If there is one thing Jean and Mark Palazzi from Palazzi Farm and Orchard want you to do, it’s to buy as much as you can from local farms.
Sure, if you buy from them that’s great and they won’t argue, but there are so many different farmers, offering so much variety in the area that they just want these farms to thrive too. And if you happen to develop of love of cooking because of it, they might just give you three cheers as well.
So why are these two farmers so adamant about buying local if it’s not all about supporting their farm? Because they’ve seen first-hand what happens when consumers change their habits and don’t buy from farms.
Jean and Mark used to own a large pick your own operation in town. They opened it up every year for families to come and pick peaches, apples, buy vegetables and drink their fresh pressed cider. The farm had belonged to Mark’s family, and when Jean came along, she brought the experience of generations as her family had been farming in Connecticut for hundreds of years. They transformed it into a thriving business that families could enjoy during the growing season.
As time went on, however, and the advent of frozen foods and fast food being readily available became the norm, they started to see more people visiting the farm for Agro-tourism and less for the delicious food they produced. The climate started changing and a bumper season was negated by late frosts in the next that killed their peaches for the entire season. They loved farming and the business was still very successful, but the difficulties they now had to manage in addition to their growing was, if we are being downright honest, exhausting. So, they sold the family farm, and bought a small plot in Killingly to give themselves a bit of a break.
Some people would choose to retire, but that word will always be a loosely interpreted for Jean and Mark. It just means working a little less. Immediately their new land was transformed: strawberries, fruit trees, and blueberry bushes appeared. Asparagus was planted, fields were tilled and filled with tomatoes, squash, peppers and cucumbers. They started a CSA and began raising perennial and flowering plants to sell. Every week you could see Jean selling their products at the Danielson (Killingly) Farmers Market. And every chance they got, they were telling folks how important it was to buy from your local farms.
They can do all of this because people supported, and still support their farm. But Jean and Mark know well enough that they are the lucky ones. There are some farms that haven’t made it in the last decade. Some that didn’t get the choice in their retirement or career changes and the land was lost to development. Though they have slowed down and find time for their hobbies of fixing old tractors, practicing herbalism skills, or taking their motorcycles out for a ride, they will never put aside their desire to advocate, to let people know the importance of their local farms, or protecting whatever land is in their hands.