Tuesday, October 8, 2019

The First Annual Middletown Urban Farming Symposium: This Weekend!

UFS logo by Jolene Leuchten. 
A coalition of lifelong residents and Wesleyan students has put together one of the largest events ever to be jointly sponsored by Wesleyan and the City. The Middletown Urban Farming Symposium, taking place this weekend, will feature lectures, workshops, and field trips.

The Middletown Urban Farming Symposium was initiated in the Summer of 2019 by Ingrid Eck, Dmitri D’Alessandro, Syed Hussain, and Jolene Leuchten of the newly-established Middletown Food Policy Council to address the food-system-related needs of the local community as well as the  surrounding region. It is the council’s hope that this annual event will create meaningful and long-lasting relationships between community groups, the City of Middletown, and Wesleyan University.

Ferry Street Gardens
The event kicks off this Saturday and Sunday (October 12th and 13th ) at Wesleyan University’s Exley Science Center. It will feature five lectures, seven workshops, and five field visits to nearby farms and gardens. Free breakfast and lunch will be served to attendees and transportation service is available for all field visits.

Lecturers and workshop leaders include: Gabriel Russo of Forest City Farms, Victoria Bocalatte of Mud Kitchen, and Bob Daniels of the City of Middletown’s Commission on Conservation and Agriculture.
AIsa Mujahid, Founder of
CTCORE-Organize Now!

The keynote address, “Agriculture & Equity,” will be given by Isa Mujahid of CTCORE- Organize Now!, a state-wide racial justice organization based in New Haven. Mujahid has long engaged in issues having to do with food justice. In addition to working closely with local farmers, he published CTCORE-Oragnize Now!’s Food Justice Guide.

Gabe Russo
The Middletown Urban Farming Symposium (MUFS) aims to unite both private and public organizations currently working in disconnected spaces yet on similar or identical issues. Farming in Middletown, and Connecticut more generally, has taken a massive hit within the past seventy years. Today, family farms are failing at an alarming rate. The physically difficult, financially insecure lifestyle that is often associated with farming is pursued less and less. Developers often take advantage of an already destabilized real estate market by offering outrageously small sums of money to purchase cleared farmland. The value that an active farm brings to a community is frequently immeasurable and indirect, yet local food production systems are crucial to the future of any climate-resilient municipality. The Middletown Food Policy Council hopes that in bringing together the Middletown community, we can collectively learn and collaboratively brainstorm with regard to urban farming improvement and expansion.

The Middletown Food Policy Council is enthusiastic about the variety of the program’s cosponsors and is grateful for their support. Sponsors include: the City of Middletown’s Economic Development Commission, the Robert F. Schumann Institute of the College of the Environment, the Wesleyan Green Fund, the Wesleyan Resource Center, Wesleyan’s Science in Society Program, and Wesleyan’s Department of African American Studies. Other major organizational support comes from: North End Action Team, the City of Middletown’s Commission on Conservation and Agriculture, and the Wesleyan student group, Veg Out.

Ingrid Eck’s (Wesleyan Class of 2019 and remote event planner) said she was thrilled to see the energy of Wesleyan students combined with the energy of other city residents:

 “Wesleyan students have recently begun to appreciate the importance of social justice within the realm of environmentalism. While there have been many strides toward building a more inclusive “environmental scene” at Wesleyan, few have actively sought to include the voices of our fellow Middletown residents. Wesleyan’s environmental community, and the Wesleyan community more generally, is undoubtedly motivated to create positive change in the world. Unfortunately, such aims to improve the world, or the country, often trump the all-important aim of improving one’s local community."

The “Wesleyan Bubble” should be considered a severely outdated model for any progressive university, something that student activists should no longer be so nonchalant about. Wesleyan and Middletown share much in common: history, knowledge, passion, and a thriving food justice and sustainability community. Co-hosting a statewide event about and for urban farmers is the perfect opportunity to showcase the new and collaborative relationship between Wesleyan and the greater Middletown area! Wesleyan could never be a truly “sustainable” community without engaging with its neighbors. We simply could never rely upon Wesleyan’s administration to continue the grassroots efforts of student environmental activists. We should, however, be confident that community activists could not only continue, but build upon and improve, such efforts.”

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