BY ANDREAS YILMA
NAUGATUCK — An expanding vegetable farm has received a state grant to upgrade its food safety.
Sunset Farm on Andrew Mountain Road in Naugatuck was awarded a $4,355 state grant to create a covered wash station with sinks, sprayers, tanks and water heater to improve food safety and facilitate increased produce sales to public schools.
The Board of Mayor and Burgesses previously voted in November for Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess to enter into an agreement with Sunset Farm for the borough to lease out an estimated 3.5 acres of land it owns on Andrew Mountain Road, which adjoins the Wilmont property and Gunntown Passive Park.
State Rep. Seth Bronko, R-Naugatuck, praised the announcement of a local farm that supplies produce to borough public schools being awarded the grant.
“Grants such as these are worthwhile investments in Connecticut’s agriculture, which not only supplies our local schools with fresh produce for a healthy lifestyle, but bolsters our local economy,” Bronko said in a news release.
The Connecticut Grown for Connecticut Kids Grant was one of 32 awarded by the Department of Agriculture and was part of a second round of grants that were awarded to help establish and further fund farm-to-school initiatives in Connecticut.
The grants are meant to increase the “availability of local foods in child nutrition programs, allow educators to use hands-on educational techniques to teach students about nutrition and farm-to-school connections, sustain relationships with local farmers and producers, enrich the educational experience of students, improve the health of children in the state and enhance the state’s economy,” according to the Department of Agriculture, the release states.
Kaitlyn Kimball and her husband, Lawrence Pesseck, began to convert the former horse farm into an organic vegetable farm at 1057 Andrew Mountain Road in 2018 and began cultivating the 1.5 acres. They’ve been growing food ever since.
Kimball said they’re very excited and grateful for the grant. “We’re excited because it will allow us to process more vegetables in a more sanitary manner,” she said.
She said the goal is to market their produce to more school districts including outside of the borough.
and to ensure that everything is properly washed before making its way to school districts.
The farm primarily works with Naugatuck schools but has worked outside of the borough including with Bridgeport schools in the past.
“This will allow us to expand our scope potentially,” Kimball said.
Pesseck and Kimball are in the process of expanding to the land that was leased out to them from the borough and they expect to officially plant in May.
Kimball said they haven’t currently scheduled anything at this time with local schools but are always open to partner with school districts.
The farmers are currently growing vegetables and greens in their greenhouse this winter which include kale and carrots. They have also applied to be certified organic for the 2023 year and expect to know by May.