DOAG: BRASS CITY REGIONAL FOOD HUB BREAKS GROUND IN WATERBURY



May 15, 2019

BRASS CITY REGIONAL FOOD HUB BREAKS GROUND IN WATERBURY

Linda Piotrowicz, Director, Bureau of Agricultural Development and Resource Conservation

 

The sun broke through the clouds Monday in Waterbury just as the lieutenant governor, mayor, and others drove their shovels into the soil to officially break ground on the Brass City Regional Food Hub--foreshadowing a bright future for a project that has been years in the making.

“This is one of my proudest days,” Susan Pronovost told dozens of supporters gathered on a cold mid-May morning to share in the celebration.

As executive director of Brass City Harvest, a nonprofit organization whose focus is on transforming the local and regional food system to provide everyone with equitable access to fresh Connecticut Grown food, she has spearheaded the vision for and design of a facility that will give Connecticut family farms an opportunity to wash their produce, enter new markets, and create value-added products.

“Two and a half years ago, my friend Susan Pronovost approached me to discuss a model for a regional food hub,” recounted Neil M. O'Leary, Waterbury’s 46th mayor, who was born in the city and has served its residents in a multitude of roles and responsibilities since.  “Sue shared her thoughts on how a regional food hub could bring value to the City of Waterbury and its citizens.”

Mayor O’Leary spoke about the revitalization of the city’s south end, and how this initiative plays a key role in that effort.  He pointed out that the project will help youth learn about and appreciate how food is grown and how it fuels healthy bodies and minds.

“I am so pleased to be here to celebrate the Waterbury Food Hub,” said Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz.  “There are thousands of jobs involved in Connecticut agriculture and this project is going to help create 24 good-paying jobs,” she continued, speaking about agriculture’s economic contributions and benefits as a whole.

“Our life here at Brass City Harvest revolves around agriculture and fresh food access,” explained Susan Pronovost. 

“How do we create those networks within the state’s thousands of farms—mostly family owned farms—and how do we create markets for them and bring their products to the limelight to other states?  How do we create markets domestically in this state, and how do we help them meet new sanitation requirements?  That’s the purpose of this new food hub.”

Sharing Brass City Harvest’s mission to take care of the community’s less fortunate, she announced the organization produced or transferred from farm to people more than 100,000 pounds of fresh food in 2018. 

She projected this new facility will triple that number, thanking the city, its elected officials, and all of the project’s funders and supporters, past and present, including the Connecticut Department of Agriculture (DoAg), its former commissioner, Steven K Reviczky, and current commissioner, Bryan P. Hurlburt.

DoAg has awarded Brass City Harvest two Agricultural Viability grants to support the project:  $41,500 in 2015 for design and planning, and $48,000 in 2017 for construction of a commercial cooler inside the food hub.

DoAg regulatory staff also provided information on appropriate sanitation to help ensure farm products moving through the food hub meet current food safety requirements.

“Susan is just a force to be reckoned with,” proclaimed Commissioner Hurlburt.  “We will have commerce here, and we will have farmers here, we will have consumers here. We will be able to do all of these things because one person had the great drive, vision, and energy to make it happen.” 

He thanked the mayor for all of his support throughout the entire process and emphasized the project is an example of what is possible when people get together with a common vision to make it happen.

Former Representative Jeffrey Berger of the 73rd District recalled his involvement on the project as chairman of the General Assembly’s Finance, Revenue, and Bond Commissioner.

“We put the paperwork together, we sold the project, not only as a City of Waterbury project but a statewide project, regional project, jobs project, and doing the right thing for those who are really in need.”

Senator Joan V. Hartley, 15th District, said the project represents so much of the South End and City of Waterbury coming together, and heralded Susan Pronovost for her ability to secure funding from many different sources and connect a diversity of stakeholders around a common cause to benefit the community.

“Every penny that we invest with Susan is going to be leveraged to the 1,000th degree.  She knows how to write a grant, she knows how to leverage, and she knows how to connect.”

“You hear these conversations about food deserts,” Senator Hartley continued.  “Well it is true that how we eat is how we live...but it’s going to make fresh food, locally grown, available to a community that heretofore didn’t have that.”

State Representative Gerry Reyes, 75th District, spoke of growing up a quarter mile away and learning how to play baseball on the very site of the new food hub.

“What I’ve seen this neighborhood go through, the ups and downs, I can’t thank everyone who’s involved, but Brass City Harvest.  This is just a great, great day for the City of Waterbury and the South End.”

“This is completely a food desert.  We need to go through and re-educate and continue the education process, emphasizing the medical aspects.  Because if you are eating better, you are going to feel a lot better.”

HUD Field Office Director Suzanne Piacentini explained that HUD is not only about housing first but urban development that includes strengthening the community through good jobs and access to good food and healthcare. 

“You have it all here, coalescing perfectly,” she said about the Brass City Regional Food Hub project.

Father Sullivan delivered a reading from the Bible and then blessed the site with holy water from the Jordan River during a moment of silence.

The event culminated with all speakers taking a ceremonial shovel of soil to mark the official start of construction. 

For more information about Brass City Harvest and the Brass City Regional Food Hub, visit www.brasscityharvestwtby.org.