The Taste of Mansfield and community partners, including the Mansfield Agriculture Committee and Economic Development Commission, have selected the recipients of the second annual Taste of Mansfield Champion Awards.
The Taste of Mansfield Champion Awards program was initiated to recognize Mansfield producers, sellers, and communicators/educators who are leaders in connecting the community through local food and have a demonstrated record of promoting the Taste of Mansfield mission. The public was invited to nominate potential champions based on the following criteria:
- Sells or serves local food or an agricultural product with a focus on Mansfield farms and farm stands,
- Educates customers/clients about where local food comes from through various media, or
- Acts as a leader and advocate for promoting local food
The 2023 Taste of Mansfield Champion Award Winners are:
- Chelsea Cherrier, Educator
- Dennis Pierce, Advocate
- George Bailey, Producer
- Julia Cartabiano, Special Posthumous Award
Chelsea Cherrier is described as a local food system warrior by her peers at CLiCK in Windham, where she has served as Education Coordinator for the past three years. Chelsea grew up in Mansfield, attending Mansfield schools, and recently returned from the West Coast after earning a Master’s Degree in Nutrition. With a focus on wellness, she develops educational programs and classes related to healthy living focused on food for the community, often interpreting in Spanish for participants. She created the Cooking Across Cultures program at CLiCK, which addresses racism in the food industry and community. Within the past year, Chelsea has also organized a successful effort to increase local food processing for farmers at CLiCK. She is an active partner with Mansfield with the Farms to Families distribution and establishing growing relationships with local farmers and producers. Chelsea is also passionate about food waste management, and has created programs for food businesses on how to build composting into their management culture. Chelsea is instrumental in expanding CLiCK’s influence as a food hub for our region.
Dennis Pierce has had a long and winding career associated with local food in Mansfield. He worked as the Market Master for the Storrs Farmers Market, and is still a frequent customer there. However, Dennis’ influence as a local food advocate has expanded way beyond Mansfield. He has more than 40 years of food service experience, including his influential position as Executive Director of Dining Services at the University of Connecticut, from which he recently retired. In that capacity, Dennis established UConn Dining as the largest user of Connecticut-grown produce in the State of Connecticut. His drive to serve fresh and local produce also inspired establishment of the student-run farm on the UConn campus. He has also served as a volunteer advocating for Connecticut Farmland Preservation. Dennis extends his passion for promoting local food to the wider community, contributing a monthly article to the Neighbors paper. He relishes visiting and interviewing local farmers, sharing their stories with the wider community, and advocating for community through local food.
George Bailey has been a long-standing fixture here in Mansfield food circles. He was one of the co-founders of the Storrs Farmers Market in 1994. As a maple syrup and honey producer, George marketed his products at the Storrs Farmers Market and in local stores for more than 40 years. He managed a sugar bush of more than 375 taps, producing 300-400 pounds of honey and 60-70 gallons of maple syrup in a typical year. George’s career as a civil engineer took him around the country before he returned to Connecticut to work for the Federal Highway Administration. Described by Taste of Mansfield Champion Award winner Diane Dorfer as “always generous with his time and experience,” George willingly spoke to groups of children at his sugarhouse or in their classrooms, and donated his precious syrup to church suppers and other community causes. George entered his Mansfield syrup regularly in Maplerama, the premier New England competition for maple syrups. It is described that much to the chagrin of better-known maple-producing regions, George regularly won the top award and brought it back to Mansfield and Connecticut. Although George has relocated to live closer to his son in Massachusetts, he turned his valuable sugar bush over to another generation of producers here in Town. Those who nominated George said it best: “The sight of smoke rising from his sugar house, George in his suspendered overalls and hip boots working on the sap buckets and sap line, his serious discussions of beekeeping and syrup-making at the Farmers Market, and the wintery taste of his Grade A Bailey’s Maple Syrup are sorely missed.”
The nominating committee is also recognizing an additional Champion this year. Julia Cartabiano, who passed in late 2022, was the first farm manager at the University of Connecticut’s student farm called Spring Valley Student Farm (SVSF), and served there for 10 years until 2021. She was dedicated to just and equitable food systems. Julia began her work at Spring Valley Student Farm as a part-time graduate student when she was working toward her Master’s Degree in Plant Science and Landscape Architecture. She is credited with building up the farm and its organic practices, starting with lean resources and just four students in the first year. The farm expanded to grow small fruits and vegetables, native plants, an edible forest garden, and inspired more than 150 student farmers each year on practicing beekeeping, aquaponics, and planting pollinator gardens. She always encouraged students to follow their own interests and supported them in taking on leadership on the farm. In addition to teaching farming practices, Julia also proudly farmed with her son Spencer and his partner Jackie, operating Willow Valley Farm in Willington. Willow Valley Farm is one of our core Mansfield Farms to Families Program produce suppliers today, and a regular farm exhibitor at the Storrs Farmers Market. Jessica Larkin-Wells, who was one of Julia’s students and is the present Farm Manager at SVSF, says, “Julia worked across disciplines, institutions, and borders to unite people around the common goal of sustainable food and right relationship with the earth.”
The winners were announced at the Farmers Forum hosted by the Mansfield Agriculture Committee, and will be recognized at the start of the May 22 Town Council meeting at the Audrey P. Beck Municipal Building.