Farm Stories

Introductions to the farms in CT and the Heart behind why the grow

Gifts of Love Farm

gifts of love farm signWalking into the Incubator Farmer Program plots at Gifts of Love’s farm in Simsbury, the first thing you see is Hopi Corn growing in Sean’s plot of land.  Plants that he sings and prays over as other members of the Hopi tribe do back at his home.  He says it’s important to keep these traditions and methods alive to keep his culture alive.

Juliet guides us to her land where she is growing African corn.  This variety of corn she says will not grow over 5 feet high in Africa, but at this point in the season is reaching up ten feet above woman smiling by rows of cornour heads in the Connecticut soil.  She picks ears from these towers and generously hands them out to folks visiting for a tour, insisting that we need to try it.  “It’s not as sweet as American corn, but people love it.”

Zania and Manny walk us to their rows of vegetables- long stalks of kale and collards that have been picked throughout the season and sold to Hartford School systems so that students in the city have access to fresh vegetables in their school meals.  However, they don’t share the ghost peppers they’re growing with the schools, not a surprise the schools would really appreciate.  All these crops are supplementing the sales from their micro-green operation that helped start them man and woman in front of collard plantson their farming journey.

And in the last stretch, you see the tended rows of Blessings and Sarah Rose- vegetables that are used to not just produce food, but to save seed to continue the life these plants give.  They raise valuable herbs as well that allow for health beyond the nutrient rich vegetables they produce.  And all the while these fields serve as a background for the teaching they do- helping people grow their own food through the Samad Gardens Initiative Garden club.cabbage plant in a field

These diverse businesses and plantings are made possible because of land.  These folks were givenaccess to land at an affordable rate with the opportunity to use tools and equipment when starting their operations from scratch would have been otherwise very expensive.  And the diversity of businesses and products these farmers are contributing to their community is obvious.

So as we look at this wonderful project that Gifts of Love has set into motion, it makes us wonder.  If more people were given these opportunities, if land was accessible to those with the passion to grow, what kind of diverse and beautiful food system would our state have?

Daigle Farm

As you drive down the long driveway to reach Daigle Farm in Brooklyn, you may see deer pausing by the property's pond after grazing on tufts of grass.  It looks up at the oncoming car, and pauses, as if trying to decide if you are intruding, or if it is.  Though deer are not a friend of vegetables, its presence is a testament to the method Dillon has been using to grow on his acre+ of land. One that mimics how nature grows; without sprays or chemicals, with a living soil that moves and breathes, and space for sun, air, and water.  Though these all seem idyllic, it's a lot of hard work: something that Dillon Daigle, owner of the farm, is not unused to.
In his teenage years when other kids were working at the local grocery store, he made his own business, delivering eggs to neighbors.  It was his flock to care for, his route to truck (whether car or bike), and his responsibility in collecting and spending his hard earned dollars. Well, he's older now, but he's still caring for a flock of laying hens...and a small herd of pigs, some broiler hens, a farm dog and cat, and a whole ton of veggies. And it is no small amount of work to care for it all. He works full time, with his partner Cassidy lending a hand, giving this farm the attention it needs because he wants healthy food.
Dillon says he farms because he looked at what was in the grocery stores, at what people bought for their families, and he knew they needed a better option- something that was better for them and better tasting. Something that was natural.  So he quit his job working at a local nursery and went to work, making sure his community was eating food that would strengthen their bodies through their diets.  To grow this food for the community, he uses
organic practices.  The plants are free to grow and battle it out with weeds and pests, but they have Dillon and Cassidy to defend them.  The animals aren't pumped with unnecessary antibiotics or given growth hormones, but they have Dillon and Cassidy to watch over them closely and feed them substantial diverse diets.  Dillon knows that this means his food has more nutrients, does more good for the body, and does more good for the environment too.
Though a small farm (using just under 2 acres of land for production) they have plans to grow on the property.  Cassidy imagines integrating other forms of health to the farm with exploring medicinal herbs and practicing reiki at the pond.  Dillon sees more access to the forested area of the property to give the pigs more foraging opportunities and better crop rotations to rest the soil. They both want to see this as a place people come to and feel a little more alive because of it. But even if they can't come to the farm, Dillon makes deliveries to homes, they sell to local restaurants and partner with other farms so it's a health that is a little more accessible.
But what helps bring that health along are the farmers themselves.  If you stop by their stand, you'll probably end up laughing and wanting to linger and talk longer.  They don't just know how to care for plants and animals, they care for people, and the lighter heart that you leave with after getting your weekly veggies ensures that you leave with a little bit of a healthier spirit.

