From corn to koi, wine to equines and sunflowers to Maple syrup, the variety offered up by North Branford and Northford's farm enterprises is nothing short of astonishing -- and now, it's all at your fingertips.
Beginning in July, a colorful, information-packed "North Branford-Northford Grown" brochure will be distributed at public places along the shoreline and beyond, to help promote the town's many agricultural offerings at farms and gardens.
With input from 23 participating sites, the guide's tri-fold brochure lists each location, contact information, operating seasons and uses unique symbols to show which goods and services can be found. When completely unfolded to its full 11" x 17" size, the brochure reveals a "farm trail" map.
The guide's legend shows which symbol represents fruits and vegetables, corn, flowers, plants, Christmas trees/holiday items, hops, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), Maple syrup, fresh eggs, pies and pastries, poultry, meat, Pick Your Own (PYO) berries, PYO apples, pumpkins, wine tasting, vineyard, exotic fish, horses/horse rescue, hay, mulch, wood and manure/compost.
The brochure, a collaborative effort of the Town of North Branford, was spearheaded by the North Branford Economic Development Commission (EDC) working with North Branford Agricultural Commission. The project was also supported by the State Dept. of Agriculture's Connecticut Grown program. Town Planner Carey Duques noted an intern with her office was a great assist to the project, which has been in the works since the beginning of 2017.
But the vision for the brochure's final version arrived shortly after Duques knocked on the door of Jess Cave, a new North Branford farmer who also happens to be a graphic designer. Cave also thanks local farmers and photographers for contributing many of the guide's great photos.
Cave and her husband, Robert, purchased Totoket Tree Farm in 2015 from the Forte family. The Connecticut natives had been looking for a vintage farm property in North Carolina when Cave's mom, a family friend of the Fortes', told them Totoket Tree Farm was on the market. The Caves were in business in time for the 2016 Christmas Tree/holiday season.
Not too long after their inaugural season ended, "...Carey came to my door and asked if our farm wanted to be included in the brochure," said Cave, who instantly asked if she could help. "I said, I'm also a graphic designer and I'd love to be a part of this brochure."
Developed with the help of Cave's professional eye, the brochure lists 23 agricultural enterprises with location, contact info, seasons of operation and a spray of symbols showing what's offered at each site. A quick view shows the town is ready to welcome guests to shops, farm stands and stables, "pick-your-own" fields and nurseries, and even stops for wine tastings and water garden supplies.
EDC chair Jan Finch said work to update the Agricultural Society's older brochure to help pump up North Branford and Northford's agricultural businesses has been a priority this year for the all-volunteer EDC.
"Supporting the agriculture in town is very important to the town, and it's very interesting to people when they see all the products that are grown here," said Finch. "We wanted to get a new brochure out for the season, to invite people from all surrounding towns and visitors, as well as people in North Branford, to visit our local farms."
Finch said the brochure's map gives a good idea of how easy it is to find the farms. The map also includes the town's first vineyard and winery at Rosabianca Vineyard in Northford, and shares that the town will have another in 2018, at Rose Orchards Farm Market at the North Branford/Branford line.
"It could be called a farm trail," says Finch of the path created by the 23 numbered purple dots representing each farm on the map. "The map shows you can go from our Branford end of town to the Durham end of town and visit the different farms, which include some unusual things – they're now raising koi fish in Northford [Comets to Koi], and hops at DeFrancesco Farm --- as well as all of the places we have that grow fruits and vegetables and flowers."
Other local farmers helping the EDC to build the new brochure include two from some of the town's best-known traditional farm businesses, DeFrancesco's Farm and Cecarelli Farms.
Joe and Linda DeFranceso's family has been farming in town since 1907. The farm includes 120 acres.
"We're going on four and five generations of family members," said Linda DeFrancesco. "You have this part in town, and you hope your town supports you also. So working with [the EDC] has been a nice, complimentary relationship."
The family first opened its seasonal farm stand to cater to locals in 1995 and has since expanded to promote the farm's huge variety of products as well as offering other Connecticut-made items.
DeFrancesco said she feels one of the best elements of the brochure is the way it quickly points to what's available at each site.
"Those little symbols are great, because you can see where there are things like fruits, vegetables, cut flowers, maple syrup...so if you're driving through looking for some of those things, you can stop here or stop there," she said.
Speaking of symbols, DeFrancesco's Farm holds the brochure's distinction of having the most symbols at one farm– no less than 16 items.
DeFrancesco Farm and Cecarelli Farms also carry the brochure's CSA symbol, showing both participate in the farm share concept during the summer growing season. Shares are offered to the public; customers pay a monthly fee to pick up a week's worth of fresh produce every week.
Third-generation farmer Nelson Cecarelli's grandfather bought his family's Northford farm in 1912. Cecarelli raises about 65 acres of sweet corn and another 65 acres of a mix of vegetables and fruits.
Cecarelli's local produce can be found served up at "farm to table" restaurants across the area. The farm also provides local produce to several outlets of Big Y, Bishop's Orchard Farm Market and Lyman Orchards and even Chartwells Dining Services, which includes Branford Public Schools among its clients.
"We've evolved to where we're at today because we've had to evolve. We intend to be here another 100 years," said Cecarelli, who also purveys produce and other offerings at his quaint seasonal farm stand.
Cecarelli said the new North Branford-Northford Grown brochure is a tribute to all the folks dedicated to keeping agriculture at the forefront here.
"Even me, living here, I was surprised to find that we had 23 different places," said Cecarelli. "It's amazing to me that a suburban bedroom town outside of New Haven has stayed as rural as it is. It also shows farming today is a lot more diverse. People are exploring different ways to make it work."
North Branford-Northford Grown sites listed in the brochure, in alphabetical order, are: All the Kings Horses Equine Rescue, Augur Farms, 3B Ranch, Bishop's Orchards Northford, Carriage Stone Farm, Cecarelli Farms, Comets to Koi, Country Farm I, Country Farm II, DeFrancesco Farm, Equine Expressions, Larry Augur Farm Stand, Maple Tree Farm (Page's Farm), Natureworks, Northfordy Farm, "R" Destiny Arabians, Rosabianca Vineyards, Rose Orchards Farm Market, Totoket Tree Farm, VanWilgen's Garden Center, Wayne's Sugarhouse and Wild Wind Stables.