For rural areas, resilience is key
Council calls on towns, residents to adapt to change
GOSHEN — The ability to be resilient is a practical necessity for residents of rural areas.
But the long-practiced goal of self-sufficiency now has a broader definition that calls on residents in the region to adapt to change, regional planning experts note.
Resiliency could be be applied to land use practices, according to a proposed regional program, such as expanding maple sugar operations and the ability to grow new varieties of fruit trees.
Called the “Rural Resiliency Community,” the program was discussed Wednesday with members of the Northwest Hills Council of Governments.
Regional planner Joanna Brown presented draft information to the members, which included a vision statement and a 16-item action plan. It calls on regional governments and residents to “implement strategies to manage change while maintaining and celebrating its rural character.”
Strategies could be applied to changing weather patterns, which affect farming, the management of natural resources or the simple act of neighbors helping neighbors, Brown noted in the proposal.
“We encourage the protection of farmland. This project is a step in the right direction,” said Rick Lynn, the council’s executive director.
“There is the whole issue of food security. We get our food resources from the Midwest or California,” Lynn said. “What if the distribution system is disrupted?”
Additional support for local farmers began in 2017 through a nonprofit program called the food hub. A distribution system delivers produce to the farmer’s clients, eliminating the need for the farmer to drive from place to place.
Agriculture is one of the key “adaption strategies,” the project states. Other focus areas are natural resources, infrastructure, cultural resources and public health.
Damage to infrastructure is also top concern, she noted. The proposal suggests towns should consider a “zero net growth” in roads, parking lots and other impervious surfaces, which can add increase the risk of flooding.
A water restriction ordinance could also be implemented, the proposal notes, for “conservation during periods of water shortage.”
The council’s project was supported by a $55,000 grant from the Connecticut Institute for Resilience & Climate Adaptation, based at the University of Connecticut, and the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
A website containing the resiliency project information will be available in midDecember, Brown said. It’s internet address will be resiliencerural.com.
Implementation of the project, and the support of communities in the region could significantly change the daily life of rural residents. It would “allow customers to go to a farm yearround,” Lynn said. “There are exciting things going on.”
Maple View Farm in Harwinton represents the type of family business which would be supported by a proposed resiliency program through the Northwest Hills Council of Governments.
Produce from the Barden farm in New Hartford. The farm has been in the family for five generations.