For ru­ral areas, re­silience is key

Coun­cil calls on towns, res­i­dents to adapt to change

The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - By Leslie Hutchi­son

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.”

Leslie Hutchi­son / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

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.

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