HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Governor Ned Lamont checked in on the state’s $4 billion agriculture industry, as Phase 2 businesses reopened.
“Today is the day we opened up our indoor dining, not just outdoor dining, so enjoy a good oaky chardonnay,” he said.
The tour included Jonathan Edwards Winery in North Stonington.
“We’ve opened up industries and are trying to create a new normal and business model,” winery owner Johnathan Edwards said.
His 20-acre European grapevines produce wine by the barrels. The tasting room isn’t open yet, and big events were postponed until September. However, he said access to products via curbside pickup and online sales has helped.
Commissioner Bryan Hulburt, who runs the State Department of Agriculture, said “Those are the sorts of things that reflect the creativity that we see in agriculture; talk about innovation and entrepreneurship. It’s not just practices in the field…it’s practice in meeting the market and how to reach the consumer.”
Wine and shellfish are the fastest-growing agriculture sectors in Eastern Connecticut, generating $150 million a year.
Farmers want more.
“We would love to see wine available in grocery stores,” Edwards said. “I think there are 40 plus other states that allow that right now.”
“Its something I’m open to,” Lamont said. “I believe in free markets and making it easier for people to buy products.”
In Ledyard, the Full Heart Farm provides fresh produce to food banks through a farmshare and to local restaurants. It is an essential business during the pandemic.
The COVID-19 virus actually created needs in the community. Allison Angelini, from Full Heart Farm, said her co-op was started because of the virus pandemic.
“We support small business and we make healthy food accessible to people who are homebound,” she said.
The Agriculture Commissioner told News 8 there is a renewed interest to get all wines in grocery stores. The path to convince legislators, he said, could be getting a 10% set aside on shelves for wineries like Edwards’.