and our 12th year total,‚ÄĚ said Ramsey. ‚ÄúSince the move, business has picked up quite a bit, drawing hundreds of people. People who come to Center Street to see the restaurants stop by to see us, too.
‚Äú‚ÄėEat local‚Äô is a big thing right now. We can tell you how our crops our raised which is something you don‚Äôt get at the grocery store. Our slogan is ‚ÄėShake the hand that feeds you.‚Äô Several of the restaurants are also buying our produce, including Tavern 42, Anthony Jack‚Äôs and Paul Gregory‚Äôs. During the farmers market, the YMCA will have Zumba exercises and we have also spoken to Mary DeCroce from the Southington Community Cultural Arts Center about having a different craft vendor each week.‚ÄĚ
In addition to Lewis Educational Agriculture Farm, the market this year will include Bradley Mountain Soaps of Southington, Gresczyk Farms of New Hartford, Twin Pines Farm of Thomaston and more. It is a grower/producer market, with all foods grown in Connecticut.
Until the market opens, Lewis Educational Agriculture Farm is finding other ways to encourage healthy living.
‚ÄúIf it‚Äôs a vegetable that you can grow in Connecticut, we have it,‚ÄĚ Ramsey said. ‚ÄúWe also have chickens and goats for the purpose of teaching children who come to visit. With the YMCA, we are a part of Activate Southington, which is a group that promotes healthy living in town.‚ÄĚ
Ramsey said a chef comes to Lewis Education Agriculture Farm every Saturday to prepare food and give out recipes for the vegetables grown there.
‚ÄúHe sells a cookbook with 22 of those recipes, though he probably has more than 80 in his catalog,‚ÄĚ said Ramsey.
Lewis Educational Agriculture Farm is part of Community Sponsored Agriculture, a program in which people buy a share of the farm and come to the farm for food for 10 weeks.
‚ÄúThese past three summers were dry, which caused a decrease in yield, but we still produced a ton of food,‚ÄĚ he said.
Lewis Educational Agriculture Farm hosts a transition program for special education students graduating from Lincoln College of New England. Ramsey said he hopes to expand the farm‚Äôs special education programs to include a summer camp this year for students in Southington and surrounding towns.
‚ÄúOften, those children don‚Äôt have a lot to do during the summer,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúThe camp would have a little work, a lot of play and a lot of education, too. There was one student who came to us not wanting to talk to anyone, who would run away if you approached him. Now, he comes over to us, asks questions and is talking to people. It‚Äôs great to see.‚ÄĚ
For more information on the Southington Farmers Market, visit southingtonfarmersmarket.org.
For more information on the Lewis Educational Agriculture Farm, call 860-919-6127 or visit leafct.com.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.