SOUTHINGTON — Diane and Mike Karabin hosted a visit Saturday from U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., at their 50-acre Karabin Farms operation on Andrews Street, giving a tour of two greenhouses filled with the fragrance of blooming flowers, through rows of vegetable plants inside and outside and around the country store that welcomes visitors.
The visit was to discuss the assistance programs for farmers, such as the tree assistance program, crop damage insurance and disaster programs to help protect from weather-related losses after a winter of record snowfall.
“There’s a tension in Washington between support for large farmers in the Midwest and small farmers in the Northeast,” Murphy said. In essence, Murphy wants to call for robust federal investments to support Connecticut farmers.
Karabin Farms consists of 15 acres of Christmas trees, runs four greenhouses for nursery operations, raises chicken and turkeys, produces maple syrup, and harvests more than 2,000 fruit trees. During his visit, Murphy spoke with the farm’s owners about the challenges they faced as a result of the inclement weather. Murphy discussed opportunities for local farms and nurseries, like Karabin Farms, to apply for federal assistance.
“It’s been a tough winter for greenhouses,” Murphy said. “It’s important that we fully fund small farmers in the TAP program. I’m fighting to make sure the disaster funds that are needed are going to be there.”
“You also get a sense here of what programs are important to them,” Murphy said. “We’re looking to grow these farms. There´s been an upward trend in Connecticut.”
Murphy said farming in the state has grown 33 percent in the last several years.
“We´re always fighting an uphill battle for support of small farms,” Murphy said. He said the mission of his visit was to gather first-hand information to bring back to the budgeting session. Murphy is on the Senate appropriations committee.
On a May day when dahlias were blooming along with begonias, hibiscus and King Tut grass was tufting, Mike Karabin said he was talking with his U.S. senator about the family business and damage to his orchards. Back in March, Karabin was lamenting the loss of the traditional February maple syrup production. Later, temperatures were ideal with cold nights and warm days and, as the owner predicted, the season would be late and fast.
Nature took a corrective course, and Karabin said maple syrup production of 66 gallons over a four-week span was considered an average yield for what ordinarily is a six-week stretch before trees bud and stop producing sap.