Lapsley Orchard

a bunch of kale in a glass jarAny business founded on love of the work will show itself as something more than a product. But when you combine that with love of the land and love for others, then there is something truly special that sets a business apart. You get a hint of that when you enter the farmstand of Laplsey Orchard in Pomfret that displays the beauty of their veggies, regional antiques to let you know you’re in the coziness of the Quiet Corner, and small bouquets of flowers lovingly hanging from the rafters. Perhaps that's why they draw folks in year after year through their pick your own and CSA.

And goodness the smiles. Everyone seems to be smiling.  Patti and John Wolchesky are behind those smiles and have been running Lapsley Orchard for over 30 years and it doesn’t seem that they have grown tired of it.  Both of them put on an ease of moving from task to task despite the busy-ness of a Saturday afternoon.  There are few that you see at the farm that aren’t smiling- whether it’s the customers, or the staff hired to help with the all the work that is required to keep a business running in peak months.3 women smiling at the camera

Patti and John are the heart and the hands that make Lapsley Orchard.  Though John started working at an orchard at the ripe old age of 12, he was given the opportunity to see the beauty of what the earth can produce when giving it a little care and thought.  Fast forward 15 years later, and John loved it so much he had taken over the operation of Lapsley Orchard; he continued to expand the land to over 60 productive acres and grew diverse vegetable crops, peaches, berries, and of course, still apples.  Patti joined him a little later on, just coming to work for the summer, and staying on to marry the man and the land that he cared.

Though the land is not theirs (it’s leased from the Lapsley family), this has not stopped them from making it their own.  John knows his fields and shares details about history, the rows of crops, and how much is growing in them. Their children have grown up here, snacking on peppers straight from the field. Patti has created friendships with folks that have been picking apples for years, or have been with their CSA since it started.

So if you want to know what it’s like to love the land, visit Lapsley Orchard.  If you want to know what it’s like to love the community, visit Lapsley Orchard.  If you want to know what it’s like to love what you do, visit John and Patti at Lapsley Orchard. They have something special to share with you.

East Willow Farm

sign that says East willow FarmAt East Willow Farm , you’ll meander down a long driveway until everything opens up and you see apple trees, a farmstand, perhaps some pigs snoozing the day away, and some pygora goats playing in their pen.  Everything is holding it’s own, being exactly what it was made to be.

Kyla greets you in the farm store, filled with farm delights such as their own pork chops, sausages, and (if you catch it before it sells out) bacon. But their wonderful meat products aren’t the only thing you’ll find.  They help support other local farms and business by bringing in local woodworking, pottery, baked goods, dairy products, and even quail and duck eggs!

Their most compelling product however is the warmth and welcome they provide.  Kyla chats with folks who come in- some regulars, some new comers- treating each person the same- as if they belong here.

And Tom is no different in making a place of belonging.  As he goes and checks on the pigs you hear him talking about a new feed blend that he is creating with the help of a local grain and hay grower. He has thought about his little herd and what their needs are.  He’s expanding their fencing so their foraging area widens through a silvopasture method, he’s taking soy out of their diet after researching how it impacts his meat (and his customers experience), and is constantly exploring new breeding methods to find “the best pig.” He cares deeply for the animals, even if they are under his care for just a short time.  They are truly living the piggy life of their dreams.

And Tom and Kyla are transforming the property that they moved onto a couple years back. Where apple trees were, blueberry bushes will take their place.  Honey bees are kept on the property to pollinate the veggies they’ll sell in the farm store.  Turkeys and chickens join the farm to provide fresh poultry to customers. More projects will find their way onto the property as it begins to take shape into the farm home they want to make it with their children.  And it is a home that welcomes so many, whether it is supporting other local growers, makers, food lovers, or you- as you wander into their farm store, are greeted warmly by Kyla and fill your arms with the local goods that many hands have brought together to help feed the community in Columbia and beyond.

