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Harvest Season Gathering

Dahlias at Pawcatuck FarmBy Zoe Madden, Connecticut Food System Alliance Network Coordinator

At the little flower farm in Pawcatuck where I work, the dahlias are in full bloom.  They nod in the breeze, their petals shining in shades of vibrant magenta, fiery orange, pale blush pink, and dandelion yellow above a sea of deep green leaves.  Nestled in a landscape of gray stone walls, brown oak leaves and beige rushes, they beckon my eyes to rest upon them, like the persistent memories of sunny summer days now that autumn has officially begun.  The autumnal equinox has passed; here in the North, the long, cold nights take center stage in the annual dance of light and dark, life and death.  I set to work clearing dried, deceased annual plants from the garden beds, which will soon receive the tulip bulbs that will sprout next spring.  I collect seeds from the desiccated heads of bachelor buttons and nigella.  

At the school where I teach, students peel off their jackets and sweaters, like the husks of the summer’s last precious ears of fresh sweet corn, before entering the classroom.  Gone are the days when they burst unencumbered into the room in shorts and short sleeves, excited to visit the school garden and pick cucumbers and tomatoes.  Now we harvest kale and dried soup beans, and plant our last succession of spinach and lettuce in the dusty soil.  Even during the harvest time, there is still planting to be done.   

Here at Hartford Food System, I am preparing for our November 14th Connecticut Food System Alliance gathering, which will bring together food systems leaders from throughout the state to discuss and learn about Food Access and Justice.  I often notice the parallels between our food systems work, the changing of the seasons, and the cycle of farming the land.  

At this time we enjoy the bounty of the harvest season, and celebrate our successes.  We will share the harvest at our potluck lunch, taking part in the ancient tradition of breaking bread together, as we also share in the harvest of our food systems work.  Taking a cue from VT Farm to Plate, we hope to share blue ribbon stories of success at the gathering.  Our newly emerged sub-networks will present on their work so far.  Just as a farmer gathers her crops and takes stock of the harvest that was sowed in the spring and sustained during the summer, we will reflect on how our choices, our action and/or inaction has resulted in what we see before us now. 

What will our priorities be for the future?  How will the Connecticut Food System Alliance continue to grow as a movement?  What strategy and structure should we bring to scaffold our work as it increases in scope and complexity?  And what must we do to stay true to our grassroots origins and keep our democratic spirit and practices?

Soon it will be winter.  As a white sheet of snow lays the landscape to sleep, the short days and long cold nights will usher in a time of planning for the next growing season.  I am deeply excited for the planning processes that our November gathering will plant.  

For more updates on Food Systems work in Connecticut, email Zoe Madden, to be added to the Listserv.

Further reading:

Connecticut Food System Alliance website:

Hartford Food System:

Pawcatuck Flower Farm:

Winthrop School Community Garden: 

Connecticut Food Access and Justice Gathering

To RSVP, please email Zoe Madden,  

Friday, November 14th, 2014

9 am - 4 pm

Location: Bethesda Lutheran Church

305 Saint Ronan St, New Haven, CT 06511 

We request that you bring the following to the gathering:

  • Food to serve 6-8 people
  • A serving spoon
  • The name of your dish and the ingredients list on an index card
  • A cup, plate, and utensils
  • Napkins (cloth preferred)

Featured Image of Marantha Community Gardens courtesy of Grow Windham.