From the Ground Up – Buying Local in Connecticut

“We have lived our lives by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world. We have been wrong. We must change our lives so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption, that what is good for the world will be good for us. And that requires that we make the effort to know the world and learn what is good for it.” — Wendell Berry

By C. Dennis Pierce

Do you remember this as a kid? “April showers bring May flowers”, an old adage that we all learned as a child. It originated in England where April, for them, is the one of the soggiest months causing flowers to bloom in May. Based on what I found on the internet, one origin suggests it comes from the year 1157 where a short “poem” was written by Thomas Tusser, and it said: “Sweet April Showers Do Spring May Flowers”. Another notion is that at the end of the fourteenth century the poet Geoffrey Chaucer penned a version that translates as: “When in April the sweet showers fall, that pierce March’s drought to the root and all, and bathed every vein in liquor that has power to generate therein and sire the flower”. 

The cycle of the seasons always surprises me or maybe it just takes me off guard. It amazes me how each of nature’s elements interacts with another causing a catalyst for change. For instance, I was recently walking on a very windy day on the path that surrounds Bicentennial Pond. The March rainy season caused the ground to be saturated and very wet and run off water from the forest pooled along the trail. Suddenly, the wind picked up and there was a loud crash as a nearby tree was uprooted and fell causing the ground to shake. Needless to say, it was a frightening experience. It took me a minute to stop and realize what I had just witnessed. My initial thought was at least now I know the answer to that age old question, “ If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it does it make a sound? Fortunately, I was there to observe the event, and hear the thunderous boom but it also made me pause to realize the interconnectedness of the elements of nature. The natural cycle of life surrounds us daily, seasonally, yearly, and generationally. Whether it be in the plant world or with man we all have a time when something encourages us to lie down. In this case the soggy ground, rotting roots and heavy wind encouraged the tree that it was time to lay down and now decompose, creating habitats for insects, flora and later enriching the soil. Sometimes we are blind to what is around us. We take for granted on how the earth renews itself as the living things within an ecosystem interact with each other to create the perpetual cycle of nature. At the end of each cycle, we have decay and decomposition. Now it’s spring and nature continues the cycle by nurturing life as it provides us with emerging leaves and countless flowers.   

Melanie Desch, part owner of Foliota Farms is a nurturer. She grows flowers because they bring her a peaceful opportunity as she gardens early in the morning. “Flowers are a gift that brightens up your life”, she told me during a recent visit to the farm where she and her partner Ulises Arbelo grow over 150 varieties of flowers. Foliota Farm, which is located on 40 Woods Road in Mansfield Center, name is derived from the fungi, genus pholiota. One of the species of the genus pholiota is a species called  Namiko,  an edible fungi also known as Butterscotch Mushrooms, Forest Nameko, and Forest Mushroom. At Foliota Farm Melanie and Ulises incorporate fungi cultivation in some of their bed-prep, as well as employ practices promoting fungal health. As Melainie and Ulises shared their story and how they decided to grow flowers rather than vegetable they realized that from a business sense it is more profitable to grow flowers per square foot than growing vegetables. Sure, they encounter the same challenges as vegetable farmers with lack of rain or too much rain, insects, weeds etc. They, as most farmers, begin the flowers from seeds inside during the colder months and later in hoop or row houses. They have to be conscious of their soil make up since flowers like a PH of around 6.5. Weeds are discouraged by mulching and new beds are prepared by covering the ground with black plastic in effort to inhibit weed and grass growth. Melanie explained that there are two categories of flowers, “one and done” and “cut and come again”.  The farm needs to maintain a system of succession planning in order to maintain an ever-bearing inventory.  As their farm continues to be successful, they have set their sights on the next project and that is procuring a high tunnel to assist in the off-season.

