The green, blue and white signs with the state's outline and a silhouette of a farm help showcase the dozens of vegetables, fruit, dairy, specialty foods, herbs, nursery plants, meat, seafood and fibers produced in Connecticut.
A visit to Country Carpenters in Hebron, builders of New England-style post and beam buildings, really showcased the worth of this program for me.
While giving a tour of the facility, general manager Paul Baker pointed out that 95 percent of the company's carriage houses, garden sheds and country barns, which sell nationwide, are made of Eastern white pine. And 75 percent of that pine comes from trees harvested in the state.
I was shocked. Here I thought all wood came from places like Maine or the Pacific Northwest. State Forester Christopher Martin said many people are shocked that Connecticut produces wood "in a very big way." He pointed out that Connecticut ships red oak all over the world, including to Italy, Spain and China.
"This is something that will raise awareness for how important forest land is in Connecticut," Martin said. "There is a decline in forest land in Connecticut, which reverses a trend since the 1860s, when farms were abandoned and reverted to forest land. No new forests are being created. … The [Connecticut Grown] program will not only focus on the resource, but also its stewardship and sustainability."
The state has 1.7 million forested acres — about 60 percent of its land area — making it one of the most heavily forested states in the country. Martin said 85 percent of that land is privately owned with an uncertain future, especially when the economy turns around.
Baker believes the program will give Country Carpenters' products a stronger presence in the marketplace. One customer, an American now living in Ireland, had a building shipped overseas to provide "a taste of home."
"It certainly isn't going to hurt," Baker said of the "Connecticut Grown" program. "People tend to think the wood comes from the South or overseas where labor is cheap. But that's not the case. You are getting people to support the local economy, and what is being built is being built with wood from the forests around you."
And that's the beauty of the program. It not only showcases what the state's forests have to offer, it also educates the person buying the product.
Peter Marteka can be reached at 860-647-5365 or email@example.com or at The Courant, 200 Adams St., Manchester, CT 06040. Visit courant.com/cthiking for more adventures in the state's natural world.