Woodstock Farms

two dogsGrandchildren are playing around the barn with the three farm dogs when you pull into the driveway.  Laughter and the friendly barking makes the place feel welcome and ready for whoever pulls up to the farm stand to make and woman in front of farm sign

During any work day, Amy isn’t always easy to find as someone has to weave through their many greenhouses abutting the barn to find her. When she is found, she’s ready to share with you: share her knowledge of plants, share her time with her grandchildren, to share the history of the Farm.

A farmer’s daughter, a farm mom, and a farm grandma, she and her husband keep the legacy of Woodstock Farm vibrant in the community.  That legacy is something she holds dear as she continues in the footsteps of “Mormor,” her mother who worked in the fields far into her twilight years, and was well loved throughout the town and beyond.

As you move through the vibrant colors of plants being well established in the greenhouses, and past the tilled fields, you notice the history in the generations of tractors that line themselves up in the shed, and the murals painted in the barn to indicate “Morfar’s Office” (Amy’s father).  They show a history of not a business (though Woodstock Farms is a quintessential family business), but walls, tools, and people that are imbued with care- for the land and the people that come onto the land.

For family farms that legacy can be hard to carry from generation to generation. Land passes hands, the work is hard, and crops and customers are never guaranteed.  But as I meet Amy’s daughter, daughter-in-law and grandchildren, it seems that her parents hope for this plot of land will continue on and continue to play just as an important role in the Woodstock community, as Amy and her husband makes sure it does now.

Ashford Farmers Market

As Julie from Barton Farms straightens out her seedling display a woman approaches her gleefully exclaiming “I’m so excited, I’m so excited!”  She of course is talking about the opening of the Ashford Farmers Market at Pompey Hollow in Ashford.  Five vendors make an L around the dirt lot they occupy and welcome folks back to the new season by filling their stands with seedlings, jams and preserves, greens, radishes, meat, cheeses, and prepared foods.  The diversity sets you up for your whole meal planning efforts for the week.

Trays of marigolds get lifted from the stands as folks get their gardens ready and tomato charts are brought out as consumers decide between different varieties. This little market may look demure, but it is anything but quiet.

The gaggle of folks that come up and address the farmers by name and engage in “what have you been up to” is surprising.  When I ask Julie Barton (the market master)  how she knows all these folks, she says from just being at the market! “There is a sense of community here that I don’t find at any other farmers markets.  I’ve been here for about 10 years and have literally watched folks children grow up and get to know what’s happening in their lives.”

Of course, nothing against the big markets with the crowds of people weaving in and through stands of farmers, craft vendors and food trucks, but the Ashford Farmers Market is intended to be different- and you see people appreciate that difference as creases by their eyes indicate the big grin hiding behind their masks.  It’s a meeting of friends and a place to dawdle rather than an exchange of goods for tender.  A little girl dances among the vendors singing her favorite songs, folks rejoice at the bottles of maple syrup they discover at one stand, and a mother with 2 toddlers in tow goes to explore the vast green lawn and babbling brook located just behind the site.

Who can say what a traditional Connecticut Farmers Market looks like, but I imagine it’s something close to Ashford’s- filled with farmers woman at farmstand wit ha man and his childbringing the goods of their labor, the people that appreciate and savor their products, and most importantly, the joy of community: being known and knowing the individuals that make up their town and feed the community.

Bluebird Farm

As Joe steps into the paddock, the Maremma Sheepdogs that guard their animals instantly circle around vying for his attention and behind the ear scratches. Soon after, Carmen walks in and they do the same, quickly joined by a cow who insists on licking her free hand while she goes through the list of animals they keep: goats, two varieties of sheep, chickens, guinea hens, the three dogs, a cat, and even a miniature pig. A true collection of barn yard animals and love.

The forty acres they tend, with the myriad of creatures who explore the land, have not always been part of Joe and Carmen's life however.  Growing up in Maine, both of them were extremely connected to the outdoors: Carmen spending time with horses and Joe volunteering to keep the Appalachian trails near his home in working condition. When the professional world and other obligations started to take time away from those interests they found themselves busier and less connected with nature, animals, and their food.  They wanted a change.

