State grant to help Shelton farm rebuild greenhouse

A Shelton farm is among the Connecticut farms benefiting from state grants to help agricultural operations recover from storms and flooding earlier this year.

The state Department of Agriculture has approved 239 grants totaling $4.9 million through the Production Loss Assistance Needed Today (PLANT) program. The funds will assist farms with damaged crops, buildings and equipment.

The agency began distributing the grants on Oct. 31, and has since delivered 90% of the emergency assistance to recipients.

Providing local produce on year-round basis

Stone Gardens Farm in Shelton, owned and operated by Fred and Stacia Monahan, received a PLANT grant.

“With the many obstacles we must navigate as food producers here in Connecticut, the catastrophic weather we have experienced lately has not helped our uphill battle,” the Monahans said.

“As a farm whose goals are to provide locally-grown food year-round, greenhouses are a necessity here in Connecticut,” they said. “The PLANT grant will help us rebuild the greenhouse that was leveled in the February blizzard.”

Stone Gardens Farm is on Sawmill City Road in the city’s White Hills section and operates a large community supported agriculture (CSA) program, in which people make advance payments to receive seasonal crops.

‘The whims of Mother Nature’

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy established the PLANT grant program in June after touring flooded farms in the highly productive Connecticut River Valley.

The severe weather included the winter blizzard that dropped up to three feet of snow as well as heavy rains and flooding in the spring and summer, impacting the state’s $3.5 billion agriculture industry.

Malloy said the smaller farms found in Connecticut “are vulnerable to the whims of Mother Nature, and many are not well served by federal crop insurance programs designed for larger producers.

"During the first part of 2013," the governor continued, "we saw that farms around the state incurred a significant amount of crop loss, production interruptions and structural damage due to excessive precipitation, flooding and storms.”

Many uses for the grant funds

Grant applications were reviewed, approved and processed through a partnership between the state Departments of Agriculture and state Department of Community and Economic Development, with assistance from the Connecticut Farm Bureau Association.

Awardees may use the assistance to recover from weather-related farm losses in a variety of ways:

— To repair property and equipment damaged.

— To replant lost crops.

— To plant new and different crops in place of lost crops.

— To purchase feed to supplement lost hay, corn and other crops for livestock.

— To apply fertilizer and other soil amendments.

— To apply any necessary products to prevent disease or pest outbreaks.

— To perform other activities needed to recover from the storms, as deemed appropriate by the commissioner of agriculture.

Severe weather is ‘the new normal’

Steven Reviczky, state agriculture commissioner, said severe weather events “have become the new normal” in Connecticut.

“These grants are helping farm businesses not only recover today, but also strengthen agricultural infrastructure to better weather tomorrow’s tornados, hurricanes, and blizzards, when — not if — they occur,” Reviczky said.