Foliota Farm puts soil health first, using minimal tillage practices to maintain soil structure and promote microbiological and fungal diversity. They prioritize Connecticut natives, perennial plants, and heirloom varieties. Growing on our land, and helping improve our local ecosystem, has been a dream come true for Melanie and Ulises. The farm’s flower selection can be purchased at the Willimantic Farmer’s Market. The market is moving to its summer quarters and their first day will be on Saturday, April 27th from 9:00am until 12:00pm. Melanie is adamant that at the market they should offer several price points for their bouquets. “Everyone may not be able to afford a more expensive bouquet so that is why we offer five-dollar bouquets. Everyone one should be able to experience the beauty of locally grown fresh flowers”.  The farm also is very creative by offering a flower CSA. Information found on their web site explains the services offered. Their bouquets are average market sizes, with anywhere from 15-25 stems. They  contain a variety of annual, native, and/or foraged flowers to grab your interest. Color themes will vary, and they will experience the seasonality of different varieties. They will be arranged in a spiral pattern and cut to achieve an aesthetic, rounded look in a vase. The farm wraps their bouquets in paper to keep them secure during transport. All flowers are harvested the day of or the day before pickup and will be in the freshest state possible. Some bouquets may be partially closed and should open over the next few days, which gives you a longer period to enjoy their beauty.  The farm provides returnable mason jars to transport them home which fits easily in your car’s cup holder. The farm’s CSA offers 10 weeks of carefully cared for, locally grown flowers starting the first week of July for two hundred dollars and an option for 6 weeks of carefully cared for, locally grown flowers starting the first week of July for one hundred and twenty dollars. CSA bouquet pickups on Wednesday can be picked up at the farm at 40 Woods Road in Mansfield Center and Saturday’s bouquets can be picked up at the farm’s booth at the Willimantic Farmer’s Market at 28 Bridge Street, Willimantic, CT.  Check out their website at  for more information and some very attractive photos. The farm’s contact information is 908.894.0652 and email at

Local markets will be offering kale as the season begins. While it appears that kale no longer has the popularity it did a few years ago it does provided an excellent source of vitamins. Here is a great way to “sneak” kale into your diet: 

Kale Scones with Pumpkin & Cheese

(Makes 8 to 10 large scones)

Pre heat oven to 375 degrees. Set oven rack in the middle of your stove.


2 cups of kale leaves

2 cups of flour

½ teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon of baking soda

½ teaspoon of baking powder

1 tablespoon of sugar

1/3 of a cup of cold butter

1 egg (preferably local)

¾ cup of buttermilk

½ cup of cooked pumpkin or squash, diced

¾ cup of grated cheddar cheese

If you do not have buttermilk, you can add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to the ¾ cup of milk and let it stand for ten minutes before adding it to the recipe.


Steam kale for a minute or two, just to blanch

Squeeze as much water out by wrapping it in a paper towel. 

Chop kale finely. You should have less than one cup of chopped kale.

Blend and sift, flour, salt, baking soda and sugar together

Cut cold butter in small pieces and blend it in the flour mixture with you winters. Don’t overwork since you want your butter to stay cold. You can also use a dough blender / cutter if you have one. 

In a small bowl beat eggs and then add the buttermilk. Beat until combined

Add egg / buttermilk mixture and kale, pumpkin / squash, and cheese to dry ingredients.

Mix with fork just to combine.  

Drop by spoonful on a parchment covered cookie sheet. Note, if you want to cut the mixture into shapes such as triangles or if you use a cookie cutter knead in about ¼ cup of extra flour to make the dough easier to handle.

Bale 20 minutes until browned.

Tip of the month: I have a cedar shingled house and this time of the year I am tormented with woodpeckers. I found that by going to the local dollar store I could purchase silver plastic decorations that can be found in their party section, and I attach them to my outside wall and their presence appears to scare the birds away. I guess woodpeckers are not celebratory feathered friends. Another tip which came from Melanie during our conversation was a suggestion on how to lengthen the life of a flowers. Pick them from the garden early in the morning and place them in a jar of water in the refrigerator. She also mentioned adding vinegar and sugar to the vase’s water. While she has not tried this, she has heard that by adding Sprite to the water, this too extends the life of the arrangement. Ulises also reminded us to cut the bottom of the stems and changing the water periodically as this adds to the bouquet’s life.

As mentioned above, tis the season for local farmer’s market transitioning to their summer market location. Besides Willimantic, as listed above here are a few updates:

  • Storrs Farmer’s Market first day in front of the Mansfield Town Hall – Saturday, May 4th.

  • Coventry Market at Nathan Hale – Sunday, June 2nd
  • Ashford Market – Sunday April 28 (10:00am to 1:00pm). If this is not the correct date their location will be inside, across the street.

And some final thoughts…in nature, every day is a new day. As humans we tend to fixate on the past but when you observe nature and see the constant changes around you, you become more aware that nothing and no one remains in the same place. Sometimes we get caught up in living in the past. We must remember that everyday is new and new again tomorrow.  If you find that you enjoy reading this column every month or if you have some gardening hacks you would like to share with others? Please drop me a line and let me know at  Peas be with you. Come celebrate with me and remember, every day is a holiday, and every meal is a banquet.  I’ll save you a seat at the table! 

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