WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — Built on a brownfield on Mill Street, the Brass City Harvest Regional Food Hub is now bringing healthy food into the inner city and helping local farmers in rural communities stay afloat after recent storms did a number on their crops.
You can see it at Arisco Farms in Cheshire.
“We’ve got a lot of damage out here in the fields and we lost a good percentage of the vegetables that were out there,” said owner Alex Arisco, pointing to damaged tomatoes. “We’ve got at least 70 percent damage here.”
Arisco says he’s getting help from Brass City Harvest in Waterbury. They opened their regional food hub in the spring, but couldn’t have an official celebration because of COVID. So, the ribbon-cutting with Senator Richard Blumenthal, Mayor Neil O’Leary, Connecticut’s Agriculture Commissioner and several other dignitaries on hand, took place now — better late than never.
The food hub continues to buy from about 30 farmers, orchards, and dairies across the state. Inside, they have sophisticated sanitation equipment to clean the crops they buy and then they’re able to sell it to residents in the urban neighborhood that surrounds it.
The state of Connecticut sees this as a win-win model for Connecticut that hopefully, other cities will follow.
“What Brass City Harvest is providing is another opportunity and another market for Connecticut farmers to sell their goods and process it and people don’t necessarily think about this but when you’re processing tomatoes into tomato sauce or jellies or jams… you’re extending the shelf life of it,” said Bryan Hurlburt, Connecticut’s Commissioner of Agriculture. “So you’re increasing the value of the product and extending its ability to be sold.”
“One of the greatest attributes of this operation is that it is in Waterbury where it’s connecting people with food,” adds Hurlburt. “It’s connecting farmers from rural communities to urban communities — making sure food is available for everybody.”
The food hub is the brainchild of Sue Pronovost, who’s been working on this for years to help inner-city residents living in a “food desert” to get easier access to healthy foods like vegetables and farmers get the help they need to survive and thrive.
“It’s rewarding. I live for agriculture,” said Pronovost. “There’s no more noble a profession. People who put food on our table in this point and time are really deserving of our support.”
Arisco says the support allows him to enjoy the fruits of his labor.
“They’ve been a big asset for me,” he said.