26 July 2013

Milford Farms and Farmers' Markets

Supporting local agriculture is fun

In the early 21st century, Connecticut has been getting back to its family farming “roots.” Environmentalists promote family farming as wise land-use policy, especially in Milford, blessed with prime agricultural soils. Health-conscious “locavores” demand access to food with the freshness, high nutrient levels, and low pesticide burden provided by neighborhood farms.

Finally, economists emphasize small-farm rewards due to employment, land-use diversification, and so-called “external” efficiencies, meaning efficiencies realized from the services nature supplies free of charge. Milford has three summer farm markets: One at Treat’s Farm in Woodmont, one in downtown Milford by the train station, and one in Devon on Route 1 between Naugatuck Avenue and the Washington Bridge. These markets support family farms by giving them new outlets for distribution.
[Editorial insert]
The Downtown Milford Farmers Market
runs every Saturday through October, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., in the parking lot near the River St side of the Milford Railroad Station. All the vendors are self-producing Connecticut farmers. Features Scratch Bakery goodies and breads, locally grown vegetables and herbs, hormone-free meat and poultry, and much more.

The Village of Devon hosts a farmers market on Sundays at the municipal lot at 120 Bridgeport Ave. from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fresh seafood, fruits, vegetables, flowers and baked goods. WIC and DSNAP vouchers accepted. Live music.

The Woodmont Farmers’ Market at the Robert Treat Farm is held Wednesdays. Located at the corner of New Haven and Merwin avenues, the Woodmont Farmers’ Market will be open every Wednesday, from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m., through the end of September, rain or shine.

So far so good, but community-supported agriculture (CSAs) up the ante. They’re small farms using direct distribution. Whether alone or supplemental to farmers’ markets, CSAs are more nitty-gritty than the markets and more fun.

First, “fun.” Typically, the way a CSA works is that members pay a set amount in advance for a summer’s worth of farm product. On a certain day each week, members pick up a basket of food at their CSA, but they don’t know in advance what’s going to be inside. They might get a few items they’ve never heard of, such as bok choy, kohlrabi, or tatsoi, radishes in unlikely shapes and colors, red currants or white eggplant or purple squash they scarcely know how to prepare.

Besides sheer novelty, these unfamiliar species offer way more diversity than a customer ever finds at a grocery store, even counting exotic imports. Then consider the abundance. Flowers and herbs can be cut as bonuses to the weekly basket, and, sometimes, when a particular vegetable or berry crop ripens all at once, members can pick all they want.

Next, “nitty-gritty.” CSAs bring members up close and personal with farmland. Sometimes, as mentioned, members act as farmhands themselves; in any case, when members are at the CSA they see their food growing, not just sitting on shelves. The ecological connections underlying agriculture are evident all around.
Here, the farming history of Milford comes alive. Sun, rain, and the slow progress of the seasons rule. Farm work is more than isolated individuals can do by themselves, so community becomes important, as reflected in the way CSA members share a common schedule and set of basket items; additionally, many CSAs celebrate the end of their year in September with a party for all their members—a feast entrĂ©e from the farm, the rest pot-luck.

Originally, America was a nation of farmers. What our forebears called the “symmetry” of nature was all-important: They tried to preserve it with diligence, patience and frugality.

Today we use the term “sustainability.” Regardless of the label, the basic concept is illustrated in every CSA: Human beings are not “above” nature, but embedded in it together with all nature’s creatures.

Our health depends on the health of the land.

25 July 2013

Raise Your SAT Score NOW!

College Placement Firm Expands

Disclosure: The following is a Press Release from First College Placement,  the brainchild of the terrific James Maroney, who is our newest State Rep from Milford. Beyond that, they do wonderful work and increase teens SAT scores to get them into the best possible position for applying to College.
Get your kids enrolled right away!

