Connecticut farmers finally receiving protection for their business

Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman joined Department of Agriculture Commissioner Steven Reviczky at Stone Gardens Farm to address legislation signed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy that is designed to protect Connecticut Grown products by forcing companies or “vendors” to provide the origin of products they distribute at local farmers markets.

The bill that was passed will obligate those selling their products at farmer’s markets to use labels to assure that they are in fact, Connecticut grown.

“Doctors get their credit when they do a big surgery, reporters get their credit when they write an article, and we put in a lot of our time so it’s about time we get the credit we deserve,” said Fred Monahan following the press conference at the 165-acre Stone Garden farm.

Monahan is one of many hardworking farmhands managing Stone Garden and said the fight against wholesalers and people who merely buy/re-sell produce at a discounted price is finally receiving the attention it deserves. He said without the legislation, his business, like many others, may not have survived much longer.

“How can you compete with those people who are just buying and reselling?” said Stacia Monahan, Fred’s wife who also works on the farm. “They are just buying and reselling. A lot of times they just mark down their prices so that they will sell out. All of their stuff would look perfect, even in a bad year and produce doesn’t always look like that.”

Stacia went on to say that she and her husband have encountered vendors who are guilty of claiming the crops they sell as their own. She added that although they have only uncovered around five vendors who conduct this type of business, they are able to dominate and show up at every farmers market.

“Those five to 10 vendors are at every farmer’s market around, you’ll find at least two of them there. The small farms are getting squashed and pushed down because they are essentially competing against a grocery store at a farmer’s market,” said Stacia. “They would have crops months ahead of time, out of season, and then they tell customers ‘yeah I grew this,’ but they really didn’t and never allow any farmers to visit their farm. We’ve had enough. ”

The Monahans are not alone with their concerns of being able to compete with those who re-distribute produce/products at these farmer's markets.

Randy Rogowski of the Laurel Glen farm also shared his frustrations.

“That’s not farming,” said Rogowski.

“This bill will help us get rid of that unfair competition for us as farmers,” said Fred. “This forces more truth in advertising. If you grew it that will show and if you didn’t, you won’t be able to hide it anymore. Anybody you talk to about this will say ‘it’s a no-brainer.”

Department of Agriculture Commissioner Reviczky called the passing of this legislation a milestone.

“We’ve been faced with issues over time and consumers have a right to know that when they are parting with their hard-earned dollars that when they are buying Connecticut Grown they are in fact receiving Connecticut Grown product,” said Reviczky. “Fred and Stacia Monahan have been very vocal in their support in increased surveillance because they work really hard. They turn the soil, they plant the seeds, they cultivate their crops, they harvest their crops, and bring them to market.”

As do all of the other farmers that were present for the press conference in support of the passing of the bill.

“We ought to honor their work by giving them credit for what they grow,” said Reviczky. “There’s still plenty of work to do. I think it’s important to not only our farmers, but our consumers.”

Wyman said this bill is a step in the right direction towards making the people of Connecticut more aware of how much we need the farming community.

“We are working hard to protect and preserve,” said Wyman. “It’s so important that we protect their work so consumers can better identify the source of their food and it helps us promote the integrity of the Connecticut Grown brand.

The Wyman presented the Monahans with a copy of the legislation signed by Malloy.