So in 2015, Joe, Carmen, and their son took the leap to buy a farm in Willington, CT. 40 acres of fields, forest and a traditional New England barn to look over the land. They immediately loved it and set about looking for ways to share their love of the land and farm with others.  First came the animals, small fruits, and veggies with products a small cabin treehousethey could share with the community, then the airbnb where folks could stay in the barn and participate in farm chores, a small barn converted into a wedding venue, and finally a treehouse where the animals wander underneath as guest sip their morning coffee on the porch.

These are all smart moves when it comes to a small farm diversifying their business and creating multiple sources of income, but you can tell as you wander around the property, with Joe and Carmen the primary motivation is a joy in sharing what they have.  "We want people to know what it means to farm, to see a real working farm" is something that Carmen emphasizes, and they have created multiple intimate ways for folks to do just that, which they couldn't experience on a larger agro-tourism venue.a sign that says welcome to our barn loft and farm stand

 Here, they remember your name, they invite you into their process of caring for what they grow, and encourage you to love the land and all it provides as much as they do. "Bluebird Farm in Willington, CT sending some love ❤️,"  that's how Carmen puts it on their social media- and you know it's true because you see life thriving in the animals and land her and Joe are entrusted with.

Phocas Seeds

logo of phocas seedsFruits and vegetables are the joy that the summer and fall harvest bring: juicy watermelons, crisp cucumbers, and tomatoes bursting with flavor.  But all these come from a single seed planted months before hand.  Small, saved packages of life that hold a bounty in their tiny forms.  When they are treated tenderly and given the right place to grow, they flourish and repay the gardener with feasts that have the capability to feed communities.  Corey Finke knows that these seeds are the key and the gift to growers everywhere: that is just one of the reasons he started Phocas Seeds in Plymouth.

Though he began his business in 2019, he saw  (just like the rest of us) disruption of supplies chains and the vulnerability of our food systems in the spring of 2020. Corey saw a clear path ahead for his work in farming.  He needed to increase his seed business and provide for his Connecticut community, so he dove into the work of planting more, collecting more, and getting ready to ship seeds to local small scale farmers, homesteaders, and growers in the state. Yes it was him building his business, but it was also his way of being a steward of the land and the people around him- to leave our homes, gardens, and communities better than how we find them.

Seed saving is not just as simple as collecting whatever a plant produces at the end of its growing cycle.  In order for a seed to have the biggest impact, it needs to be vetted for how its parent plant has faced disease, pests, changes in water conditions, and the size of the fruit or crop that it has put forth.  Saving seeds from a plant that put out 3 tomatoes in a season replicates the genes of that plant. If you save the seeds from a plant that has provided 40 lbs of tomatoes in a season, the likelihood that this pattern will continue in the genes of the productive seed and produce a good crop are increased. Corey looks at all these factors as he selects plants for seed saving.  And if a plant is not producing, succumbs to disease, or too readily gives into to pests he looks for solutions.  How can he work and encourage this plant to do better so that the seeds he collects next time will be stronger and healthier? How can he create a squash plant that is naturally vine borer resistant so the insect only kills a part of the plant, not the whole thing?  It's science, it's curiosity, and it's care.

Using only organic methods, he works with multiple plots of land to help create environments where he can grow healthy seeds, watch their progress, and then collect what will produce forpicture of seed packets the folks he passes these saved seeds on to.  And as the seeds pass to their new homes, Corey's investment in community takes on new meaning. "The sharing of the seeds is so invaluable- vegetables have such a short shelf life, unlike the seeds.  I love the shared experience of people being able to take a seed and see its progress.  That person can even continue the cycle; sharing their plant by saving the seeds produced, further providing food for the community they are in." And he has the opportunity to do this not just in Connecticut, but anywhere his seeds go- they are envoys of hope that preach the power of sharing and how we can make our neighborhoods healthier, fed, and full.

To buy seeds from Phocas Seeds, visit his website here:

Dove Hill Farm LLC

Though the Long Island Sound coastline has it’s draws, for Dove Hill Farm’s Sylvia, John, and Jenny, the water views and wildlife were not quite enough.  So more than 8 years ago this husband, wife and daughter team picked up and moved from bustling Milford to the more farm friendly Moosup- a change that brought them back to the agricultural tradition their family had been involved in.