First Choice College Placement is pleased to announce it will be opening new classroom facilities to serve students in Norwalk, Monroe, Wallingford and their respective surrounding communities. In Norwalk they will be located at 430 Main Avenue, in Monroe at 601 Main Street, and in Wallingford at 950 Yale Avenue. The new facilities are the result of a strategic partnership with All-Star Driver, Connecticut’s leader in driver’s education. 

First Choice College Placement has been providing SAT/ACT test preparation classes in Milford since 1999, and beginning in August, those same test preparation classes will be available at the three All-Star Driver classroom facilities - Norwalk, Monroe and Wallingford.

“Our two businesses serve the same groups of high school juniors and seniors, so it just made sense to utilize these state-of-the-art classrooms when they are available,” said James Maroney, Director of First Choice College Placement LLC. “We employ a variety of technologies to assist students in the classroom, such as white boards, iPads, and recording of each session for review at the student’s convenience. In addition, all classroom sessions are taught by our highly qualified tutors who are graduates of top universities.”

First Choice has worked with a number of recruited athletes to help them get the scores to qualify for Ivy League schools and other academic requirements, along with helping a wide variety of students, including high academic achievers, realize their college-related goals.

“First Choice gave my son direction on studying for the SAT’s, his essay and selecting the right school,” said Peter Graeb of Wallingford. “My son’s ultimate college choice could not have been better for him and the experience was so rewarding we used them again with my younger son, with the same great results.”

For more information, call (800) 575-0950 or email jmaroneyct@gmail.com.  www.firstchoicecollege.com/

 And, yes, James, I am impressed.

22 July 2013

Vaccinating boys plays key role in HPV prevention

Improving vaccination rates against the human papillomavirus (HPV) in boys aged 11 to 21 is key to protecting both men and women, says new research from University of Toronto Professor Peter A. Newman from the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work.

HPV has been linked to anal, penile and certain types of throat cancers in men. Since the virus is also responsible for various cancers in women, vaccinating boys will play a crucial role in reducing cancer rates across the sexes.

“HPV is the single most common sexually transmitted infection,” says Newman, Canada Research Chair in Health and Social Justice. “But now a vaccine is available that can change that and help to prevent the cancers that sometimes result.”

Newman’s research grouped data from 16 separate studies involving more than 5,000 people to analyze rates of HPV vaccine acceptability and examined what factors play a role when determining if young men receive the vaccine.

Vaccinations, particularly new ones, can have difficulty gaining traction among the citizens they were developed to help. This problem can be compounded by a lack of information, misinformation and even conspiracy theories about the efficacy and safety of vaccines. Unfortunately, says Newman, misinformation and unfounded vaccine fears can result in cancer deaths that could have been avoided with a simple vaccination.

Logistical barriers can also stifle the spread and acceptance of new vaccines. Basic impediments like out-of-pocket cost, transportation to a clinic and wait times for the vaccine can contribute to overall low vaccination rates.

The biggest factor affecting male HPV vaccination rates is the lack of a well-established connection linking HPV in men to a life-threatening illness. The correlation between HPV and cervical cancer in women is responsible for popularizing the vaccine among young women. Unfortunately, a similar connection that would motivate males to get the vaccine has not yet been established. That needs to change, says Newman.

“The idea of an HPV vaccine for boys is new in Canada and so far it has had a low adoption rate,” says Newman. “So we need physicians, social workers and public health care institutions to be more active conveying the benefits of the vaccine for boys and the positive role it can help play keeping Canadians safe and healthy.”

The study can be found online and is available without a subscription in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections.

07 July 2013

Your Right to Vote in America

Voting Rights Act must be restored

Letter to the Editor from Devon Pfeifer of Weston Connecticut
Published in the Connecticut Post Friday, July 5, 2013
[Editorial comment: Shared In Its Entirety except for the removal of ridiculous, self-referential links inserted by CT Post. Large Print used for ease of readership's aging eyes. People died for the Right to Vote.]
The Voting Rights Act, frequently hailed as the single most effective civil rights legislation, was gutted recently by the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision.

