Jack McConnell

Know Your CT Farmer
Opening Reception at the Good News Restaurant and Bar
694 Main Street South, Woodbury CT 06798
Sunday, January 20th 3-5pm
Open to the public.

Jack McConnell’s Know Your CT Farmer collection consists of B&W photos from more than 100 CT farms. The photographs shown at Good News Restaurant and Bar include 11 farms from the Northwest Corner: Arethusa Dairy, Averill Farm, March Farms, Marwin Farms, Mitchell Farm, Mohawk Bison Farm, Platt Farms, Ridgeway Farm, Stone Wall Dairy, Thorncrest Farm, and Wike Brothers Farm.

McConnell’s CT Farm Project began four years ago.  After spending ten years photographing stone walls for his project New England Stone Walls: Icon at Risk, he began visiting farmers and talking with them about old problems and new opportunities. His farmers grow fruits, vegetables, and nursery plants; raise pigs, goats, sheep, beef, turkeys, ducks, chickens and bison for meat; raise herds of cows, sheep and goats for milk and cheese, and work from boats harvesting clams, mussels, oysters, and kelp. Both projects can be seen on his website JackMcConnellPhotography.com and click on Collections – NE Stone Walls & CT Farm Project.

An 8-minute video titled This Life Calls to Me can be found on JackMcConnellPhotography.com and click on the New Projects page. Music was written and played by Chaplin farmer Jack Collins.

Over the past two years, CPTV has produced twelve 3-minute videos featuring McConnell’s B&W farmer portraits, alongside new color video interviews shot by CPTV’s video team led by Producer Heather Dawson. Season 1 included Lyman Orchards in Middlefield, Beltane Farm in Colchester, The Farmer’s Cow-Graywall Farm in Lebanon, Cato Corner in Colchester, Eddy farm in Newington, and  Beaver Brook Farm in Lyme. Season 2 included Arethusa Dairy in Bantam, Jones Family Farm in Shelton, Oakridge Dairy in Ellington, Thrall Family Farm in Windsor, Lavender Farm in Killington, and Ideal Fish in Waterbury. These videos can be seen by linking to CPTV.org/SharingCT and click on This Life Calls to Me. Season 3 is going into production this coming spring.

Jack has worked closely with the CT Dept of Agriculture and many farm organizations such CT Farm Bureau, Hartford Food Systems, CT Farmland Trust, and Working Lands Alliance, who help preserve CT farmland, mentor young farmers, and provide food sustainability solutions. He’s shared his farmer portraits with more than a dozen galleries,colleges, libraries, Farm Day at the State Capitol, farm-to-table restaurants, country fairs, and farm events.

Background about the Know Your CT Farmer Project:

It took 4.5 billion years to get the soil we need to grow the food we eat. Most CT residents are amazed to discover there are 5997 family farms, of an average size of 73 acres in the state. They are shocked to find that CT Agriculture contributes $4 billion to the Connecticut economy each year, and that 22,000

CT workers are employed in Agriculture. One-third of farm operators are women, and the average age is 59. Young farmers are entering the market and looking for land to farm, which is hard to find and expensive to farm. New technologies like Aquaponics and new products like hops, kelp, and ethnic vegetables are on the rise.

Never have we really considered ourselves to be an Agricultural state, although 240 years ago when Washington marched South with his Continental Army, we were the Commissary State that provided food and provisions to keep soldiers on their feet.

Our founding fathers and most workers up to the turn of the last century worked the land. Our third President Thomas Jefferson planted famously, and never wavered in his devotion to the idea of farming.

“Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens,” he wrote. “They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, and they are tied to their country and wedded to its liberty and interests by the most lasting bands.” Today many of our most passionate entrepreneurs are farmers.

The idea of the farmer as the primordial American was firmly planted in our civic mythology and still stands today. Farming as a “calling” comes up with almost every farmer you interview when you ask that pivotal question, “Why are you a farmer?”

Here in CT, today’s farmers can provide locally-grown food to 9 million people living within a half-day’s drive of CT farms. Connecticut has some of the finest growing soil in the world, and a safe abundance of water. Before a late freeze destroyed fruit trees in the 1920s, Connecticut was the Peach Capital of the Nation.  Recent improved methods in food production, farmland preservation, CSAs and other distribution channels, the Farm-to-Table movement, Farm-to-Schools, organic farming, and general food sustainability issues have advanced awareness for eating fresh, local, healthful foods . This year there are more than 130 Farmers Markets in 169 towns and hundreds of farmstands where local residents shop for the family’s food. Concerns about food sustainability are widely understood.

With assistance from state organizations, entrepreneurial farmers have developed many value-added products to help them survive the ups and downs of weather and the economy: dairy co-ops and better distribution channels for vegetables and fruits; cheese-making, ice cream making, community kitchens for cooking sauces, salsas, hummus, jams, and baked goods to extend seasonal sales; community farmers markets &farmstands; direct-to-restaurants, grocery chains, and schools for volume sales of food; a shared transportation network to help get products to market more economically.

But really it all boils down to the public’s decision to care about what kind of food they eat, and where and how it will be grown. In terms of the Earth’s longevity, American farmers have only existed for the blink of an eye. Decisions made today will determine how we will feed ourselves in the next blink of an eye. Will it be AgriBusiness and warehousing, or a new emphasis on the local family farm.

How to exhibit or purchase Jack McConnell’s photographs:

Jack McConnell’s CT Farm Collection and twelve other Photography Collections are ready to hang, or ready to purchase for offices and residences. They can be seen on Jack’s website JackMcConnellPhotography.com and click on Collections.

For more information contact: Jack McConnell & Paula McNamara

McConnell & McNamara, 182 Broad Street Wethersfield, CT 06109 860.563.6154

e: jack_mcconnell@msn.com w: JackMcConnellPhotography.com