After looking for a suitable place to transplant into the farming world, Dove Hill found their new home on 7 acres of land, that was rich in agricultural history, right in the Quiet Corner of the state.   Since the 1700's the land had been used for farming and raising food for families but had laid fallow for 50 odd years. Just like they were returning to their family work of farming, the land was being called on again to produce food and forage for people and animals alike.

And goodness does it produce food!  Dove Hill boosts a wide variety of products as they steward the plot they chosen: vegetables, cut flower, quail, chick, duck and goose eggs, small fruit, turkeys- and that's just the edible bit!  They also keep goats, sheep, make jams, jellies, pickles, crocheted items, and use their local lumber to craft wood products.

But setting their hands to farming was not just about "growing food."  As you talk to them about their organic growing practices, what they choose to grow, how they treat their animals; you understand that it is about establishing a relationship with the land, with the community, with the earth, and all the seeds, critters, and bits of life that find their way passing through their land.  As the Moosup River tumbles past their property it is a constant reminder that there is change and constancy all wrapped into one.  The water is always there, but it is never quite the same as it passes by. The animals always come to refresh themselves at its banks, but the generations change as time goes on.  The land that buffers that water is solid and always hems in the river's path, but grows and develops as the seasons pass, the soil is tilled, and plants are grown.  John, Sylvia and Jenny know that how they care for their land and the animals they raise on it today, impacts the soil, the waters, and the wildlife of tomorrow- not to mention the folks that are fortunate enough to share in their crops, eggs, and other products.

Jenny summed it up best when she talks about why she does the work: "It's like being a child on Christmas day and you run downstairs, and all the presents are waiting for you and it's an overwhelming feeling of joy and purpose. It's the joy that you feel that you are helping things grow.  You get a sense of accomplishment and pride and purpose as you do everything by hand. The challenges are always there no matter what you do in life- you can be challenged do something you don't want to do or be challenged being something that you do want to do."

Well by the joy that visitors can feel when they stop by the farm, it seems they have taken on the challenge of doing something they want to do.



Mon Soleil Market Garden

Deborah had heard John Kempf at a conference say that if there were 2 million market gardens in the US, we can get off a Big Ag, California based food system.  She wanted to be one of those 2 million farms.Woman with a big bunch of turnips

After working at some CSA farms in the area, and hatching market garden schemes in her free time, Deborah Winicki finally found some land, some seeds, and some time, and started Mon Soleil Market Garden.

sign that says Mon Soleil Market GardenInitially the farm was in a backyard, and then it moved. And then it moved again- Finding farmland as a first generation farmer isn’t easy- she couldn’t buy land and give her farm permanence.  One thing was constant however; she always had the sun with her wherever she grew, so her little business got the name Mon Soleil, French for “My Sun.”

And the brightness that her sun provided extended beyond the vegetables in the field.  It reached into the community, which is why she chose to use the CSA model for getting her vegetables to consumers. She knows the favorite vegetables of her members that have been with her since the beginning. As she tends her greens she thinks about how her CSA member Amanda will be using them in her home.  As she prepares her shares for pick up, the vegetables are carefully curated to make preparation of meals easy and attainable and includes recipes that highlight featured vegetables.  She is growing for a collection of individuals- a community that she has helped create, and the warmth that her sun provides rubs off on these persons and families.woman with baby in vegetable stand

Her sun keeps shining.  Every year she lets her CSA members know that they can donate to help provide a CSA for a family that can’t afford it, and every year her CSA members do just that, so they can spread the warmth and fullness of this growing “market garden” farm.

a variety of vegetables on a tableFinally landing in Union on Buckley Highway a few years back, she gets the chance to keep growing.  This year she is doubling her production and hopes that she will see an increase in SNAP/EBT recipients, as she is able to take this payment at her farm. She’s taking more volunteers and hiring another farm hand so that they can grow- and be fed- by the land. A fence is being put up to protect her plants, while respecting the natural wildlife that likes to visit. And above all, her heart and her mind continue to grow as she learns how to use organic, regenerative practices on her crops while respecting the earth, her community, and plants that make all this possible.

Find out more about Deborah her CSA, and her farm at