Canaan’s dairy legacy

Riley Klein’s excellent survey of the state of dairy farming in North Canaan in this week’s newspaper is a reassuring testament to the  enduring nature of our agricultural sector here in the Northwest Corner. The story, which appears on Page One, also is an invaluable trip down history lane as it chronicles the origins of dairy farming in the state, and tells the story of the family dairy farm over the past half century, and even before then in the 18th and early-19th centuries when farming in the region was necessary for self-sufficiency and the surest way to obtain fresh, safe milk for the family was to own a cow.

Today, it’s a striking fact that more than 10 percent of Connecticut’s dairy cows live in the barns in North Canaan. Given wind conditions on any given day, a drive along Route 44 through East Canaan with the windows open will testify to that fact.

The story also conveys an upbeat outlook, despite the odds. And it highlights the smart innovations employed by our own local farmer-businessmen. It shows how they make things work through diversification and innovation. Not to be overlooked, it also tells a story about how hard our farmers work. They don’t have days off. They get up before any of us. They feed their cows before they feed themselves. You can find them still working late on a Sunday evening, offloading a truckload of fresh-cut feed for heifers who will become the next milkers. Our farmers don’t have virtual schedules. They are on the ground, in the field, always working. David Jacquier of Elm Knoll Farm, who started with three cows in 1968 when he was still at Housy, doesn’t ever seem to be at a standstill.

The four farms remaining in North Canaan have ideas for the future that don’t include being a vanishing species. They are multi-generational farms, with plans for more generations that will continue a proud legacy that dates to our Colonial era.

The next time traffic backs up behind a slow-moving farm vehicle, it’s a time to be thankful.

State labor outlook

Connecticut’s unemployment rate fell to 3.6 percent in July, the lowest since September 2019 as employers added 2,900 jobs. According to the state Department of Labor, Connecticut has added 19,100 jobs so far in 2023. The economic outlook is positive, Commissioner Danté Bartolomeo says in his July report, with a lower unemployment rate, job growth, and a low unemployment weekly filing rate.

Employers have about 90,000 jobs available in the state—it’s a good economic climate for job seekers with employers hiring for a wide variety of jobs and skill levels — and Connecticut’s labor force participation rate remains above national levels. Still, the number of available workers is a concern for recruiters trying to fill jobs, the department reports.

It’s also good news that total jobs are 98.2% recovered from the pandemic shutdown with the private sector just 100 jobs shy of full recovery at 99.9% recovered.

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