Tops in farmers: Brian Bennett
A first for the North Country, and a first for St. Lawrence County in particular: Heuvelton farmer Brian Bennett's been named Organic Farmer of the Year by NOFA NY, the Northeast Organic Farming Organization' New York branch.
Brian and Ann Bennett at the farm in 2004. (Photo by David Sommerstein)
Bittersweet Farm, namely Brian and his wife, Ann, and their kids, has been a regular at our local Canton Farmer's Market for years. (I bought my first "local" chicken from Brian years and years ago. As any cook would tell you, it was revolutionary.)
Brian and Ann have both served on the Canton market's Board of Directors, and helped establish the Ogdensburg Greenmarket as well. The farm is certified organic, and produces a variety of vegetables and livestock. I talked with Brian about his flock of heritage turkeys in 2006.
Brian talked up kohlrabi when Julie Grant stopped by the market in July 2012.
Brian is a burly, bearded and friendly presence. To stop by the family's stand is to buy into a conversation that educates, advocates and sometimes argues on behalf of organic and small scale family farmers everywhere. They are passionate mentors for new farmers, and teach hands-on sustainability to students and volunteers.
Brian's's a natural activist, even drawing "Brooklyn farmer" Sen. Chuck Schumer to Bittersweet Farm for a little lobbying three years ago.
A dozen folks trailed along as Schumer toured the fields and the greenhouses, where he munched some fresh pea shoots.
Do people eat these? “oh yes.” How come I didn’t know about ‘em? I love ‘em! They taste like fresh peas.
Schumer used Bittersweet farms as a backdrop to draw attention to the problem of conventionally grown Chinese produce being labeled as organic. He called for the Department of Agriculture to adapt stricter standards and step up enforcement to keep pesticides and other chemicals out of imported organics.
Brian is one of the keynote speakers at the Northeast Organic Farming Association of NY Winter Conference in Saratoga Springs. For information on attending go to www.nofany.org
And here's a bio of Brian Bennett from the farm's press release about the NOFA award:
Born in Warwick, Rhode Island in 1958, Brian became interested in plants and gardens during his Middle School years. His Mother’s family had long standing farming roots in Indiana, where Brian spent some of his High School summers hoeing miles and miles of corn. He also began planting a family garden. In college he studied plant science but was not happy with the promotion of chemical pesticides and fertilizers. He continued to study organic methods of production and in 1985 purchased his first farm with his wife Ann. They farmed part-time using all organic methods until their move in 1999 to the St Lawrence River Valley. Brian farms full-time and is an advocate for small scale, family farms, and local food production. Bittersweet Farm, their current home, is certified organic with NOFA NY LLC.
Tags: agriculture, canton, farming, local