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts cited voter registration in Mississippi had grown from 7 percent in 1965 to 76 percent of the African-American population. He shared additional anecdotal information by citing the fact that Selma, Ala., where future Congressman John Lewis was brutally beaten in 1965, has a black mayor. The chief justice also wrote "African-American voter turnout exceeded white voter turnout in five of the six states originally covered by Section 5." Ultimately, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) tossed the Voting Rights Act back to the polarized Congress, telling legislators to fix it. Roberts wrote, "Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions." The decision declared Section 4 unconstitutional because it was based on old voting data that had not been updated since 1975.

The Voting Rights Act was passed by Congress in 1965. It was enacted to restore and protect the right to vote as provided in the 14th and 15th Amendments and was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson.

SCOTUS struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which had identified nine states: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia, in addition to counties and municipalities including Manhattan, the Bronx and Brooklyn.

These states, counties and municipalities were required under Section 5 (which remains intact, but toothless because of the court's finding on Section 4) "preclearance" by the Department of Justice or a federal court for any/all changes to election law.

In reference to the case of Selma having a black mayor, Southern Poverty Law Center President Richard Cohen points out: "In the history of voting in Alabama, not a single black candidate has been able to defeat a white incumbent or win an open seat in a statewide race. Black office holders in Alabama are confined almost exclusively to minority districts." He added, "While 40 percent of the white voting public cast their ballots for a black president nationwide, only 15 percent of white voters did so in Alabama ... There are still Alabama legislators who talk openly about suppressing the black vote and refer to black voters as `aborigines.'"

Congress passed the Voting Rights Act in 1965, renewed it in 1975 and in 1982, and adopted a new standard for 1985 that provided a way for jurisdictions to get out from under Section 4. In 2006, Congress eliminated the provision for voting examiners. That year Congress held 20 hearings and accumulated 15,000 pages of documents supporting Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. In 2006, "Congress voted nearly unanimously to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act for another 25 years. The vote in the U.S. Senate was 98 to 0 and 390 to 33 in the House of Representatives." -- The Christian Science Monitor.

Between 1999 and 2005, 153 proposed voting changes were withdrawn when the Department of Justice questioned them.
The Voting Rights Act was repeatedly challenged and upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States, until this year.
According to the Brennan Center for Justice (and most news sources) the very same day that the SCOTUS decision was handed down Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said his state would go forward with its plan to redistrict because it no longer needed federal approval. In addition, Texas would implement a voter identification law that had been blocked because it did not meet federal approval. North Carolina announced it would go ahead with a photo ID requirement for voting and eliminate early voting.

A study in 2011 by Paul Gronke of Reed College and Charles Stewart of Massachusetts Institute of Technology titled "Early Voting in Florida" showed that a reduction in the number of early hours for voting lessened the turnout of black voters.

Teaching Tolerance graphed data from The Brennan Center for Justice depicting the percentage of people who lack a government-issued photo ID; the data revealed:
  • 11 percent of all citizens lack a government issued photo ID;
  • 15 percent of low-income voters lack a government issued photo ID;
  • 18 percent of young voters lack a government issued photo ID; and
  • 25 percent of African-American voters lack a government issued photo ID.
The court decision was best summarized by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who took the unusual step of dissenting not just in writing, but from the bench, espousing "For a half century, a concerted effort has been made to end racial discrimination in voting. Thanks to the Voting Rights Act, progress once the subject of a dream has been achieved and continues to be made. The court errs egregiously, by overriding Congress's decision." 
The Voting Right Act must be restored. It is the cornerstone to the home in which our democracy resides.
I look to our delegation of federal legislators, Sens. Blumenthal and Murphy, Reps. Himes, DeLauro and the rest of the Connecticut delegation to champion reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act and bury Jim Crow once more.
[Ed.: OK Readers. Do something about this!]