On a gorgeous weekend morning at the end of the growing season I sat at my dining room table with a friend from town talking about the chaos wrought by Hurricane Irene just a year ago. Our conversation then turned to my farm and how I came to have one in my front yard. I thought that everyone knew my family’s history in operating farms in town (one should never assume) but really didn’t mind sharing a little history with my friend and treating myself to some nostalgia.
Farming is in my DNA and until I went into the Army at age nineteen I worked at my family’s 600 acre dairy farm across the street from Saint Patrick’s Church. That’s right; the Wadsworth dairy farm was on Main Street. Drive down Main Street today and try to imagine the sights and sounds of a working dairy farm. It seems like a hundred years ago to some people but only yesterday to me. Our family also had an orchard on Rattlesnake Mountain and acres upon acres of corn in our other fields. Farmington truly was a farm in the not-too-distant past.
Many farming families have drifted away from operating the homestead farms and sold their fields and barns. I won’t get into the dreary economics of competing with the corporate farming conglomerates. Instead, I am happy to report that some excellent farming remains in Farmington, and three acres of it is in my front yard. I don’t make my living farming, but my neighbor Allen Eaton does, and Allen has been farming my front yard for many years. My fiancée Irene (a hurricane of activity in her own right) and I are so happy to pick what we can eat from our field and I help by cutting around the field and maintaining the dirt roads and paths that provide access to Allen and his equipment.
My property also backs up to my sister Kathy’s multiple acres on Meadow Lane and for years Kathy and I operated a hot air balloon business from one of her fields. Do you recall the spectacular multi-colored balloons rising from the meadows? That was us. Although we don’t launch the balloons any longer the wind sock over Kathy’s barn is a delightful reminder of those years when people came from far and wide for balloon rides.
After chatting for awhile I took my friend out for a tour of the farm and between the tomatoes, cabbage, eggplant, peppers, squash, and broccoli the pumpkins were coming on strong awaiting their October debut. Last year so many of our local farmers lost their pumpkins and other crops in the field when Hurricane Irene came through and flooded the meadows. I stayed dry up on the hill and saw firsthand the destruction down below. I knew the farmers who lost everything in that storm and petitioned my former colleagues on the Town Council and the Town Manager to do something to help. It was humbling and gratifying to see the outpouring of support our town gave to our farmers and forgiving the fees for the land leases really made a difference. Historically, farmers have always supported each other in bad times and with farms becoming fewer and further removed from each other their support network has become you and me.
In addition to the vegetables grown on my property I am fortunate to know Farmington’s own beekeepers, Ted and Becky Jones, who operate Jones Apiaries. In case you missed it there was an excellent Patch article about their honey production . I am one of the fortunate local folks who have several of the Jones hives on my property. Honey bees are incredible creatures and the relationship between bees and farms is one of necessity for both. As I stood there explaining the operation of the hives to my friend he marveled at the uniform flight path of the thousands of bees as they departed and returned to the hives. He remarked that I was operating a “Beeport.” I had to laugh and agree that the habits of bees are so incredibly regimented and organized—all without an air traffic controller to guide them. Not only do the bees “work” my field, they fly all over the area pollinating my neighbors’ flower and vegetable gardens. So, the next time you enjoy a jar of Jones honey that you bought at Krell Farm or you relish the beauty of your stunning flower garden, tip your hat to the bees that made it possible.
I hope that my neighbors here in town who have the space, time and skill will continue growing their own vegetables and flowers. There is no better way to teach children a good work ethic than to work side by side with their parents on a farm or in a family vegetable garden. It carries on a rich agrarian tradition we should never allow to slip away. Those of you who have toiled over a crop of some sort know the satisfaction that comes from tasting the fruits of your labors on your dinner plate.
I recently completed construction on my equipment barn and I’m going to need a new project. I wonder what Irene thinks about the two of us raising chickens. Stay tuned.