Clover Nook Farm; Photo Courtesy of Winter Caplanson/Connecticut Food and Farm

The future of agriculture is in capable hands with the next generation of farmers. Winner of the 2018 Outstanding Young Farmer award, Lars Demander is the eighth generation of his family to farm Clover Nook Farm in Bethany, and he is largely responsible for the business’s recent growth and expansion.

After earning his master’s degree in agricultural and resource economics, Demander returned to his family’s century farm with a keen interest in educating the local community on agricultural practices that are often misunderstood – including terms like GMOs, organic farming and animal welfare.

“People are becoming increasingly interested in how and where their food is produced,” Demander says. “The best way for them to learn about those things is to interact with local farmers, which gives them the opportunity to ask questions and see a working farm operation with their own eyes.”

This commitment to educating people about their food motivated Demander to launch an annual open farm day event, inviting customers to the farm to see how Clover Nook grows and sources the variety of foods offered in its store.

“Strengthening the connection between people and food is vital for the future of our industry,” Demander says. “This event allows us to share growing practices unique to our farm and create transparency with our consumers and community.”

It was this dedication to education that inspired Judith Hsiang, New Haven County Extension Master Gardener Coordinator, to nominate him for the prestigious Outstanding Young Farmer award.

“We have to educate consumers who want to buy local but have little understanding of terms like natural, organic and sustainability,” Hsiang says. Farmers like Demander who are committed to education are helping consumers learn how their dollars and choices can support their local economies.

Demander also pursued the Connecticut Farm Reinvestment Grant in 2016, which allowed his family’s 254-year-old business to continue to grow, expand and survive in an ever-changing agricultural industry. He received $40,000, which provided matching funds to build a new retail store to house more products and accommodate increasing customer traffic.

Despite suffering structural damage from a summer tornado, the changes to Clover Nook Farm have put Demander and his family in a wonderful position for the future.

“Farming can be quite testing,” Demander says. “But I’ve found it to be one of the most rewarding professions in the world.”

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